“We don’t need any sugar intake for our body,” he reiterated.
Asked whether artificial sugar would have a significant dietary impact as an alternative to refined sugar, Dr Wong said “Basically, even artificial sugar has no functional value.”
“Moreover, there is no difference between brown and refined sugar. For all we know, brown sugar may have a lot of impurities.”
Dr Wong noted that Malaysians were adding too much ‘sweetness’ to their daily lives such as drinking sweetened carbonated soda water.
“The amount of sugar needed by the body is zero as the body can produce and absorb sugar from consumption of other daily food supplements.
“Even in coffeeshops, you will find people putting more than two spoonfuls of sugar into a small cup of beverage. Malaysians should go for black coffee or tea — kopi kosong or teh kosong as we call it locally,” he suggested.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, in explaining the rationale behind the hike of sugar price by 20 sen per kg, said Malaysians could cultivate the habit of consuming less sugar.
He stressed that it was illogical for the government to fork out almost RM1 billion yearly to subsidise a commodity that is detrimental to public health.
Najib said the decision to raise the price of sugar by 20 sen per kg was for the good of the people as the number of diabetics in the country was among the highest in the world.
Dr Wong supports the government’s move to increase the price of sugar to deter Malaysians from consuming too much of the commodity that is generally bad for their health.
However, he said increasing the price was only one factor as there were other ways to make Malaysians aware of the dangers of excessive sugar consumption.
He disclosed that Malaysia had a high incidence of diabetes with almost 15 per cent of its 25 million population already affected.
“It is even more acute for those above 50 as 25 per cent within this age group have a diabetic tendency.”
He noted that the incidence of diabetes had gone up a whooping 80 per cent in the past 10 years and still climbing.
“To counter diabetes, we have to change our lifestyle — more exercise and less eating since keeping slim could reduce incidence of the disease.”
According to Dr Wong, diabetes is also the main cause of blindness, kidney failure and heart attack among adults, saying these will increase three-fold in diabetics. Amputation due to blocked artery is also 40 to 50 per cent more likely to occur.
He said diabetes could only be treated if detected early or if a person suffers mild diabetes and received treatment within two to three years after being diagnosed.
“Overweight can cause diabetes and the only remedy is exercise which most people now do not do,” he said.
He said the incidence of diabetes was almost the same among the genders although some statistics showed it was slightly higher in women than men.
“This is mostly due to the issue of lifestyle, not genetics,” Dr Wong added.
The Prime Minister was also quoted as saying people should view the sugar price increase positively by changing their dietary habit for their own health.
Najib had said despite the hike, the commodity was still cheaper compared to other Asean countries.
Impact on small retaliters
Although it has been assured that costlier sugar will not have any signifcant impact on large food and beverage (F&B) companies in the country, smaller producers and retailers are feeling the pinch from higher raw material costs.
Local stall owner Mohd Dalizan said while he was not using much sugar in his diet and menu, consumers, especially in the rural areas and sub-urban villages, do bemoan the lack of the commodity.
Even if there were enough supply, he added, the villagers may still have to cough up a fair sum just to buy a kg of sugar. And sundry shop owners were usually quick to argue that they had to employ people to transport the goods to the villages.
“Although the government has hiked the price of sugar by only 20 sen per kg, ideally making it RM1.75 a kg in East Malaysia, the rural folks are having to pay RM1.90 to RM2 per kg for the commodity,” Dalizan noted.
Another stall owner Zairie Aidil expressed similar views, saying not only was the price of sugar dearer in the city’s outskirt but local suppliers were also lacking.
“We only get our sugar supply from the village sundry shops and supermarkets in the city, if any is available,” he lamented.
Zairie said he used a lot of sugar in his ‘mee jawa’ business.
“Everyday, I need to use about two kg to produce the ingredients for my noodles. Steady supply of sugar is hard to come by nowadays as those in the food business tend to buy in bulk,” he added.
Fauziah Rapaie who manages a drink business in a coffee shop said many customers preferred sweet drinks.
“Although we use a lot of sugar, our towkay will not increase the price of drinks … at the moment. We have to absorb the costs despite the price hike,” she said, adding that the cost involved was presently negligible.
However, she could not promise there would not be a hike in drink prices as an increase could come in the later part of the year.
Consumer Jaliha Mat said her family had been using less sugar all this while.
“Our consumption is very low even for food and drinks.”
In her experience, the increase in the sugar price has not affected her family much.
She said her family could do with just a kg of sugar which they may take more than a month to finish.
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So excess sugar was bad. But the big surprise was that other foods can cause spikes in blood sugar even though they are not, or don’t initially appear to be, sugary.
So I made a list of nine things those of us with diabetes ought to avoid and why. Included are some suggestions for what you could try instead.
Rice, pasta, and white flour are staples in our Western diet. White rice has been “milled” and “polished,” processes that strip away the fiber and most of the vitamins, leaving only the endosperm, a simple carbohydrate that cooks and digests quickly. An hour or so after eating white rice you may feel hungry again.
White flour has a similar story. The fiber and minerals are in the outer part of the whole grain. This is removed in processing, leaving a simple carbohydrate that turns to glucose fast.
White bread and pasta are made from this processed flour. Does this mean you cannot have bread, pasta, or rice anymore?
No. The answer is to look for whole-grain bread, pasta, and rice. All are available, and all of them include fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
These foods still contain carbohydrates, so you have to watch portions, but the magic ingredient, fiber, slows down digestion and lowers the impact on your blood sugar.
If you want to lower the impact of these foods even more, include a healthful fat like olive oil. Fiber and fats slow the digestion of carbohydrates, helping to make them diabetes friendly.
Bagels are another potential landmine for Type 2 diabetes. Because they are typically made with white flour, bagels can cause blood glucose spikes. Thankfully, you can choose whole wheat versions and add some protein and fat to reduce the blood sugar spike if you do not want to give up bagels.
French fries with ketchup are out. The ketchup is full of sugar, and the fried potatoes are full of something called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs have been identified as factors in developing and worsening many diseases, among them Type 2 diabetes. This makes French fries a huge no-no.
So what can you have instead? Baked sweet potato fries are a delicious substitute, full of minerals and naturally sweet. It is also possible to find ketchup with no sugar added, but you may not like the taste. For me it turned out that the sugar was what I liked about ketchup.
Next on the list is fruit juice. Many of us keep orange juice in the refrigerator as a rescue drink in case of low blood sugar. This is exactly why we should not drink fruit juices every day. They cause blood sugar levels to rise fast.
In fruit juice you have all of the fruit sugar without the fiber from the whole fruits. Remember the rule: Fiber slows down digestion. Oranges, apples, and berries are full of fiber. Fruit juice is not, so we need to get our vitamins from whole fruit and avoid juices.
Commercially prepared fruit smoothies often have the same problem: Lots of calories and sugars packed into a tasty drink that spikes blood sugar. (However, you can find — or make — diabetes-friendly smoothies if you are careful.)
Sport drinks are even worse than fruit juice. Most of them have very little nutritional value but are packed with sugar, usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.
Another food we have to watch out for is energy bars. Finding them in the health aisle at the store gives the impression that they are good for you, but these bars often contain hidden sugars.
