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, June 30, 2008

How to Establish a Healthy Relationship with Your Kitchen

It's 7:00 am and you find yourself stumbling into the kitchen, eyes still sleepy and stingy, your stomach growling angrily--you must eat. Your brain is still fuzzy and it's hard to decide what to make for breakfast so you open your cupboards one by one, your refrigerator, and even your freezer. Nothing in particular jumps out at you except the Oreos in the cupboard and the Ben & Jerry's in the freezer. "Just one cookie while I figure out what to eat for breakfast," you say to yourself. Before you have swallowed the remains of the Oreo, the entire package is completely opened and you lean against the counter having a great morning stare out the window, devouring one cookie after another. At some point your stomach starts to feel funny or you realize that the row of cookies is gone and now is a good time to stop. Because you are not very hungry anymore, you grab a banana or a glass of juice and that's breakfast.

The sugar digests quickly, you all of a sudden have a lot of energy, but all too soon you start to feel hungry again and perhaps a little tired. After brewing some coffee you decide to have a morning snack. After all, it's nowhere near lunchtime. You peruse your cupboards a little more carefully this time and decide to have a piece of toast with jelly and one bite of ice cream.

When it's finally time for lunch, you resort to spaghetti or frozen pizza because it's quick, filling and really tasty. In no time you've eaten lunch, snacked on some chips while you were waiting, and then had a chocolate covered protein bar at the end because you want to make sure you are eating enough protein. When that's gone, you find yourself still lingering in the kitchen. To solve that problem you grab a soda and finally leave the kitchen.

In less than an hour, you take a break from what you are doing and return to the kitchen. You couldn't concentrate because you really wanted two more bites of ice cream. You eat that and then return to what you were doing with a large glass of juice.

Within the next hour, you start to wonder what to make for dinner. Again, you can't concentrate on what you are doing until you solve the dinner problem. You decide to take another break and look through your cupboards again. It's all still there: crackers, several bags of chips, cereal boxes, packaged rice, bags of store-bought cookies, bread, muffins, trail mix, unopened jars of pasta sauce, cans of spaghetti, soups, and fruits. While you try to decide what to put together for dinner, you open a new package of crackers to try them, and grab a little handful of chips before wandering over to the refrigerator....

Did you know that almost all of the foods mentioned above have sugar in them? How is it possible to eat healthy, balanced meals when you have "junk food" lying around? Of course Oreos are more appealing than oatmeal in the morning! There is only one way to kick the sugar addiction happening in kitchens nationwide. Call your friends or a family member and tell them that you have a bunch of food that you don't want anymore and would they like to come and take it before you throw it away? If no one comes to take away your sugar-laden foods, throw it away yourself! You will be making a big statement to yourself by doing this, and are more likely to stay away from junk food because of it.

Most importantly, replace your foods with healthier varieties that don't contain all that sugar. Buy plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and prepare them for eating ahead of time. (Trust me, if you don't, you will pass over your celery and carrots again and again.) Buy or make healthy dips for your raw vegetables if that will help you eat them. Hummus, yogurt dips and freshly blended nut dips are perfect for vegetables. Also, when you shop to replace your old foods, try a local health food store or ask your grocery if they have a health food section. Read labels and be determined to be picky and not buy foods with sugar. There are so many wonderful alternatives! Juices, jams, breads, dry cereals, peanut butters, pasta sauces and crackers, to name a few, are all very tasty without added sugars! Try several brands and varieties until you find something you really like. Also, alternative milk products like soy, almond, rice, hemp, and oat milks usually have unsweetened varieties. It may take a little bit of extra time to shop, and you might actually decide to bake more foods yourself, but it is very worth it and rewarding to eat right.

It is possible to have a healthy relationship with your kitchen. Once your kitchen is stocked with more fruits and vegetables, and healthy snacks, you probably won't find yourself lingering in your kitchen wondering how to satisfy your sweet tooth. You might grab a bunch of grapes, or fresh strawberries, or a trail mix with dried fruit and feel more satisfied in your snacking and a lot less guilty. Once you kick the sugar addiction, you may even find yourself needing clothes in smaller sizes.

Have fun with this!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dr. Andrew Weil's Take on Splenda

"Splenda (sucralose) is the best selling artificial sweetener. It is made by substituting three chlorine molecules for three hydrogen-oxygen groups on the sugar molecule. This changes sugar into an artificial sweetener that can't be metabolized, meaning our bodies can't digest it or derive energy from it.

The safety of Splenda has been controversial for some time. Citizens for Health, a nonprofit group, maintains that adverse effects ranging from stomach pains to headaches and skin rashes have been reported by users. In April 2007, the group petitioned the FDA to withdraw approval until more is known about the sweetener's safety. To the best of my knowledge, studies on Splenda – those attesting to its safety and those warning of dangers – have all been done in animals. I can find no human data demonstrating that Splenda can cause any health problems; nor can I find human data proving its safety. I would follow the precautionary principle here and avoid it.

