Welcome to My Year Without

On January 1, 2008, I made a New Year's resolution to cut out refined sugar for one year. I cut out white refined sugar and corn syrups. My quest to be sugar-free evolved into political interest, public health, and letter writing to food manufacturers. Join me in sugar sleuthing, and learn more about the psychological aspects of sugar addiction, and those who push sugar on us.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hospitals and Jell-O

Beware of eating hospital food. I have witnessed first-hand the serving of green jell-O to all in-patients who were recovering on the fifth floor of the hospital. There was not a specific menu for each person. Everyone got green jell-O! Since when have doctors promoted sugar?

I have had a little box of jell-O in my cupboard for years. I was going to use it once to make a recipe that I never made. I am looking at the ingredients and the nutrition facts, and it is worse than I could have guessed. The first ingredient is sugar, which is obvious, and then there is a list of ingredients that I can't pronounce (a really bad sign!), and then I counted 4 different food dyes. Under the nutrition facts there is no nutrition. Just a ton of sugar and some sodium. This is what Kaiser serves its patients. Ironically, in my neighborhood, there is a Kaiser billboard that shows a picture of fresh blueberries with the slogan, "Thrive." This deserves a letter to the board of directors at the hospital. Why would they promote fresh fruit while serving their patients jell-O?

Yesterday I called the San Diego hospital where my mom had been recovering for 8 days from surgery. Her recovery was estimated to be quicker than that, but she was not able to keep her jell-O down. I asked to speak to a dietitian. First, I spoke with a "nutrition clerk". I asked about the foods that the hospital was serving, and their nutritional value. I asked why my mom wasn't getting appropriate nutrition. I didn't get an answer but was told the dietitian would call me. I got a voice mail from the dietitian soon after my phone call. She didn't answer my questions, but she did call me back. Two hours after I called the hospital, my mom was discharged from the hospital.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I'm Having a Sugar Craving!

I can't believe that there is sugar in trail mix! All I want are the wonderfully salty nuts and dried cranberries and raisins! Tonight, I was having a sugar craving and I would have gone to the ends of the earth for a piece of dried fruit. All the dried fruit had sugar coating over each piece.
As I sit here in the San Diego hospital, I am amused at all the junk food that is promoted and sold down in the cafeteria. There are 6 vending machines standing shoulder to shoulder in the cafeteria, here. Three of those machines sell soda!
My mother had to have a sudden surgery while on vacation here, so I flew down to keep her company. I was hoping that travelling would help quell my sugar cravings, but instead, I am finding that my sugar cravings have increased. I need to find out where the nearest health food store is. It is so easy to eat "bad", especially when travelling. I did manage to find unsweetened chocolate almond milk, at a Safeway grocery store called "VONS" and I have really been enjoying that. Daily dips in the hot tub have also motivated me to drink more water, which is what I really crave when a sugar craving strikes.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I Hear Angels Sing

Today I gave in. To caffeine, that is. I gave up caffeine around the same time I gave up sugar just to see what it would be like to be off both such stimulants. It has actually been tough--I am amazed how much "oomph" one cup of coffee gave me. The effects of that cup lasted all day, every day that I drank it. Today, I was practically falling asleep playing ping pong! Besides that, I have been feeling like I waste a part of every day napping. So today, half-way through my ping pong game, I drank a cup. Not only did I immediately hear angels sing, but I came back from losing a game to winning two ping pong games out of three.
Not only does coffee dramatically stimulate me, especially during the mid-day hump, but the taste is divine. My first sip made me realize that if I can drink coffee, I won't ever need sugar. I'm not sure about the connection there, but that is what I thought at the moment. The tough part will be to find an alternative to dairy creamer that does not have sugar. A few weeks ago before I quit coffee, I was putting in unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Not as thick as a creamer, but the best alternative I have found.
On a side note, as I was grocery shopping the other day, I picked up a box of chocolate soy milk that said in big red letters, "No Sugar Added". I was stoked and dropped it in my basket. Later, at home, I looked at the ingredients and in place of sugar was Splenda. No thanks. It was extremely sneaky how they squeezed it in the ingredients list. It seems like I have to be so vigilante about every little thing I buy! It's exhausting. Well, only 11 months and two weeks left of my New Year's resolution.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Skinny Bitch"