Low-fat yogurt also seems like a healthy snack. Keeping the serving size small makes the calorie count look good, but most of those calories come from added sugar. As a snack, this will not satisfy your hunger for very long.
The best choice in yogurt is a Greek style, because the protein content is much higher. Protein slows down digestion, so Greek yogurt will stick with you longer. You might try buying plain yogurt and adding fresh fruit or a spoonful of no-sugar-added jam.
Number nine on this list of foods we can live without is not actually a food at all. Artificial sweeteners ought to have made our lives with diabetes easier by helping us avoid sugar. But certain studies have shown that they may slow our metabolism and encourage our bodies to store fat.
Some studies have also uncovered an increased risk of diabetes among people who regularly use artificial sweeteners. This means natural sweeteners are better choices.
We will always have to keep sugars and other simple carbohydrates to a minimum. But when I look back at how I used to eat, I must admit having diabetes has made me learn healthy eating habits.
There is certainly nothing wrong with that. Do you agree?
Three years ago, I stopped eating sugar. My plan was to have a sugar-free month, just to see if it made a difference. I had done similar experiments before – a month without caffeine, or alcohol, or reading news online. Aside from chocolate, I wasn’t a big eater of sugar, I thought, so I didn’t expect to notice any change. But I did.
Giving up sugar set me free. And so, what began as an experiment has become my new life. I have changed in ways that I had not thought possible.
I used to get “hangry” – that grumpy, urgent craving that demands prompt attention. To stave it off, I carried bags of almonds or dried fruit. Back when I ate sugar, I couldn’t go running in the morning – if I tried, I would get dizzy, and anyway, my legs felt as if they were made of stone. I would have slumps in the afternoon – my head would get foggy – so if I was working from home, I would take a nap. I had mood swings, joy alternating with despair. I had assumed that all of these things were simply part of life, of how I was, a frustrating aspect of my makeup. And now all of them are gone.
For the first two weeks of my unsweetened life, though, I was in a foul temper. At first, I attributed this to the darkness and gloom of the winter days. But as I started to feel better – calmer, happier, more even-keeled – a more sinister thought began to nag at me. Had I been in withdrawal?
My decision to stop sugar was taken on a whim. Back then, aside from its role in tooth decay, I knew little about its possible effects on health. But when I discovered how much better I felt without it, I became curious – and began to read.
To a chemist, sugar refers to a class of molecules made of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen; some of these serve particular biological roles. Lactose, for example, is found in milk; deoxyribose gives the “D” to DNA. But in daily life, the main sugars one meets are glucose, fructose and sucrose – which is a marriage of the other two. That is, each molecule of sucrose is one glucose linked to one fructose. Interestingly, the two simple sugars have the same chemical formula – six atoms of carbon, 12 of hydrogen, six of oxygen – but different chemical structures. The human tongue detects this: fructose tastes sweeter.
Glucose is synonymous with blood sugar, since it is transported in the blood and delivered to cells to fuel their energetic needs. But you can also find it, along with fructose, in fruits and vegetables. Sucrose is extracted from sugar cane or beets, and is usually encountered as the white crystals of table sugar. When most people speak of “sugar”, they mean sucrose. High-fructose corn syrup, the most common sweetener of non-diet soft drinks, is a mixture of glucose and fructose. So is honey – though honey is a complex concoction that contains many other compounds.
The history of sugar is full of darkness. The European appetite for sweetness drove the slave trade; according to one estimate, in the Americas, two-thirds of enslaved Africans worked on sugar cane plantations. Sugar is also implicated in lung cancer. How? Because the tobacco in blended cigarettes has typically been soaked in sugar syrups; this makes the smoke easier to take into the lungs.
The grim harvest does not stop there. A growing number of doctors blame sugar consumption for a long list of medical woes. These include diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease, gout, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, many cancers and perhaps even Alzheimer’s. Some researchers have even linked the eating of sugar in childhood to the development of myopia, arguing that the spikes in insulin secretion caused by sugar consumption interfere with the normal development of the eyes. In short: the recent medical literature about sugar makes alarming reading.
Such connections are, of course, disputed. But as an evolutionary biologist, as well as someone who has felt the immediate benefits of a sugar-free lifestyle, I find the claims persuasive. For most of human history, after all, milk, honey and fruits have been the main sources of sweetness. When cane sugar first made its way to Europe around 1,000 years ago, it was treated as a spice, a medicine and a preservative.
In 1700, the average sugar consumption in the United Kingdom was around two kilograms per person per year. Today, the figure is 10 times that amount. Over the past 300 years, sugars have thus gone from an occasional luxury to a substantial component of the average western diet. The present sugar glut is an anomaly in human experience. We have changed the world to suit our appetites; but our bodies cannot accommodate the change.
Different foods have different effects on the body. To see this, look no further than sugars. Intake of glucose directly stimulates the production of the hormone insulin; that of fructose does not. Fructose, instead, is metabolised in the liver, where it is turned into fat. Indeed, evidence is mounting that fructose is a major player in metabolic illness. When you consume table sugar, you get both fructose and glucose, because the sucrose is chopped into its component parts. Repeatedly consuming vast quantities of these substances – as when you eat lots of sugary food or drink lots of sodas – could thus cause a double whammy of metabolic disturbance.
In my new life, I don’t eat foods with added sugar. Some of these are obvious: cakes, cookies, ice creams, doughnuts, muffins, candies. Some are less so. Vinegar, weirdly, often has added sugar. So do pickles. I no longer eat sushi – the rice has usually been sweetened. I steer clear of maple syrup. I also avoid super-sweet fruits – grapes, persimmons, dates. Fruit juice? No thanks.
I don’t substitute other sweeteners; I just eat differently. Chocolate is still on the menu – but only if it is 100% cacao. This can be hard to find – but luckily, a small shop around the corner from where I live has a large variety. With the sugar gone, the taste of the chocolate itself is revealed. And just as coffee grown in different places and handled in different ways can have different flavors, so too with chocolate. Abstaining from sugar has also made me more sensitive to notes of sweetness in otherwise savory foods, such as cashews.
In abandoning sugar, I have become aware how ubiquitous it is. Want to eat something on the go? Almost everything for sale contains sugar. Even recipes for vegetables often call for adding it. In fact, until three years ago, I was guilty of such practices myself, often adding a spoonful of sugar to the cooking water of green beans, peas and sweetcorn (sweetcorn!), a practice I now look back on with astonishment.
The social pressure to eat sugar is enormous; whole meals are geared around the stuff. In many countries, breakfast is an orgy of sugar; cake at tea time was a fixture of my childhood. I still attend meetings where someone is always designated to bring sweet food for everyone. Halloween has become a festival of candy. Then there’s the sugar propaganda. It’s everywhere. Clothes for little girls covered with pictures of lollipops. Giant knitted ice cream cones as cuddly toys. Soaps formed to resemble cup cakes. Candlesticks in the form of ceramic doughnuts, complete with icing. Cut-out books of paper desserts.
