How I Won ‘Come Dine With Me’ With A Sugar-Smart Menu

Did you see January’s episode of Come Dine With Me that came from Brighton? I was certainly a contestant with a difference. This is how I won Come Dine With Me with a sugar-smart menu, which was also gluten free!

Because I’m an Eating Psychology Coach, and my job is to help people transform their relationship with food, I decided to showcase how delicious and inspirational food can also be healthy.

We all need to cut down on sugar, and using natural, unrefined sugars is a good way to do that, as it makes you pay more attention to how much you are using – you don’t tend to just spoon it in – and natural products such as honey and maple syrup have the added benefits of containing vitamins and minerals that refined sugar doesn’t have. With regards to the gluten, in my professional experience many people are sensitive to it, so whilst I am not saying we should never eat it, again, it’s a good idea to cut down.

Ten years ago, I would never have dreamt of doing such a thing. I might have been avoiding sugar privately at home, but for an important dinner party I would never have considered serving my guests ‘obscure’ food that they possibly wouldn’t like.

Now, though, I have the courage to say ‘this is the kind of food that I believe is healthy and right for us to be eating’ –and if anyone makes a disparaging remark, I know it comes from their own fear of change, and/or most likely, addictive feelings towards sugar – and it’s my challenge to win them over! It was a risky strategy for competing in Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me but one I was committed to taking to prove my point.

It’s amazing how much sugar is hidden in our food, and unless you try making the food yourself it’s easy to not realise just how much sweet stuff is lurking in there – but once you do, it’s much easier to see how to start reducing your sugar intake.

I absolutely loved the experience of Come Dine With Me.

In processed foods, sugar is almost always added to savoury dishes as well as sweet. I made a caramelised garlic tart (quiche) for my starter on the programme. A quick search for the ingredients in most supermarket quiches reveals there is sugar (in the form of dextrose) in nearly every one, as well as a lot of additives and preservatives to extend shelf life – which of course you don’t need if you are cooking it yourself! I did use some natural sugars (maple syrup and honey) in my menu, but I was able to control the quantities I used, which makes a big difference.

After a hearty main course of grilled mackerel and roasted Mediterranean vegetables with miso dressing, I decided to make my Key Lime Pie Surprise (with blueberry jus and cashew cream) for dessert, because it’s always the star of the show whenever I serve it. The “surprise” is the fact that it’s made from avocado rather than dairy products! The fabulous lime green colour contrasts with the bright purple berry sauce and white cashew cream, and the crunchy base – which nobody can believe doesn’t contain any biscuits or some other kind of flour/sugar combo!

Not only was cooking sugar free and gluten free for Come Dine With Me a healthier option for all the contestants, but the delicious flavours backed up the healthy aspects. In fact the recipes were so delicious that I WON! So, next time you think that healthy eating, and cutting out gluten and refined sugars from your diet means bland, dull food with no excitement or flavour, think again!

Why not try swapping sugar out of some of your home-cooked dishes for your own ‘Sugar Smart’ challenge? Or if you’re having friends round, dare try out one of my recipes with them? Download an eBook with the recipes from my Come Dine With Menu menu.