Tonight I went to a book signing and met Rory Freedman who wrote "http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/imageviewer.asp?ean=9780762424931", and "Skinny Bitch in the Kitch"--a great recipe book. She is a great speaker and there was a good-sized crowd of people there for the signing. She answered a question that I have had and that a lot of people have asked me when I show them the book Skinny Bitch: "Why would they call their book that?" Rory answered that question tonight. They gave it that title because it was a cheap and easy marketing tool to grab people's attention--and it's working. They have already sold over 850,000 books and it has been on the New York Times best-seller list for 28 weeks. I love the chapter called "Sugar is the Devil". It is enlightening, political, and inspirational. The chapter talks about the refining process of the sugar cane, health dangers caused by sugar, and healthy substitutes for cooking with sugar. They also go into detail about the dangers of artificial sweeteners and Splenda. My favorite part of the chapter, however, is the politics behind sugar. It is unbelievable, yet it makes sense when you think about it. You will have to pick up a copy of Skinny Bitch and see for yourself. But be forewarned, if you are easily offended by four-letter words, this is not the book for you. Rory addressed this at the book signing, also. She grew up in New Jersey in a household that used that language so that is how she wrote the book--she didn't edit herself as she wrote. I waded through the language and the book is worth it. It's a fun read and so interesting, you'll read it in a day or two!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

10 Side Effects of NOT Eating Sugar

1. I feel superior.
2. I am saving money. Junk food adds up.
3. I have lost some weight.
4. Discussing my sugar-free diet with people has inspired others to go without sugar, and in turn that re-inspires me to continue to go without sugar.
5. Willpower! I have more willpower in other areas of my life, now: exercising, cleaning house regularly, being patient in traffic, etc.
6. I am inspired to eat healthier in general--more whole foods, less packaged.
7. I am trying new foods, new ingredients, new recipes.
8. My energy level is awesome!
9. I don't have white sugar cravings! In other words, I don't need a Snickers bar or a donut to feed my sweet tooth. If my sweet tooth acts up, a little honey in my tea actually satisfies. Unbelievable!
10. My husband is proud of me.

Monday, January 14, 2008

My Love Affair With Donuts

Yesterday, we drove to Hood River for fun. When we got there, we needed a bathroom and I spotted a McDonald's. I never eat there, but I always use their bathrooms--they are so clean--and you can usually sneak in a side door and back out again without being noticed. While we were there, on a whim, Jeff and I decided to ask about their french fries. Were they sugar-free? I was convinced that they were. We asked and the answer we got was that they had no ingredient information on their products. I will have to find out somewhere else. The only reason I care is that sometimes after I use their restroom on a long road trip, I feel a little obligated to buy something--but I haven't eaten their food in over two decades! I also saw "Supersize Me", which confirmed how disgusting their "nutrition" is. It might go without saying, but we walked away from McDonald's yesterday, empty-handed. However, we didn't walk away from Safeway empty-handed. At the donut section I couldn't help myself. I opened the donut case glass doors and stuck my head inside and breathed in over and over again. I am fully aware of how unsanitary this is. But I stayed there and breathed in all the frosting and fried grease that I could until I was saturated with it. I could hear Jeff chuckling behind me so I finally pulled my head out of the donut case. Funny thing is, I was totally satisfied. All I needed was to smell those donuts, not eat them.