I’m not so militant in my avoidance that I interrogate restaurant chefs about which vinegar they use, or whether they add sugar to the cooking water. On special occasions – an anniversary, perhaps, or a birthday – I will eat a mouthful of, say, lemon meringue pie. But only as a rare treat, perhaps five or six times a year. Always in the past, after one of my experiments, I would take up the old habits. But not with sugar. It’s not just the long shadow of possible illness. It’s that – like others I know who have stopped – I feel so much better without it. I like knowing that, if I need to, I can hike all day without eating. I enjoy being free of rampaging hunger. Running in the mornings has become a delight. I prefer feeling more serene, less prone to mood swings or afternoon fatigue. My mind feels clearer. I can’t imagine going back. Life is more savory this way.
Olivia Judson is an evolutionary biologist and writer
- How 3 Years With No Sugar Changed My Life
- How Quitting Sugar Improved My Health
- 1. Cravings can be conquered
- 2. Deprivation tastes better with friends
- 3. Strange side effects
- 4. I gave up sugar (and sleep too)
- 5. Want chocolate? Have a banana
- 6. Sugar is everywhere
- 7. Constant grazing
- 8. Weight loss, the ‘easy’ way
- 9. Complacency can sneak up on you
- 10. Other people’s reactions
- So, what happened when the 8 weeks were over?
- Sugar-Free How To
- Jennie’s Story – 37 Pounds Lost*, Sugar Addiction Gone
- Where Jennie’s Journey Began
- Help! I’m a Sugar Addict!
- Weight Loss is a Family Affair
- You’ll never believe how much weight this mum lost by cutting out sugar!
- Emma’s top tips to help you reduce sugar in your diet
- Life changing results
- Ditch the sugar and lose the tummy fat with the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge
- The Latest Wacky Food Adventure: A Year Without Sugar
- What I Learned from a Year of No Sugar
How 3 Years With No Sugar Changed My Life
By Sarah Wilson, Special to Everyday Health
When I first quit sugar, I treated it as an invitation to try out a new way of living, just to – you know – see how it went (It went well, thanks!).
My physical and mental health were transformed in a matter of weeks. I then shared how I did it with an eight-week detox program, and a stack of people joined me at the party. Three years later and I’m still asked, almost hourly, “So you quit… and how do you feel?”
Before I share, let me also say this:
Quitting sugar is not a diet. It’s not about crazy draconian rules and restrictive one-off weight-loss stunts. Indeed, it can be distilled into two supremely sensible concepts I reckon we all just get, intuitively:
1. Quitting sugar is a way of living without processed food. When you steer yourself away from sugar, it – by necessity – cuts out pretty much everything that comes in a packet or box. When people baulk at my no-sugar status, I calmly point out that I simply don’t eat garbage. It’s that elegant.
2. Quitting sugar is about eating like our great-grandparents used to, before the additives. This – again by necessity – sees us eating whole, un-mucked with foods that were commonplace before the advent of modern metabolic diseases. One hundred years ago we ate eggs for breakfast, meat at lunch, vegetables prepared simply, fruit as a treat and drank our milk whole. One hundred years ago type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cholesterol issues were a much less significant problem.
So, back to the question. I quit sugar, and how do I feel?
My answer is this: Great.
So great I’ve just kept going and going.
Over time, I’ve let these principles that guide my eating – of experimenting, crowding out poor choices with better options and being gentle – unfurl a little further. And they began to inform the way I exercise, shop, make decisions (from what dental floss to buy to which city I’ll live in next) and the way I keep my life balanced and meaningful.
How Quitting Sugar Improved My Health
1. My skin cleared and my wrinkles disappeared.
I believe that sugar reacts with proteins in our bodies, changing their structure to form toxic advanced glycation end-products (AGEs), which accelerate the aging process. Sugar makes collagen and elastin less supple, radiant, elastic and resilient, and more susceptible to sun damage. My skin changed dramatically when I quit, within weeks. I have fewer wrinkles now that I did five years ago. Many other quitters report the same.
2. I lost weight.
I put on weight from my thyroid disease a few years back and hadn’t been able to shift it. In eight weeks I lost quite a bit of that – not too much – but visibly I looked less puffy and I feel like I’m the right weight for my age and height and food-quantity choices. I now have a flat stomach – no more bloating or fluid retention. Seriously. I just don’t get it any more.
3. I eat better.
No deprivation, ever. I eat abundantly and freely. I replace sugar with fat to satiate, fuel and provide me with fun foods to eat and I don’t ever feel as though I’m missing out. The ultimate aim of quitting sugar is to return to our natural appetite, like when we were young kids. Now that I have quit, I let my body choose what it wants, confident that now that it’s not addicted to sugar, it will naturally choose what’s best.
4. I have more self-control.
A study published by the American Psychological Association found self-control is a limited resource we need to manage through our day so that it doesn’t get worn out too early. The scientists advise limiting the number of restrictive mandates in our lives to save our self-control muscle for the stuff that really matters. So: don’t diet. Save your muscle for matters of love, career and travel, and who you want to be in life. I have regained my natural appetite and the freedom that that allows… Golly, it is magic.
5. I healed my thyroid.
My Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid gland) is what got me to quit sugar in the first place. It pretty much crippled me a few years ago, some side effects of which included: whacked-out blood sugar, screwed-up hormones, a predisposition to diabetes and high cholesterol, mood fluctuations, weakness to the point of not being able to work or walk for nine months, weight gain and much more. All of the above are now stable or overcome. I will have to manage my disease for the rest of my life. But I can do this now and live a long, well life, something others with my disease, including my uncle and grandmother, were not able to do. I’ve wiped out my antibody markers, something my doctors find astounding. I believe quitting sugar did this.
I’m not alone in feeling a drastic improvement after quitting sugar. Many of the 250,000+ people who have completed my 8-Week Program have had similar results. Have you quit sugar? What results did you see?
Sarah Wilson is an author, TV host, blogger and wellness coach whose journalism career has spanned 20 years across television, radio, magazines, newspapers and online. She is the former editor of Cosmopolitan magazine (Australia) and was the host of MasterChef Australia, the highest rating show in Australian TV history. She is the author of the Australian best-seller I Quit Sugar, now available in the United States. She’s also authored the best-selling series of ebooks from IQuitSugar.com.
A friend showed up at my house this summer looking nothing short of fabulous. She’s always been healthy, a runner and health-food nut, but somehow something had taken her to a whole new level of loveliness. I quizzed her to discover she’d done Sarah Wilson’s 8-week ‘I Quit Sugar’ programme. This was something I had to try.
However, it soon became clear it was not for the faint-hearted. Quitting sugar, Sarah-style, involved giving up all fruit, all sweeteners (natural and artificial) and most alcohols.
Still, I thought I knew what I was getting into. Apparently I didn’t. Here are 10 things I wish I’d known before giving up the sweet stuff…
1. Cravings can be conquered
Everyone has a weakness. Mine is chocolate. I absolutely adore it but the addiction has always been a source of irritation. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to give it up (and failed). I knew this craving wasn’t going down without a fight. My olfactory system (sense of smell) went into overdrive and I could sniff out chocolate from a superhuman distance. Within a week (a week!), the mental battle had dissipated.
2. Deprivation tastes better with friends
If you’re going to give up sugar, it’s definitely worth bringing in reinforcements. Knowing that I’d have to fess up to a friend if I’d fallen off the wagon was a great motivator. It was helpful to be able to share sugar-swap discoveries, celebrate making healthy food choices and commiserate together through the detox symptoms.
