5 things you learn in a month without sugar

I survived! My month without added sugar is complete – it seemed long at times and then was over in a flash, and I learned a lot in the process. Here are my top five lessons from an optional sugar break:

  1. Just say no. Going into March, I literally didn’t think I could resist having a taste the donuts in the office or the cake at a friend’s house. But midway through the month I found it was getting easier and easier to just say no, just like I would if the treats had walnuts in them (which I’m allergic to). Now I have a sense of how vegetarians can say no to barbecue!
  2. Your taste buds adjust quickly. As promised, I could taste natural sugars better once I cut out the added stuff. And when I did order a butternut squash ravioli at Eataly and it came coated in brown sugar, I felt like I was eating dessert for dinner – where before, that was my baseline. 
  3. Added sugar is everywhere. See above. Sugar is SO hard to avoid (more on this in my last post.) It’s no surprise that our sense of sweet is messed up when you can’t avoid added sugars in your everyday life. It has definitely made me look for ways to find more unprocessed snacks and raw meal options (more balsamic vinegar, less bottled dressing, etc).
  4. Sugar affects people differently. One of the many appealing things about this month was my coworkers’ anecdotes of better sleep, clearer skin, and weight loss. For me: nothing but the taste buds. Maybe that’s because the part of my brain that wanted sugar demanded that I eat more of other food to compensate – maybe it’s just body chemistry. I’m still glad I did it, but it would have been nice to get those other perks too!
  5. Quality over quantity. Now that my sugar free month is over, I am going into the rest of spring with a new focus on eating better sweets / things with added sugar in them. Less junky chocolate and movie theater candy and lame donuts. More treats my friends make or recipes I try myself or treats where the sugar makes it 💯 – and then only a smallish amount. Let’s see how it works!

Have you ever cut added sugar out of your diet? What did you learn?

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Unsweet spring

If you know one thing about me, I hope it’s that I’m passionate about life and the people I love. 

If you know two things about me: see above, plus I’m from New Hampshire (Granite State represent!).

But if you know three things about me… #3 may very well be that I have a serious sweet tooth.

I will skip dinner if it means saving room for pie, eat ice cream even in the dead of winter, try every brownie recipe you’re working to perfect. From Turkish delight in the food halls of London to chocolate croissants in Paris to caramel iced coffee on the banks of the Charles, I’ve loved it all. 

And for March, I’m trying my darndest to go without. 

I was inspired by my coworkers and this NYTimes article, and by the notion that cutting out added sugar for a month will reset my idea of sweetness. So far, that seems to be true – even butternut squash seems sweeter than it did before. 

And it’s also made it perfectly clear just how much sugar is in everything. 

I read Salt, Sugar, Fat a while ago and learned about the unfair advantage these ingredients have in modern food, and this month has shown me all the secret places sugar is hiding. Not just in dressing and jams, but in frozen bagels, chicken sausage, and crackers. Plus, it’s nearly impossible to buy yourself a snack in a coffee shop without drowning yourself in sugar, even if it’s through a “healthy” granola bar. And what do you bring to your friends who just had a baby or your overwhelmed coworkers but pastries and cookies and other sorts of overly sweet treats? And what do you eat at the movies?? (Confession: seeing about eight movies and theater productions in a month where I ate a bag of candy each time is part of what prompted this.)

I’m two weeks in with two weeks to go. My criteria is avoiding sugar (and related sweeteners, like honey and corn syrup) as an ingredient. So fruit is a go, and bread without added sugar and such is fine. But honey mustard and that delicious Skippy peanut butter are off the menu at least until April (and maybe longer). Learning to have coffee without copious amounts of sugar has been the hardest by far – and has taught me that I need to seek out better coffee, if I was trying that desperately to mask or improve the taste. (Goodbye office K cup coffee, hello Cafe Nero cappuccino!)

I’m joined in this quest by my mom, sharing moral/menu support from NH, and my roommate, Katie – so glad she agreed to this weird experiment because watching someone else have dessert when I am not would be my downfall for sure. 

Have you ever tried going without sugar or addressing other cravings? What would be the hardest for you to give up?

What’s on your plate?

Remember when you first learned about the food pyramid, and it looked so appealing with the fats and oils on top?  This shape was supposed to tell you how you were intended to… layer?… your food and illustrated a few items in each category.  However, I distrust it because I’m not taking nutrition advice from someone who thinks a tomato is a vegetable.  Seriously, people – it’s a fruit.

Then, the pyramid shifted a bit, and turned into a mountain of food, all yours to climb:

But this version really gives you no useful information.  Should I start each day with grains and end with meat and beans?  Make sure my veggies don’t touch my milk?  Eat one slice of… blue each day?

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