Family

Living without Sugar

Struggling to give up sweets for a month

My husband and I, and by extension, our three kids, have made it through our first week without sugar.

On Nov. 1, we swore off all added sugar and alcohol for a month. No honey. No maple syrup. No sugar substitutes.

All those things can mess with your body’s satiety even if they’re all natural. Fruit is OK. Fruit juice is not.

Related: One Month of No Sugar

If Americans follow the latest recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration, they’ll be acting similarly. For the first time ever, the FDA says we should limit our added-sugar intake to no more than 10 percent of our daily calories. That’s 12.5 teaspoons or 50 grams — or just one can of Coke.

[lz_ndn video=29928541]

Do you respect the office of the president?

By completing the poll, you agree to receive emails from LifeZette and that you've read and agree to our privacy policy and legal statement.

What’s more alarming, it’s also the same amount of sugar in much of the yogurt we buy. Unless you buy the plain version, this so-called health food is chock full of sugar. Many of the popular brands average 25-30 grams per serving. About half of that is naturally occurring lactose. The rest is added.

If we’re feeding our children yogurt, we are probably giving them their entire daily allotment of sugar and thinking it’s healthy.

[lz_org_series]

What We’re Learning
Giving up sugar isn’t that hard, yet it takes a lot of effort.

It’s not because we’re weak. It’s because it’s hard to escape sugar. As Daniel, my husband, points out,“It’s surprising how many opportunities there are to eat sugar. Everywhere I turn, there is some sugar-laden treat. And usually it’s free.”

I’m noticing the same thing. Wherever I went this past week — school events, coffee shop, board meetings, drug stores — something sweet is almost always available. Buying it feels natural — American even — because it’s always in our face. And, we’ve done it for so long.

Sugar can also have a calming effect. When I’m stressed, or my kids are pushing my buttons, I want chocolate, like a drug addict looking for a fix.

Giving up sugar isn’t that hard, yet it takes a lot of effort.

As the primary shopper for our home, I’ve also seen that almost everything that’s even a little processed has sugar in it. That rosemary flatbread I wanted to have with my salad has sugar. The butternut squash pasta sauce I picked up to make a quick dinner — sugar. Whole-wheat pretzels I considered for my son’s lunch — yep, sugar. Even some salsa have sugar. It’s hard to escape.

Sweet Stuff 
Why is there added sugar in things that are sweet on their own, or aren’t even meant to be sweet? It’s because sugar tastes good. It’s because 30 years ago, when we were demonizing fat, manufacturers took that out of almost everything and added the sweet stuff to make it taste better. Let’s not mention the sugar industry is heavily subsidized by the federal government.

Take yogurt again. It’s hard to find full fat, plain yogurt. But there are entire sections dedicated to fat-free, flavored yogurt that has as much sugar and artificial sweeteners as ice cream. Fat-free granola bars taste good because they have lots of sugar in them. Fat-free pizza, salad dressing, soup, sauces all have a common denominator — sugar.

Related: Sip Up, Sucker

The ingredients in these foods, and much of our beloved snack foods, aren’t just there by happenstance. Scientists have formulated our favorites to reach a “bliss point” of flavors. They contain just the right amount of substances to make us keep coming back for more. Flavorful, but not overly. Companies experiment with things like mouthfeel and acidity and sweetness so you can pound an entire bag of chips and still not be satisfied.

Indeed, the changes in the food industry have come drastic changes in our health as a nation. More than 68 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, according to findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During the past 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled, adolescent obesity has quadrupled.

Quadrupled. As in times four.

I hate being a statistic. I refuse to let me children become one. The only way to stop that is to stop the foods causing this from coming into our house.

What We Learned
Yet I didn’t realize how hard it was to quit sugar until we started this experiment.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary this weekend and it seemed weird without chocolate. Putting applesauce on our whole grain pancakes on Sunday morning felt odd. Shopping for easy meals for my family had me putting a lot of stuff back on the shelf after reviewing the label.

It’s worth it, though. Despite my daily 4 a.m. baby wake up call, I find myself with enough energy to make it to bath time. There are no big afternoon sugar crashes. The scale is inching in the right direction for both of us, despite not changing anything but sugar intake.

The best benefit for all of us has been rediscovering how wonderful fruit is. My husband is asking me to pick up oranges at the store instead of sweets. I’m having a banana with my afternoon coffee instead of a cookie. And rather than stealing my trail mix with chocolate chips, my almost 3-year-old is nabbing my apple slices with almond butter.

Related: The Amazing Avocado

Join the Discussion

Comments are currently closed.