3. Strange side effects
Not everyone experiences the same reaction to quitting sugar. The most worrying one for me came in the second week when I developed a flickering in my peripheral vision which went on for around 15 minutes. The NHS website reassured me it was most likely low blood sugar but still something to address quickly. That night I had two dinners, a little fruit and the next morning, two breakfasts. No more vision problems for me (but I was a bit full). Other symptoms around the same time included a fuzzy head, memory loss, without the compensation of alcohol-based fun, and sleep problems. Oh, and some irritability crept in. That was a good week in my house.
4. I gave up sugar (and sleep too)
It would appear from my extremely scientific sample group of four people that sleeplessness doesn’t affect everyone. Unfortunately, it did affect me. From week two onwards, I pretty much woke up between 5am and 6am every morning. For someone who does experience sleep problems from time to time, what started as a side effect soon became a very annoying habit.
5. Want chocolate? Have a banana
More of a veg fan, fruit had never held that much of a draw but this changed when I gave up sugar. I re-introduced a little fruit each day after the blurred vision episode and found the humble banana became a highly desirable treat.
6. Sugar is everywhere
Wrestling with a desire to consume chocolate, ice cream or a cheeky cake with a coffee passed pretty quickly. What I hadn’t accounted for were all the seemingly innocuous foods that were now off the menu – Worcestershire sauce, chutney, ketchup, brown sauce, shop-bought mayonnaise, mustard. Giving up the tasty little additions to my savoury meals was the hardest to stomach.
7. Constant grazing
In the first few weeks my energy was often flat so I compensated by eating much more frequently than usual. Without all the sweet treats, food became a bit of a bore – a necessity rather than something craved and satisfied. As the weeks went on, my energy returned and the blood sugar highs and lows, which used to drive me to eat prior to the programme, seemed to diminish. Managing between meals without snacking became easier than it had done in years.
8. Weight loss, the ‘easy’ way
Ok, it’s not ‘easy’ giving up sugar but doing so cuts out a lot of calories. All labels had to be checked, most convenience supermarket foods and condiments were a no-go. Desserts, sugary drinks and most types of alcohol were to be avoided and if I could find an alternative it tended to be significantly less calorific. While focusing on avoiding sugar rather than calories, weight loss just happened.
9. Complacency can sneak up on you
In week six, Sarah suggests reintroducing a little sweetness. I made some lower-sugar chocolates and stuffed down three in quick succession. The next day when faced with leftovers, the internal debate began, ‘Shall I? Shan’t I?’ It made me realise how refreshing it had been not to think like this. Being strict was starting to prove the easier option. At least it was black and white.
10. Other people’s reactions
I received mixed views about giving up sugar. It was easy to recruit others to take part. They started by asking a few questions, next thing I knew they were shunning sugar right alongside me. The flipside were ‘the haters’. Some people seemed genuinely offended by my lack of sugar consumption. Whereas before I’d been a partner-in-crime – the ‘girl most likely to order pudding’ at any restaurant table – now I sat there supping peppermint tea with my newly polished halo glaring everyone in the face. Some found it hard to swallow. The best strategy was to say nothing and not draw attention to myself.
So, what happened when the 8 weeks were over?
After the programme, I had no physical urge to eat sugar and was fearful that a piece of chocolate here or there would very quickly lead to a twice-a-day, impossible-to-resist habit. My gut felt healthier, I’d lost some very persistent pounds and despite eating what I thought was a generous amount, was having no trouble keeping weight off. Psychologically, being released from the craving cycle and the chocolate addiction was also liberating.
However, a few weeks on and I already notice the quiet whisper of cravings. It’s harder when things aren’t black and white. I can have a bit but when does that become too much? Satisfying cravings with sugar just seems to generate more cravings. It’s empowering to be able to say ‘no’. I plan to keep it that way.
Find more help on cutting back on your sugar intake on the NHS website.
If you have a diagnosed condition or an underlying health problem, are pregnant, breast-feeding, very young or elderly, consult your GP or dietitian prior to making any changes to your existing eating regime.
Caroline used a combination of resources in her quest to quit. Sarah Wilson’s 8-week I Quit Sugar online programme is a great solution if you like plenty of support through emails, features, latest research, messageboards and a diet plan.
As an alternative, her book ‘I Quit Sugar’ offers tempting recipes for before and after the programme, and tells you what you need to do each week. It’s a good budget option and perfect for anyone who prefers not to follow a prescriptive diet plan.
Davina McCall’s book 5 weeks to sugar-free is more moderate in that fruit is included. You can follow the suggested diet plan or select your own recipes.
Have you cut down or cut out sugar? Let us know how you got on in the comments below…
This article was last reviewed on 16 September 2019 by Kerry Torrens.
Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.
Sugar-Free How To
Here is a List of What To Eat and What To Avoid When Following a Sugar-Free Lifestyle
(More Sugar-Free tips and recipes in my NEW Cookbook, Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body.)
- Don’t go from eating sugar non-stop to completely eliminating it in 24 hours because it will most likely backfire. Take a gradual process and try reducing your sugar intake each day. Cut out the sugar in your coffee or tea and look at your condiments such as honey mustard and ketchup, which may have added sugars in them.
- What is added sugar? Added sugar is when the word “SUGAR” or any form of sugar is listed on the ingredient list of the foods you are eating. Here is a simple example: You have two jars of salsa in your hands: One jar lists tomatoes, peppers, onions, salt, spices and water while the other, let’s say it’s ‘organic’ salsa lists tomatoes, sugar, peppers, onions, salt, spices and water. So, what is the difference? Even though the second jar of salsa is organic, it has ADDED sugar (think of taking a teaspoon of white sugar and adding it to the jar of salsa). That is what the manufacturer did to the organic salsa. Now, the non-organic salsa has no added sugar. But the confusing part is that it may list sugars as 4 grams on the nutritional label, whereas the organic (sugar added) salsa may list sugars as 2 grams on it’s label. Why is that? Isn’t that confusing? That’s because the salsa without added sugar, made from whole ingredients (tomatoes, peppers, onions, salt, spices and water) contains more natural sugars (sugars coming from tomatoes and vegetables) which are higher in some cases than added white sugar. This is why it is SO important to read labels. Just because the amount of sugar on the nutrition facts is lower on one jar of salsa compared to another does not mean it is the better choice. You must look at the INGREDIENT LIST on each salsa to confirm that no added sugar is listed.
- Replace sugars with stevia, a calorie-free sugar substitute made from a plant.
- What is stevia? Stevia can be up to 300 times sweeter than regular cane sugar. Stevia doesn’t raise blood sugar; it has no calories or sugar because it is an herb. It’s an herb from a plant that grows in Brazil and Paraguay. A little bit of stevia goes a long way; it’s sold in powder and liquid form. Store stevia in your pantry.
- Use stevia in baking recipes for breads, cookies, pudding, pies, ice cream, pancakes, etc.
- Stay away from processed sugar substitutes such as aspartame and Splenda.
- Use fresh fruit: fresh fruit adds such a natural sweetness to recipes without the refined added sugar.
- Try using pureed pumpkin or sweet potato and no-sugar added applesauce in recipes in place of the sugar for a sweet taste without the sugar rush.
