Sisters Chelsey & Ashleigh Costa went sugar free five years ago and loved it so much they started an Instagram account inspiring others to get on board the sugar free train. The sparkly duo snap all their study snacks, healthy lunches, cafe finds and sweet treats, showing that ditching the white stuff is not about deprivation. Chels and Ash talk us through what set the ball rolling for them, why they love living sugar free, and their aspirations to help others realise health and wholeness ...
Cane Sugar, Agave, Coconut Nectar, Honey, Rapadura, Sucrose, Glucose, Fructose – there are so many labels for different types of sugar these days. What does Sugar Free mean to you?
Sugar-free for us means avoiding as much sugar as possible, including all the alternatives and “healthy” sweeteners. Wherever possible, we choose foods that have no sugar, and we try to cook from scratch as much as we can. This way you gain a better understanding how much you are actually consuming! If a recipe calls for some added sweetness, we tend to prefer honey for its antibacterial properties, or fruit (like dates and bananas) because of the beneficial nutrients, fibre and antioxidants.
What drew you to the sugar free way of life?
In early 2012, we first learned about the effects that sugar has on the body and decided to go cold turkey and remove it altogether When you eat a diet high in sugar and/or refined carbohydrates, your body goes through constant ups and downs with your blood sugar levels, which also affects your moods and energy levels. At first it was tough, but once our bodies had adapted to not being fuelled constantly and excessively by sugar, there was no going back. Apart from making it easier to maintain a healthy weight, cutting out sugar led to more mental clarity, controlled appetite, clear skin and more energy. Being sugar free is the best way to avoid processed foods and to just eat whole foods. This helps you to understand where our food comes from, how it works in your body and what amazing things good food can do for you.
Your Instagram account has a pretty healthy following (4600 at last count). What do you want your followers to take away from your feed?
We love sharing things that aren’t only diet related, such as spiritual practices, travel, natural medicine, inspirational quotes and our love of nature (you will notice many succulents in our photos and this plant love comes from our wonderful mother, a gifted gardener!). Really, it’s all about balance and not taking anything to the extreme. We want to show our followers that a healthy lifestyle isn’t about eating boring salads and a mundane diet, but that it can be colourful, fun, easy and most of all, delicious! Instead of looking at the calorie content of food, we want people to look at the nutritional aspect of food, to think of it as medicine and to know that every time they choose a healthy option, they are nourishing their body and preventing illness.
It seems like at least one of you is always studying! What are your hacks for getting through studies without overdoing sugar and coffee?
Our courses are quite demanding in terms of long study hours, so we are always in the books. Carrot sticks dipped in tahini are one of our favourite study snacks, as well as mixed seeds and nuts. We usually have some Honest Goods Co. banana bread on hand for when we need a more substantial study snack, and if our brains need a little extra fuel we’ll have a little frozen banana for a natural sugar hit. Tea is another must! We are South African, so we drink a fair amount of rooibos tea (it’s caffeine-free and high in antioxidants) and other herbal teas throughout the day to stay hydrated and focused.We still drink some coffee, but only a single shot with some organic pure coconut milk. Everything in moderation.
Exercise is something else that we rely on as a study break to give our minds a rest and let our bodies take over for a while. Going for walks on the beach or some yoga is the perfect break.
You often feature local producers, including us! Which local brands are you crushing on right now?
Obviously we’ve featured just about all Honest Goods Co. paleo and vegan breads on our Insta page, and we also love the occasional Pressed Daily juice because they have delicious low sugar options for when you feel like you need some extra greens. Kommunity Brew kombucha is definitely our favourite fermented tea at the moment, and even better because they are local! Nood has always been a favourite too! We love their philosophy of offering simple, fresh food, and it’s great to see how far they have come from catering events to recently opening their the beautiful café in Leederville!
Can you share your top three breakfast spots in Perth?
Nature’s Harvest / Cottesloe / They have a huge range of delicious smoothies, great coffee, other warm drinks and Cocowhip creations for Perth’s hot summer days.
Piccolos Corner / West Leederville / We have been a huge fan of their pumpkin smash (the gluten version of course) for years now and we keep on coming back for it!
Roots and Greens / Fremantle / If you scroll through our Insta feed, it’s no secret that we love smoothie bowls, and Roots and Greens is smoothie bowl heaven!
Graphic design, naturopathy, kinesiology – you’ve got an interesting skill set between the two of you. Where would you like to take your careers, and will your Sugar Free Sisters collaboration be a part of that?
We’re both so passionate about what we are studying (naturopathy and kinesiology) and about the alternative health field, and we love working together - we even work together now at a local health food store! Our vision is to open up our own practice one day, to collaborate in addressing multiple aspects of our patients health, including physical, mental and emotional health, and to promote healing on all levels. Imagine a holistic health centre with a range of modalities such as chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy, kinesiology and so on. That is our dream.
Finally, if people want to get educated on the sugar free way of life, which blogs or books do you recommend they read?
We started out our journey with Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar books, starting with the original and working our way through to her recent recipe collection Simplicious. The books are a wonderful guide for quitting sugar, and we still use them, along with her blog, to keep up to date with new recipes and information. The Unrefined is another blog we have been following for a while now. We love watching Food Matters TV documentaries to get insight into endless amounts of health-related matters, not necessarily just sugar-focused.
Our journey to health has been progressive over the years. We are constantly learning, educating ourselves and evolving so that one day we are able to educate and heal others.
Ash & Chels
All images courtesy of Sugarfree Sisters.