Date Sugar: Highly Recommended

What a weekend! Saturday night we had a party to go to and I was challenged to bring a home-made dessert. I looked at all sorts of recipes and perused various cookbooks at Barnes & Noble. I did not find a single recipe that made my mouth water. So I decided to make an old favorite of mine and substitute date sugar for white refined sugar. I found out also, that date sugar is dried dates ground up into the consistency of white sugar. I already had date sugar on hand--I just had not ventured to use it yet. I made gingersnaps and they were fantastic. They seemed to be popular at the party, too, and no one could tell that I had switched a key ingredient. Now I know that I can indulge in my favorite cookie.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Tornados, Monopoly and Cute Jeans

Besides the weather here (we had a tornado touch down!), it's been a pretty good week. No major sugar cravings. I even bought ice cream and chocolate for Jeff. No problem. I have stayed up later every night this week than I have in a long time. Maybe it's because I'm not as tired or maybe it's the games of Monopoly we have been playing every evening. Our last game we had placed a $170 bet. Jeff won. Which is good because I've been dreaming all week of the shopping I could do with that money. One early evening this week we happened to be walking through Nordstrom and I spotted the cutest pair of jeans, ever. Even though they were $200, I tried them on just for fun. Luckily, they weren't as cute once I had them on, but I did realize that I may have gone down a size. Jeff noticed, too. I wish I could say it is due to all the exercising I'm doing--but I'm doing none right now. I'm glued to my cave waiting for the sun to come out. It has been weeks since we have had a sunny day. Anyway, I have a feeling that giving up sugar might have something to do with going down a size. Not only that, but since I have given up sugar and have observed my own will power to do so, I have noticed that I am making other healthy food choices as well. I don't know how long this will last, but I am determined to ride this wave for as long as possible.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Pizza-You Won't Believe It!

I made it through the weekend and am stronger because of it. I came face to face with an incredible challenge. It wasn't ice cream or cake or chocolate...Jeff ordered pizza! I wasn't interested at first because I had made a cream of mushroom rice casserole that I couldn't wait to taste. But as soon as we walked into Domino's to pick up the pizza, I couldn't help but breathe in every last drop of that sweet, sweet smell of pizza dough, sauce, cheese and grease. It smelled so good I decided that one piece would be perfect. Just to make sure that I was in the clear, I asked the cashier if he would check the ingredients for sugar in the sauce. He was surprised but went back and checked anyway. He still looked surprised when he returned. "I looked at the nutritional facts and there is actually sugar in the pizza sauce...I thought they just used a lot of salt," was all he said. So we walked away with Jeff's pizza and I was okay with not having any, until we got home. As soon as he opened the lid the delicious smells chased me around the kitchen while I tried to focus on my casserole. I stood still for some time looking at the pizza and thinking about the year ahead of me. Was it even possible to go without sugar? At some point, I would surely eat something with sugar and not find out until later. What about going out to eat? It wouldn't be possible to check ingredients for every little thing. I took another look at the pizza. What was my point in giving up sugar? Was it really that meaningful to me? It must be impossible. Then all of a sudden, I felt renewed and inspired to continue my quest for a sugar-free year. I will expose all of the least-likely foods to have added sugar. Because it makes me mad! You don't need sugar to make pizza!

Friday, January 4, 2008


"In 1995, FDA Epidemiology Branch Chief Thomas Wilcox reported that aspartame complaints represented 75% of all reports of adverse reactions to substances in the food supply from 1981 to 1995.[6] Concerns about aspartame frequently revolve around symptoms and health conditions that are allegedly caused by the sweetener. A total of 92 different symptoms and health conditions were reported by physicians and consumers."
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspartame_controversy

Purple Soup

I made this soup intending to have a place to use my more hardcore vegetables. It turned out so delicious, that I had it for breakfast, too! I've never had soup for breakfast before. All night last night I kept thinking how excited I was to get up in the morning and reheat it. It made me wonder if I was sick--because why else would I eat something this incredibly healthy?
Here are the dirty details of my Purple Soup (cabbage turns it all purple)--oh, and I rarely measure when I cook, so this is a loose recipe and is easily varied.