- Sugar comes in many forms included (but not limited to): maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, sucanat, brown sugar, molasses, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup.
- Eat naturally sweet fruits and vegetables such as beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, fennel, leeks, onions, scallions, oranges, berries, bananas, apples, pomegranates, etc.
- Eating green vegetables, alkalizes the body and detoxes it of unwanted toxins. Greens are filled with minerals and nutrients that are vital for cellular regeneration.
- Use fresh herbs such as cilantro, basil, mint and marjoram.
- Whole foods are what belong inside your body! Try these naturally sugar-free foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, organic eggs, organic turkey, organic chicken, low-mercury fish, beans, legumes, whole grains such as brown rice, millet, quinoa or buckwheat (all gluten-free).
- Remember, sugar is still sugar in any form and if your body is inflamed then sugar will fuel your inflammation.
It is essential to work with a nutritionist and an Integrative M.D. because I am sharing general information that is not intended to be medical advice. This information is only given for informational purposes.
Jennie’s Story – 37 Pounds Lost*, Sugar Addiction Gone
*Because everyone is unique, individual results vary.
At 47 years old, I was addicted to sugar and needed a change. It scared me to see my mom give herself an insulin injection. I did not want diabetes, but I felt like I was headed in that direction. My bad eating habits had made me gain weight over the years and I was never successful at losing it permanently. I had tried different plans and found them hard to stick to; I would always go back to my old ways. Over the years, I started having issues with plantar fasciitis, knee and back pain, heartburn that kept me awake at night, headaches, regular sinus problems, heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping and heavy menstrual periods. I just didn’t feel very healthy.
Where Jennie’s Journey Began
When my sister, JoAnn Ridout, started working at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, she figured out what foods she was sensitive to and learned which foods might be causing her aches and pains. As she shared what she had learned, the more interested I became.
I started listening to the podcasts on the Nutritional Weight and Wellness website. I started to make a few small changes at a time; using organic coconut oil instead of shortening, olive oil instead of canola oil and cold-pressed organic mayonnaise instead of regular store-bought mayo.
Help! I’m a Sugar Addict!
I admit it…I was a sugar addict. My candy dish was always full. But when I gave up sugar, all of those issues I had been having went away! What most people don’t realize is that sugar causes inflammation in your body and inflammation causes joint and back pain, plantar fasciitis, heartburn, headaches, heavy menstrual periods, etc.
I also knew my metabolism was a problem; I had none. I found an article on the Nutritional Weight and Wellness website about how you can restart your metabolism. I didn’t think that was possible! It explained how years of eating sugar and processed foods was slowing my metabolism, making me gain weight and making me tired. That was when everything started to make sense.
Even after a couple weeks, I noticed a huge difference. I was using all the real foods that I love: meat, eggs, full fat dairy, nuts, olives, butter, olive oil, fresh fruits and vegetables. Because I was eating protein, good fat, and vegetable carbs 4-5 times a day, the weight started coming off and it became easy to follow. I didn’t know I could feel this good! I was motivated to stick with it and never go back to eating junk. At first it took a while for me to wrap my head around all of these new concepts that no one else had ever taught me, but now it makes perfect sense.
I planned to add exercise to my new way of living, but I needed to take one thing at a time, so I concentrated my efforts on nutrition first. Even though I hadn’t started a regular exercise plan, I still lost 37 pounds*. I even noticed considerable fat loss without hitting the gym, so I knew my metabolism had been kick-started. Now, I have started exercising three times a week and plan to build up from there.
Weight Loss is a Family Affair
As an added bonus, my husband lost 15 pounds (and counting) after I made changes to the way we ate. His biggest change was switching from non-dairy coffee creamer to heavy cream in his coffee. He has watched me go through this transformation and has been supportive of all of my changes. He knows I have been struggling with my weight all these years and I that finally found the answers I was looking for.
Does Jennie’s story sound familiar? Are you battling sugar addiction too? Create your own success story by enrolling in the Nutrition 4 Weight Loss program today. The 12-week program is available in-person or online and includes a consultation with a licensed nutritionist.
Back pain, Dishing Up Nutrition, Headaches, Heartburn, Inflammation, Joint pain, Plantar Fasciitis, Success story, Sugar addiction, Sugar cravings, Testimonial, Weight loss
We all know that sugar is a no-no when it comes to weight loss, but you won’t believe how much weight this mum lost with the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge, largely due to cutting out sugar from her diet!
You’ll never believe how much weight this mum lost by cutting out sugar!
Emma is a mum to three little ones. Following the birth of her youngest boy, she has lost an incredible 25 kilograms following the Healthy Mummy’s 28 Day Weight Loss Challenges and sipping on two Healthy Mummy Smoothies per day.
Sugar was Emma’s biggest problem!
Emma admits her biggest problem prior to jumping on board with the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge was sugar. Emma says,
“I was so sleep deprived that I craved sugar all day long. I needed it to give me a buzz and to keep me going. But the more sugar I ate, the more I needed.
“It got to the point where I would eat a family block of chocolate to myself each day as well as other highly processed carb filled foods.”
Emma says each night she would tell herself, she will start eating healthily tomorrow. However, as soon as things got a little tough her poor eating habits would kick in again.
“It wasn’t until I found the Healthy Mummy and joined the 28 Day Challenge that things started to change,” reveals Emma.
Image Source: Supplied by Emma
Healthy snacks alternatives
“The first snack I made was the Chocolate Bliss Balls, these are incredible and I found I was quite happy eating them and I didn’t miss my daily chocolate block!,” Emma admits.
Not long after, she begun swapping typically white sugar-laden snacks with Healthy Mummy treats using only natural ingredients and sugar found in fruit.
“I slowly started swapping out meals and snacks and the weight started coming off. I was surprised at just how delicious the meals and snacks are. The kids and hubby really enjoy them too.”
If, like Emma, you’re looking to ditch the sugar from your diet, check out her top tips outlined below:
Emma’s top tips to help you reduce sugar in your diet
1. Cut out packaged foods
Emma says, “They usually contain a lot of refined sugars.”
Learning how to read the labels on foods can be challenging, so making your own sauces, condiments and desserts is a good way of eliminating the added sugars that are hiding in pre-packaged foods.
Why not start by making our DIY Healthy Pasta Sauce – it’s a real winner! You’ll never go back to store bought pasta sauces once you try this one.
2. Cut out the sugary drinks
“Reduce the amount of sugary drinks you are consuming as they are very high in sugar,” Emma reveals.
And it’s not just the drinks that openly admit to adding sugar that are unhealthy for you; the diet versions of your favourite soft drinks are no better.
3. Remove all sugary treats in your house
Emma says, “Replace with healthy home made treats. There are hundreds of healthy treats in the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge Hub. My favorites are Raspberry Muffins and Carrot Cake Bliss Balls.”
Image Source: Supplied by Emma (Raspberry Muffins from the Challenge Hub)
4. Check your yoghurt labels for added sugars
Emma says, “Check your yoghurt label for added sugars. Natural yoghurt is the best option for you, as it is sweetened with puréed apple or berries.”
