Sarah Wilson on ... going sugar-free

Savoury chive, kale and parmesan pancakes.
Savoury chive, kale and parmesan pancakes. 

The thing about going sugar-free is that we're all ludicrously resistant to the idea. That's okay. It makes sense. The stuff is addictive. And that's because we're designed to binge on it. 

Why would this be so? Well, because back in caveman days it made a hell of a lot of sense to gorge on sugar – it's the fastest, most effective source of fat. True story! These days this set-up doesn't really work for us. We don't have to trek dozens of miles to find our beehive or bitter berry bush. And there's little risk of us having to go days before finding the next source of food. Instead, sugar is force-fed to us. In the US, 80 per cent of food on supermarket shelves contains added sugar. 

Of course, because we're so resistant, we like to say sugar free is a fad, a diet. But actually we ate largely sugar free for millions of years. In fact, as recently as 100 years ago we only ate about a kilo of sugar per person each year. Now we eat up to 46kg. Our biology hasn't changed in 10,000 years, let alone 100, but our diets sure have. And so have our waistlines. And our health. 

Making the beast beautiful: Sarah Wilson.
Making the beast beautiful: Sarah Wilson. 

We also like to say we should be able to eat sugar in moderation. I love moderation. Grains, meat, dairy, red wine… are all fabulous in moderation. But sugar is in a different realm. It is the only "food molecule" that severely messes with the appetite hormones and sees us unable to stop at one Tim Tam.

Going sugar free ain't all fussy and draconian, though. It pretty much means not eating processed food. I drink a glass of red wine with dinner most nights (the fructose in red wine is what ferments to become alcohol), I eat grains and cheese and hot chips from time to time. And my own chocolate, every day. I work with fructose-free sweeteners from time to time (never more than half a teaspoon per serve). 

But, mostly, I just switch my palate to a savoury frame of mind. And this is the good news. While it takes about eight weeks to break the sugar habit, it generally only takes two for our taste buds to adjust. Suddenly that cheese plate is more appetising than dessert, and avocado and eggs for breakfast becomes the sweeter deal.

Perhaps, try this: Ask, what would your great-grandmother eat? At a pub, go for the fish or steak and veggies. In food courts, avoid anything with a "goobie" sauce. And avoid low-fat foods wherever you can (they're packed full of sugar to replace the taste that's lost when they remove the fat).

Savoury pancakes with poached eggs

Serves: 2

Prep time: 15 minutes


Cooking time: 15 minutes


1 cup plain flour (gluten-free plain flour if you prefer)

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper

1 egg, whisked

1 cup milk

1 bunch chives, finely chopped + extra for serving 

4 large kale leaves, stalk removed and leaves finely shredded (about 2 cups worth of leaves)

70g parmesan cheese, grated

butter, for frying 

2 free-range eggs

100g smoked trout


1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Set aside. 

2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Add in the most of the chives (reserve some for serving), kale and Parmesan and mix to combine. Add in the dry ingredients and stir through. 

3. Heat a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Add a little butter to coat the pan. When pan is hot, add ½ cup batter mix and flatten to 1cm thick. Cook for a few minutes until bottom is golden brown, flip and cook for two minutes on the other side. Set aside and repeat with remaining mixture. You should make four thick pancakes. 

4. To poach eggs, fill a medium-sized saucepan with water until 8cm deep. Bring to a rolling simmer over medium heat. Crack one egg into a mug, then carefully slip it into the simmering water. Repeat with the other egg. Allow eggs to poach in the water for 4-5 minutes (depending how hard you like your yolk). Carefully fish eggs out with a slotted spoon and allow to drain. 

5. Divide the pancakes between two plates. Top both serves with one poached egg, half of the smoked trout and garnish with reserved chives. 

Recipe courtesy of I Quit Sugar