Purple Soup:
Lots of water
Lots of salt
One big scoop of Miso
1/4 of a whole cabbage, cut up
1/2 of a bunch of kale, cut up
1 parsnip, unpeeled, cut up
1/2 turnip, cut up
1/4 purple onion, cut up
1 sweet potato, cut up
1 cup or so of orzo (pasta that looks like rice. you could just use brown rice)
1 cup of adzuki beans (use any beans you have!)
Let everything simmer for about 30 minutes or so. For crunchier vegetables, add them closer to the end. I used a lot of pepper and sea salt to season. The miso acted as a great base. Next time I might try V-8 juice (is it sugar free?) for added flavor. Purple Soup should last 3 or so days covered in the refrigerator. Enjoy with a piece of toast!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Peek Inside My Cupboard

Here are some items in my cupboard and refrigerator that I hope to enjoy when a sugar craving hits me:
-natural licorice (made with only: wheat flour, molasses, licorice root extract and anise seed oil)
-dried fruit (check labels! Craisins are covered in sugar!)
-peppermint tea, green tea, Sugar Balance tea, most any tea will do-add tsp. honey!
-Ochoco Valley honey, courtesy of Prineville's gentle bee-keepers: my mother- and father-in-law
-rasberry-sweetened fig bars
-applesauce (check labels! why anyone would add sugar to an apple, I don't know!)
-pure cocoa to make hot chocolate with--add a little honey
-organic, pure concord grape juice-as healthy as wine without the alcohol! (this is probably the only juice I will have, they seem to be pretty sugary with no real health benefit, except for grape juice's benefits)
-spirulina protein balls rolled in coconut (for the serious health food nut ONLY!)
-unsweetened almond or soy milk (make sure it says "unsweetened"!)

Any suggestions?

Overcoming Temptation

I'm on day three of no sugar. So far it's been so easy that it doesn't feel like I am giving up anything. I've had all sorts of sugary sweets put in front of me but I have not been tempted because I did not give myself the choice. For me, that's key. If I tell myself that I maybe will or maybe won't do something, when I am in the situation, I will do whatever I crave in the moment. But, if I establish with myself ahead of time what my rules are, then I don't feel temptation. I am only tempted to do things that I might do anyway. But I am strictly forbidding myself from sugar. One day at a time. To think of this entire year unfolding and all the will power I will have to muster over and over again is pretty daunting. But taking it one day at a time seems easy enough. When I knew there would be sugary treats available, I packed a little sack of alternatives for myself. That way, when I was in the moment, I didn't feel left out. In fact, when I pulled out my homemade trail mix with grain-sweetened chocolate chips, everyone was interested. They even had a chocolate chip tasting contest. It was decided that the grain-sweetened chips weren't so bad.

Ridiculous (But True!) Reasons to Buy Sugar!

Here is a list of the most outrageous reasons to have sugar. I copied this off of the Sugar Association's web site.
"A teaspoon of sugar has just 15 calories. Sweet by Nature® and perfected in sugar beets and sugar cane, sugar is called the "gold standard of sweeteners." Often imitated, never duplicated!
Sugar is brain food. Sugar-and carbohydrates in general-are converted to blood glucose, the fundamental fuel needed by the brain.
Sugar makes nutritious foods tasty enough to eat. Just imagine what healthy foods like oatmeal, grapefruit and bran muffins would taste like without a sprinkle of sugar.
Sugar helps heal wounds. Sugar has been used for centuries to successfully aid in the healing of wounds. Sugar dries the wound thus preventing the growth of bacteria.
Sugar has been an important food ingredient for centuries. Experts place the origin of sugar in the South Pacific about 8000 years ago.
Sugar caramelizes under heat. Caramelization gives cooked vegetables a pleasing taste, color and aroma. Sugar in glazes and sauces provides caramelized flavors for cooked meats.
Sugar softens acidity in foods. Sugar improves the taste of salad dressings, tomato sauces and many other acidic foods by balancing their tartness.
Sugar inhibits mold and yeast growth. Sugar increases the useful life of jams and jellies by binding the water needed by mold and yeast for growth.
Sugar helps foods brown. When bread is toasted or cookies are baked, sugar combines with proteins to produce the appetizing brown color and pleasing aromas."
(source: www.sugar.org/consumers/15_calories.asp?id=47)

Please go to this website and click on: "healthy living" and then "sugar myths". These pages are so absurd to me and downright wrong. I almost fell off my chair laughing. Let me make clear that I am not an expert in biology or chemistry or the science of food. It is interesting when people throw in true statements around their false statement to hide it or legitimize it.