5. Check your cereal packets for added sugars
Emma says, “Most cereals contain loads of sugar. Try replacing them with oats, healthy homemade breakfast muffins (my favorite is the Banana Oat Breakfast Muffins from the Challenge Hub), eggs on toast or an omelette.”
5. Try the Healthy Mummy smoothies!
“The Healthy Mummy smoothies are an awesome meal replacement if you don’t have time to prepare a meal and they are low in sugar (96% sugar free in fact!).”
Find out more about the Healthy Mummy smoothies here.
And why not get your kids to try the new Healthy Mummy Kids Smoothies, which have been created in response to the feedback we’ve had from mums, to provide a healthy snack alternative to other chocolate milk drinks on the market.
The best part is, they have NO ADDED SUGAR!
Life changing results
Emma says, “Reducing sugar from my diet has been a huge factor in my weight loss, and I feel so much better for it!”
And you look amazing for it too Emma! If Emma’s photo below doesn’t encourage you to cut out sugar from your diet, we don’t know what will!
Image Source: Supplied by Emma
Ditch the sugar and lose the tummy fat with the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge
Are you eager to tighten your tummy and lose the baby weight? Our 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge has helped hundreds of thousands of mums tackle their weight, improve their fitness and BOOST their confidence.
When you sign up to the Challenge – you are given access to thousands of exclusive recipes, hundreds of fat burning exercises and 24/7 support.
Every month their is a NEW Challenge theme with new recipes, exercises and customisable meal plans to help YOU REACH YOUR GOAL WEIGHT!
Click here for more about the 28 Day Weight Loss Challenge.
*Images and references to kilograms lost are as supplied by the individual in the story. The Healthy Mummy assumes information and photographs supplied to be true in nature and is not responsible for any false misrepresentations or claims relating to their programs or products.
The Latest Wacky Food Adventure: A Year Without Sugar
Year of No Sugar
by Eve O. Schaub and David Gillespie
Paperback, 303 pages |
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Title Year of No Sugar Subtitle A Memoir Author Eve O. Schaub and David Gillespie
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Why would anyone put her family of four through a radical food experiment that would deprive her children of Halloween candy and chocolate-chip cookies?
A cynic who happens upon Eve Schaub’s recently published book, Year Of No Sugar, might say that banning sugar from your home for a year to document the effects on your family is no more than a gimmick veiled in a health halo, and a harsh one, at that. “This experiment was pretty much guaranteed to wreak all kinds of unpredictable havoc with our lives,” Schaub admits early on in the memoir. “I loved it.”
But Schaub’s year without sugar wasn’t quite as miserable as it might sound — though it had its frustrations, for sure. And a commitment to avoid something so ubiquitous in our food supply — and so deeply embedded into how we celebrate– is actually a pretty revelatory endeavor.
The Schaubs became experts in the complex world of sweeteners, and with that expertise come worthy questions that few people on Earth have asked about the nuances of so much hidden sugar on our health. The family also claimed surprising health perks — fewer colds and coughs, better gastrointestinal functioning and fewer energy crashes — from a sugar-free life, the likes of which we all might enjoy.
But let’s back up for a second. Back in January, I outed myself as a sugar addict. While I don’t tend to binge on pints of ice cream or entire packages of cookies, I’ve become increasingly wary of sugar’s power over my mind and my body.
So I was naturally curious about this Vermont family’s food stunt, if wary of it as just that — a stunt. Year of No Sugar is modeled on Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which the novelist worked on a farm and lived on local or homegrown food for a year, and Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon’s Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100 Mile Diet, in which the couple spent a year eating only food produced within 100 miles of their Vancouver apartment. And all these stunt men and women can thank Henry David Thoreau for the original eco-stunt: Walden.
As Elizabeth Kolbert wrote in The New Yorker in 2009 in her critique of eco-stunt books, there is something a little disingenuous about writers professing concern about a massive problem — climate change, or obesity and metabolic syndrome, in the case of Schaub — and then tackling it in a highly personal, bookselling way that is not likely to affect the underlying policies that perpetuate the problem.
But Schaub, a freelance writer, is earnestly modest about her intention, which is “just trying to begin the conversation about sugar.”
Eve Schaub says her daughters were “less than enthusiastic” at first about the family’s no-sugar-for-a-year experiment. But over time they learned to enjoy sugar-free baking. Courtesy of Eve O. Schaub hide caption
toggle caption Courtesy of Eve O. Schaub
Eve Schaub says her daughters were “less than enthusiastic” at first about the family’s no-sugar-for-a-year experiment. But over time they learned to enjoy sugar-free baking.
Courtesy of Eve O. Schaub
The conversation began for her in 2010 when she and her husband watched Dr. Robert Lustig’s video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” Something about the University of California, San Francisco, pediatric endocrinologist’s insistence that fructose is a poison clicked for Schaub. (Some 4.5 million people have clicked — and viewed — the video, too, since it came out in 2009.)
She describes it as something like an awakening, albeit a nightmarish one. She was “totally freaked out,” she writes. The video had convinced her that “sugar is everywhere, it’s making us all fat and sick, and almost no one realizes it.”
She admits she bought into his argument that sugar is the biggest demon in the food supply with zero skepticism, “hook, line and sinker.” (Not everyone in the nutrition community has, and Lustig has many critics.) The most life-changing implication for Schaub was that “the body can’t tell the difference between the high fructose corn syrup in processed foods like ketchup and grandma’s lovingly baked molasses cookies,” meaning all sugar had to go.
“Dessert to me was, and is, an ultimate expression of love … I made the connection at an early age that sugar is the food equivalent of love,” she writes — so this was huge.
But suddenly, and a little suspiciously, sugar went from love to narcotic: “Could it be that we were really all just addicts sucking away at our soda-straw hookahs, never making the obvious connection between our ‘drug’ of choice and our rapidly declining health?”
Schaub’s life before the experiment seemed pretty typical for a middle-aged mother. She loved chocolate; she loved to bake. She and her husband dabbled in vegetarianism and various diets. And they also ate pretty healthfully. Schaub didn’t allow her daughters to eat Doritos or go to fast-food chains. They weren’t overweight, and despite eating sugar every day, they weren’t sick.
Yet Schaub still wanted to take on the obesity epidemic by embarking on a year of obsessive label-reading, weird baking and recurring bouts of anxiety — which flared even during a family vacation in Italy — about the sugar that might be sneaking into her body. Noble? Maybe.
The Schaubs did make exceptions: Each month as a family they’d pick one dessert that could contain sugar. The two girls, ages 6 and 11 during the experiment, had autonomy outside the house to decide what to eat.
What ‘No Sugar’ Meant To Schaub
- white or brown sugar
- cane sugar
- confectioner’s sugar
- high-fructose corn syrup
- crystalline fructose
- maple syrup
- evaporated cane syrup
- artificial sweeteners
- fruit juice
And the family made some wonderful discoveries about how to keep sweet treats in the mix. Whipped frozen bananas make a delightful soft-serve banana ice cream. Mashed banana can be substituted for white sugar, and chopped dates for brown sugar in many recipes. And dextrose, an obscure corn-based sugar you can buy on the Internet, is fair game in a fructose-free house.
