Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sugar - getting rid of it

It is wonderful to recognize and identify a problem in your life. The next step is to do something about it. I have no doubt that my body deals very poorly with sugar. Although, I've been speaking about sugar, I'm going to throw white, refined flour into the mix. That stuff (and anything containing it) hits me the same way sugar does.

My goal is to virtually eliminate both sugar and white flour from my diet for the next month. I will occasionally substitute other natural sweeteners, such as honey and maple syrup for sugar, but for the most part, I'm looking at eliminating it rather then replacing it. For the record, I will not be using artificial sweeteners. In my opinion, those are chemicals rather then food, and as such, don't have a place in my diet.

After the month is over, I will continue to avoid most foods containing sugar, but I may consider reintroducing some of the ones that have low amounts of sugar and have a minimal effect on me.

At this point in my life, this isn't actually that drastic a step. I've been working towards eating less processed foods and more whole grains. I use minimal added sugar. I make my own bread, yogurt and other baked goods, so I have a great deal of control over what is in my kitchen and on my dinner plate. Having said that, I've looked back over my food journal and identified 5 specific food categories that are the ones that need to change.

1. Bread and bread products
2. Pasta and rice
3. Condiments and dressings
4. Kid's snacks
5. Treats

1. Bread and bread products

I love bread - perhaps too much. I have a bread maker and use it to make all my bread products, other then tortillas. Initially, I alternated between making white bread and a 50/50 blend of white/whole wheat. I noticed that whenever I made white bread, it was a trigger food for me. I was making it mainly for my (somewhat picky) husband, but not so long ago, he admitted that he didn't mind the 50/50 blend, so I switched to that.

Now, the goal is to find a 100% whole grain bread that we will all enjoy. Yesterday, I made a loaf of whole wheat bread with flax seed, and it was pretty good. Even my husband had some. Although he admitted that it wasn't as "light and airy", he still enjoyed eating it. I'm going to continue trying other recipes, but I'm confident that I can find one we will all enjoy.

The other issue with bread is sugar. According to my bread recipe book, sugar is necessary as food for the yeast. For the time being, I'll be using honey rather then white or brown sugar when it is called for. I'm also going to do some experiment and research to see if I can actually make a decent loaf of bread without the sugar.

2. Pasta and rice

This category is an easy one and one that I've already been switching. Whole wheat pasta has become widespread and easy to come by. I'm replacing all the pasta I cook with whole wheat. It doesn't hit me the same way that white stuff does. I still enjoy it, but I don't feel the same need to finish off the whole bowl-full.

Switching the rice we use will cost us a level of convenience. Right now, we still use instant white rice every once in a while. To replace this, the obvious choice is brown rice, but I'm expanding that to include other grains as well. Couscous is basically as quick to make as instant white rice. Quinoa is a new favourite of mine. Really, I need to look at what else is out there. Anyone have any favourite grains you enjoy that aren't the mainstream well known ones?

3. Condiments and dressings

This is probably going to be the hardest one for me. Ever read the ingredients on a bottle of salad dressing? Miracle whip? Ketchup? Sugar, glucose-fructose, or one of it's other aliases is almost always in the top 5 ingredients.

I'm going to be honest and admit that this category may hurt. Particularly the ketchup. In fact, I must admit that before writing this post, I had a last meal with ketchup, topping off my omelet.

In the latest issue of Clean Eating magazine, there is a whole section with clean salad dressings, so I'm definitely going to have to try some of those. (Now, I just have to remember where I left the magazine.) I have googled for sugar free ketchup recipes, and so far, they all have artificial sweeteners. I'm going to experiment a bit, but this may be a situation where I need to use a bit of honey...

4. My kid's snacks

This category is one that I'm really going to have to look at. When I consider the processed foods that still have a place in my pantry, they are largely snacks for my children. On the surface, they don't seem that bad. It's not like they're eating cookies and cake all the time. It's usually things like crackers, graham crackers, mini rice cakes, goldfish. On the other hand, when I start reading the ingredient lists, it makes me cringe. There's little nutritional value in them.

It's all fine and good to say, I'll stop eating them. However, I think it's great for my kids to sit down with me and share the same snack. As well, if it's something that I consider unhealthy for myself, how can I consider it good for my children?

On the other hand, there's virtually no other snack that seems as easy as crackers, cheese and fruit. I may comb the grocery store shelves to see if there's a better cracker to feed them. I could try making my own, but to be honest, I don't see that happening.

What are fun and healthy snacks you feed your kids?

5. Treats

This is the area that is a killer for me. When I choose to allow myself a treat, I tend to head straight for the sweet baked goods. Those are the items that really act like a drug in my system. I have a hard time stopping at a reasonable sized serving, and it causes crazy cravings for hours (or days) afterwards.

I'm going to be blunt and say that these items can't really be replaced. I need to learn to do without them. I love food, and when I am avoiding sugar, I know that I enjoy the healthy stuff more. If I feel the need to be indulgent, it might mean I just have to pay $3 for a mango in the middle of winter, or buy some overpriced, out of season strawberries. (Sorry dear!)

In so many ways, this is what I've been moving towards anyways. As I try to reduce the amount of processed foods my family eats, it just makes sense to limit sugar as well. After concluding the extreme effect that sugar has on me, I've made the decision to approach it more aggressively.


  1. Fresh bread always smells and tastes so good, no wonder it made your list.

    One suggestion for the condiments that might help-if you haven't tried salsa on eggs, you might be surprised. It's one of my favorites.

  2. I admire how sensible you are. Your kids are lucky that you care about the foods that you buy for them.

    I agree with Karen. Salsa on eggs, delish!

  3. A lot of the recipes on Elana's Pantry are good - look it up! She uses agave nectar as a sweetener. Is is lower on the glycemic index than honey. Maybe you can come up with a ketchup substitute from that?