Here is the first thing they say under the "healthy living" tab: "
The simple, irrefutable fact is this: Sugar is a healthy part of a diet." Can you believe this? They also say that, "Experts continue to conclude that sugar does not cause diabetes, obesity, hyperactivity or nutrient deficiencies."
I could be wrong, but I thought sugar was closely related these problems, and probably the cause of some. Perhaps these problems come about from eating vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

I think part of the problem is that the word "sugar" is misused. Obviously our bodies need glucose. Sugar turns into glucose. So do other natural sugars. The biggest difference between white refined sugar and natural sugars is this: Natural sugars also have fiber or vitamins or minerals. Because of this, natural sugars take longer to digest, which is a good thing, because it doesn't spike our blood sugar level and our pancreas doesn't have to work overtime to produce insulin.

"Diabetes mellitus refers to the group of diseases that lead to high blood glucose levels due to defects in either insulin secretion or insulin action."
(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes)

What white refined sugar (corn syrups, etc.) does to our system is to provide ZERO nutrition, and it has no "buffer" like other vitamins or minerals or fibers to help it digest slowly, so it is digested quickly and prompts the pancreas to work overtime to quickly produce the insulin our body needs for blood sugar levels to be balanced.

Please research this yourself!

I am just getting started on my researching of sugar. I have a long way to go. There is a lot of interesting information out there: web, books, organizations, professionals, etc. Be very careful where you get your information! I have found a lot of websites spouting the evils of sugar, but there are also websites that advocate its use. Those who advocate for it are involved in its production, trade and wholesale.

Check Your Bread Labels!

I am going to make sugar-free french toast this morning. It's actually super easy and you don't feel like you're missing out on anything. The key is to get 100% pure maple syrup, (yes, it's the expensive stuff--but it's pure and from a tree!) and not Mrs. Butterworths, or Log Cabin or any brand where there is more than one ingredient. I like the brand MacDonald's, of course! Also, surprisingly enough, bread usually has sugar in it! Check labels! Your best bet is to patronize a health food store or health section of a grocery store. Most breads in this section will be sugar-free, heartier and made with whole grains and/or sprouted grains which are healthiest. If you have any doubts about the taste and texture, try it first: toast it and slather it with honey or natural fruit-sweetened jam. I just found my new favorite jam the other day. It comes from France, in various flavors, is very sweet, but made without sugar. It's called St. Dalfour. I found it at Whole Foods. Most of their other jams and jellies were loaded with sugar.
I found out recently that there is a funny paradigm with breads on the market. Some are made with white refined flour (which comes from a healthy grain, but then is stripped of all of its health benefits), which manufacturers then add back in vitamins and minerals, otherwise known as "fortifying". This is a very cheap way to sell bread. White flour is cheap and our body could do without! In my opinion, it makes more sense to pay a couple of dollars more for bread that is made with grains that still retain their vitamins and minerals, is heavier, heartier and more filling. I could eat a whole loaf of Wonder bread in one sitting. The bread I am munching on now, however, is so hearty, I've only been able to eat two pieces at a time, and it is naturally high in iron and protein! It may be more difficult to find, because it is an import from Germany, but it is so tasty and filled with sunflower seeds. It's called Mestemacher, and I have found it at World Market, QFC, and health food stores. Each slice contains 4 grams of protein, 15% daily recommended iron, and 24% daily recommended fiber. None of which is "fortified", it all occurs naturally in the ingredients used to make the bread. My other favorite bread is Nature Bake, more of the sandwich-making consistency.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008