Schaub shares some poignant moments, too, of the social strain of opting out of sweets at events like a community fundraiser and a potluck memorial service with a “long and huge table filled entirely with sweets.” In these settings, surrounded by friends and neighbors, she noticed that by forgoing sugar, her family existed apart.
Removed they were, but healthier they also might have been. Schaub notes that her daughters’ school absences went from a combined total of over 20 to just five per year, and she concludes they were healthier during the year of no sugar than the previous three years. Her own energy levels were higher and steadier, and everyone’s bowel movements were far more regular.
At the end of the year, of course, the Schaubs do return to sugar, but with far greater moderation. Over the course of the year without it, they became much more sensitive to sweet flavors, and craved them less. When I spoke to her by phone this week, she said, “I certainly feel that there’s a place for sugar, but it’s gotten totally out of control. In our family, we eat it now in small amounts, for special occasions. That’s what sugar is designed to be: small and special.”
Her experiment has also prompted her to reflect on how serious a challenge minimizing your sugar intake really is in the U.S. “You can’t have an occasion without food, and in our culture you can’t have food without sugar,” she says. “You’re going to find sugar added everywhere, but we don’t have a sense of how pervasive it is, how it could be hiding in three to four different places, under different names in one food product.”
New Yorker writer Kolbert, who questioned the real impacts of the eco-stunters in 2009, might say that if Schaub really wanted to do something about sugar, she could lobby her kids’ school — which she complains inundates the children with sugar — to regulate the sugary treats. She could push for a soda tax in the state of Vermont.
But she is a writer, and she’s moving on to another topic close to her heart: clutter. Still, according to her publicist, 10,000 people pledged to join her on Wednesday for the Day Of No Sugar.
I decided to commit to a year without sugar. I remember reading about a family that did that a few years ago and I thought: “How crazy and extreme and tough that would be!” But it must have planted a seed of inspiration in my head, because here I am.
I’ve talked to you before about going without sugar, and why. Basically, I was incredibly addicted to sugar, and it was making me sick. Also nervous, because diabetes is all over both sides of my family. Back in the beginning of last year I decided to go a couple of months without sugar or any other sweeteners (with my vanilla soy milk coffee creamer as my only exception) and it turned into 5 months because I felt so good. My energy and moods were much more balanced, my skin was clearer, my mind was clearer, and I’d lost 20 pounds, without any additional lifestyle chances. Pretty cool. But then I was at a work camp our church goes to for a week and had to eat what was provided. I tried to eat well, but by the end of the week I was eating pizza and brownies, and that swung me back into sugar-overload mode until autumn, when I went another 3 months without sugar. Buuuut then Christmas.
One thing I know: I cannot moderate myself. I am like a cocaine addict. I go off, then I go back on. I try hard, I pray about it, I make plans, but as soon as my “two months” or whatever is up, I go right back. (Incidentally, this has given me a lot more compassion and insight into the struggle of drug addicts.) I cannot eat sugar in moderation. At least at this point in my life. And the life of a sugar addict…well I’m just too good for it. Thinking of sugar first thing every morning? Letting it control my mood? Being a slave to cravings? Nah. We were meant for better things.
So I thought maybe if I committed to a full year, this time with no soy milk, and no exceptions whatsoever, I could reset my mind and body and get over it somehow. I was thinking maybe after the end of it, I might even be able to do what I’ve known I should probably do, but wasn’t ready to: commit to a lifestyle of no sugar. That’s a tough one, because who wants to be the weird girl who “can’t eat that” all the time? The one that nobody wants to have over for dinner because her diet is “special”, and not even for real medical reasons. You know what I’m talking about. Also, can I really commit to the rest of my life without Brach’s candy corn?? (Not a sponsor, haha. But you know that’s the ONLY brand.)
A couple of months into this year without sweeteners, I had already realized that this is the life I want. I want to feel good. I want to rest within my “None at all” boundaries, so I don’t have to struggle with moderation. I know it seems like it wouldn’t be this way, but I actually find it easier to eat strictly no sweeteners than to try to only eat a little now and then. Because I can put it out of my mind completely, like it doesn’t even exist. So after this year of no sweeteners is finished (July 2 of ’18), I’m going to just continue, and make it a lifestyle. However, I’m toying with the idea of allowing something on my birthday and/or Christmas. That way I don’t have to feel like I can never have a certain thing ever again. I’ll try it on my birthday in July, and if it causes too many cravings or problems, I won’t do it again. But I know myself pretty well here and I think it will be ok, as long as I know that it’s just for that day.
So yeah. A year without sugar. It’s not as crazy as I thought it would be, it’s actually awesome. I’m over 5 months in, and by now I’m pretty familiar with which foods have sweeteners in the ingredient list (everything. just, everything.) and which restaurants I can eat at (It’s a long list: Chipotle.) and most people are pretty understanding about why I’m doing it. And I feel so, so good. When you’re eating nothing with sweeteners, you’re almost always eating pretty healthy food, which is so nice. I never worry about my weight anymore, because it’s almost impossible to gain too much eating like this. It’s so funny, because with all the restrictions of eating this way, what I really feel is…free! So apparently there is something to this “self control” thing. Looks like my Creator was right again. Thank you, God, for giving us advice that gives us freedom.
Love you 🙂 -Disney
What I Learned from a Year of No Sugar
As more of us question how much sugar we eat because of possible connections to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, we started wondering: What would it be like to give up sugar? Eve O. Schaub, a writer in Vermont, decided to find out. For 365 days, Schaub and her husband and two daughters cut out all added sugars. She documented the experience in Year of No Sugar (out in April), Below is an excerpt, plus her best advice for following in her footsteps.
Originally, when I first contemplated the idea of a Year of No Sugar, images of cravings, temptation, and deprivation came to mind. My personal mental picture involved me in an Old West-style showdown with one of those wonderful square Ritter chocolate bars: “Let’s go, chocolate,” I’d sneer, perhaps from under a sombrero. “You and me. Mano a mano.” You know, if chocolate had hands.
But in truth what I was finding was that the hardest moments weren’t solitary, quite the opposite. In fact, if I could just home-school the kids and avoid all restaurants and social events for the year-in other words if we could just move to a new address under a convenient rock-the project would be a comparative snap. Turns out, at least for me, the social isolation of being on a different wavelength from the rest of the world around you was one of the most difficult parts of all.
For example, one day in April we attended the biggest local event I’d seen in my 14 years in our town: a fundraiser to benefit the owners of a general store that had burned to the ground in the middle of the night two weeks prior. The event was so sudden, so shocking, so deeply upsetting to the community, that within hours plans were being fomented on Facebook for what would eventually blossom into a huge community expression of support and love. The resulting blow-out event featured a pig roast and chicken barbecue, a silent auction of more than a hundred items, a bake sale of gargantuan proportions, live music by a local honky-tonk band, a swing set raffle, tractor rides, and face painting. Phew! We showed up to find hundreds and hundreds of people already in line for all of the above. But most of all they were in line for the food.
RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Sugar
Now, we’d been doing no sugar for months now, so you might think by this point I’d have figured this food thing out, right? But then there’s that annoying fact that I can be-only sometimes, mind you-a little slow on the uptake. Honestly, amazingly, it really didn’t occur to me that we wouldn’t be able to eat the majority of food on the menu for this event until we were already there. Meat and pasta salad? Fine, right? Wait, no-pasta salad would have mayonnaise, the pork and chicken had barbecue sauce, so, um, what else? Baked beans, coleslaw…sugar was certainly in most of the menu items, if not all of them. And you can’t very well go to an event like this, with hundreds in line behind you waiting their turn, and start asking volunteers nit-picky questions about the pasta salad. You just can’t.
Fortunately, we had been assuming we’d eat there later in the afternoon as an early dinner, and we had eaten lunch, so we weren’t starving. Instead, we focused on everything else: We bought event t-shirts, we bid on items at the silent auction, the kids swung (swang?) on the raffle swing set and got their faces painted. Practically everyone in town made an appearance that afternoon, and in a town of just over 1,000 people that amounts to a great big party where you know virtually all of the guests. Now, in our neighborhood, a fundraiser is considered a walloping success if it raises anywhere near the thousand dollar mark. At the end of this particular event an unheard-of $30,000 was raised to help storeowners Will and Eric, who wandered around the event looking dazed by the outpouring of support.
I came home with an empty feeling in me that only partly had to do with the fact that it was getting to be dinnertime. Everyone in the community had come together to help our neighbors Will and Eric, and we were a part of that, certainly. But we all know food is symbolic, food is important. When people break bread together it means something. At least for the time being, our family was, in some small way, existing apart.
RELATED: 7 Ingredients That Are Robbing You of Nutrients
The day before the event, like everybody else, we had gone to drop off our family’s auction donation at the firehouse. It was very social, everyone standing around and marveling at the variety and quality of different auction items, (“Have you seen this one?”) But what I really reeled at was the bake-sale table. Goodies of every conceivable shape and size were crowded across two nine-foot tables, jostling for space, in the process of being neatly cataloged and labeled by my friend Rhonda. Rhonda was one of the event’s organizers, and also a reader of my blog who regularly posted comments and links to interesting sugar-related articles she came across.
Staring wide-eyed at the spread of frostings, sprinkles, chips, jellies, and coconut cream, I joked with Rhonda that I should take a photo of the awe-inspiring spread to post on my blog. “Oh no!” she said, genuinely taken aback, “but…this is good!”
Her reaction stuck with me, because I think it has everything to do with how inextricably emotion and food are intertwined in our culture. I mean, of course it’s good, right? The outpouring of emotion was physically visible in response to what was a shocking and violent event. People wanted to express love and comfort in the name of Will and Eric, to literally wrap them up in all that is warm and good and predictable, in an effort to make up for the scary thing that had changed their lives forever. What better way to do this than with a nice coffeecake or tray of raspberry thumbprints? We all understand, implicitly, when dessert is intended this way, as a concrete manifestation of love.
What Rhonda’s comment made me realize is that it’s all well and good to demonize sugar when you’re talking about the Big Bad Corporations, sneaking high fructose corn syrup into our ketchup and mayonnaise; it’s another thing entirely to go after grandma’s lovingly baked molasses cookies. The problem is, nutritionally your body can’t tell the difference between the “bad” sugar (from Big Food Inc.) and “good” sugar (from Grandma). Fructose is fructose. And an excess of fructose consumption, now at its highest levels ever and still climbing, is making our society sick.
I imagine that one day, when the data has become so abundant as to be incontrovertible having a buffet of sugar that rivals the actual food will be considered as socially unacceptable as smoking on airplanes or littering out your car window-things which we as a society once accepted as completely normal yet now we have come to realize the destructiveness of. Nobody’s trying to say we can’t smoke or drink or throw things away; they’re just saying we have to be careful-much more careful-about how we go about it. Same with sugar.
Excerpt adapted from Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub, Sourcebooks, April 2014
Read on for Schaub’s best advice for cutting back on sugar.Top Tips to Skip Sugar
1. Don’t drink sugar. If you do only one thing to limit your sugar intake, avoid sugared drinks: soda, sweetened teas, vitamin waters, sports drinks, and yes, juice. New studies are proving that consuming sugar in liquid form makes you feel less full than the equivalent amount of sugar in solid form. What’s left? Unsweetened coffee, tea, milk, and water, water, water.
2. Rethink your snack regime. So-called healthy snacks (flavored yogurts, granola, dried fruits, bars) often have as much or more added sugar as a candy bar. Instead, seek out no-added-sugar alternatives: raisins, nuts, plain yogurt with fresh fruit, popcorn, hummus with veggies, or no-sugar crackers. Several varieties of Larabar are composed entirely of no-added-sugar dried fruit and nuts; I keep these in my purse for Snack Emergencies.
RELATED: 10 Portable High-Protein Snacks
3. Read ingredients-always. I used to think I read ingredients all the time, but I was wrong-I read them sometimes; other times I just assumed that I already knew what was in a product. However, if I learned anything at all from our Year of No Sugar, it’s never to assume. Go ahead: Check your tortellini. Your smoked salmon. Your mayonnaise. Your sausages. Your chicken broth. I’ll wait.
4. Remember that sugar is sugar. During our Year of No Sugar the question we found ourselves asking the most was, “but what about…?” So we developed a litmus test: Is the sugar extracted from some other source? Then it’s B-A-D. An apple, with all its corresponding fiber and micronutrients still attached is fine-the natural sugar is not extracted. But maple syrup? Honey? Evaporated cane syrup? Organic fruit juice? Extracted. Added sugar by any other name is still added sugar.
5. Order simply at restaurants, and don’t be afraid to ask. Once you start asking, you’ll be amazed at how much restaurant food has sugar added. If it has a lot of sauce, it’s probably hiding a heap of sugar, so avoid the usual suspects of sneaky sugar: dips, dressings, gravies, glazes, soup broths, and marinades.
6. Try cooking and baking with alternative sweeteners. My two favorite sugar alternatives are dextrose powder and barley malt syrup. Dextrose powder is made from corn and I use it in place of granulated sugar; barley malt syrup is a good replacement for viscous sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup. Because they are about one-third the sweetness of regular sugar you’ll need to experiment to find the right balance of ingredients, but once you do you’ll see you can cook and bake practically anything without added sugar. If experimenting isn’t your thing, the subscription website How Much Sugar is a treasure-trove of no-added-sugar recipes.
7. Don’t make it a big deal. The last thing people want to hear is how “good for them” something is. Sugar in our culture is synonymous with fun, so saying something is sugar-free is tantamount to saying it is fun-free, not to mention probably taste-free. Instead, the proof is in the pudding-or the cake. I find the best strategy is not to mention that the Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting you brought to the potluck has no added sugar…and then watch as the entire thing disappears, down to the crumbs.
RELATED: 5 Desserts You Won’t Believe Are Sugar-Free
8. Make dessert special. Most of us aren’t planning to give sugar up forever-even me. Making sugar a special treat helps me not feel like I’m constantly denying myself or trying to live under a rock. Instead, I have only the things I really care about, once in a while: on a weekend or on someone’s birthday. You’ll find the less sugar you have, the less you crave it, so it’s suddenly a lot easier to walk right by that box of store-bought cookies at the office. Instead, save your allotment of added sugar for something truly special, and because it’s special, you’ll enjoy it all the more.
- By Eve O. Schaub