If you use artificial sweeteners, there's no proof that I've been able to locate that these products will actually help you lose weight. In fact, circumstantial evidence suggests that they may make matters worse: the number of Americans consuming artificially sweetened food and drink rose from 70 million in 1987 to 160 million in 2000. During that same period, obesity rates rose dramatically."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Peanut Butter Balls

I have not tried this recipe, yet. It was passed on to me from a friend and it looks really good...I may even try substituting almond butter....

Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup peanut butter

½ cup honey

1 cup crushed corn flakes or crispy rice cereal

¼ cup wheat germ

½ cup unsweetened coconut

*Mix peanut butter, honey, corn flakes and wheat germ. Refrigerate 15 minutes then roll into balls. Roll in coconut to keep them from sticking. Store in refrigerator.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Easy, Healthy Morning Breakfast Routine

I wonder how many of you crave sugar first thing in the morning? When I ate sugar regularly, I would often get up in the morning and wander into the kitchen looking in cupboards and the refrigerator where I would find the jackpot: left over dessert from the night before. I would usually be thinking, "It will probably get stale soon, and I might as well get rid of it as soon as possible before it tempts me later in the day." Other treats in the morning have included: homemade cookies, a left over pan of brownies, M&M's, and the hardest thing to not eat--packaged cookies. Cheap packaged cookies have always been a favorite of mine. Being bite-sized, they are so easy to eat and before you know it, half of the package is gone. When half of the package is gone, and you already feel guilty for eating that many cookies, it's even easier to eat the rest of them so you don't experience a second bout of guilt. Just because I've gorged myself on sugar in the morning does not mean I'm done having breakfast. Even when I've been full, I've eaten breakfast food after eating something sugary. There were days that seemed like a vicious cycle. I did not want to listen to my body. My mind said "EAT!" so I overruled my body saying, "Give me a break! Stop eating, NOW!" It is very easy to say these things in retrospect. I would never have admitted to this while in the moment.

Currently, I have a healthy breakfast habit in place of my unhealthy habits. I still like to eat something sweet in the morning sometimes, and fruit tastes sweetest first thing in the morning before eating anything else. (Note: Fruit does NOT taste sweet right after eating a hunk of dessert.) My new habit is cereal (Grape Nuts, Ezekial Brand Cereal, Barbara's Brand Cereal, Oatmeal, etc.) topped with fresh strawberries (they are now ripe and in season!) bananas, blueberries, rasberries, peaches, raisins, nuts or dried apricots. I have never been left hungry after one bowl. After eating such a healthy meal, you will feel inspired to eat healthy at your next meal, too. It helps to have pre-prepared healthy snacks on hand, otherwise it can be tempting to run to a vending machine with the justification that you are starving.

If you are not a breakfast eater, I am guessing that around mid-morning when you begin to feel really hungry, it is easy to justify that Coke, or the donuts in the break room, or a sugary coffee drink of some kind. Skipping breakfast is the quickest way to eat unhealthy later in the day. Eating a healthy breakfast is the quickest way to eating healthy later in the day. If your concern is time, prepare something the night before and take it to work with you if you have to. A thermos is a great way to transport cereal (note: to avoid soggy cereal, pour milk or yogurt in the thermos and carry your cereal in a baggy until you have a chance to eat.) If you feel like you are too busy to shop for healthy food, order groceries online and have them delivered to your doorstep. It is easy to kick that sugary morning habit if you replace it daily with something healthy and filling.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Check Out This Donut Blog: nycdonutreport.blogspot.com



1. I acquired a donut hole maker! Thank you Nancy! Complete with a recipe book, and some donut recipes that don't call for sugar. My first try at making hand-made donuts involved a sugarless apple fritter recipe. I used agave nectar for sweetener. When the donut holes were formed and cooked (taking only 4 minutes!) I rolled them in melted butter and stuffed my face with them. They were delicious despite being sugar-free and non-deep fried, though a little bready and more like a sweet muffin. The smell brought other members of my family into the kitchen, but moments too late. I had devoured all of the apple fritter donut holes, so I made another batch of plain, but full-of-sugar donuts for my family. Those were devoured in less than 5 minutes, after being rolled in melted butter and cinnamon sugar. I will be trying different recipes in the near future, and comforting myself with these sweet morsels, albeit sugar-free.

2. Condolence number two happens to be a blog-of-note that I ran across, titled "NYC Donut Report"! It is a very well-written, informative and interesting blog about DONUTS! Here's a description I read that had me salivating and questioning my plight:
"My only solace in those days was that coffee cart chocolate glazed. I do not know where this donut was made, and I wish I'd asked the nice Middle Eastern man in traditional clothing who ran the cart. I remember the glaze was thick and crusty and extra-sweet. The donut meat itself was moist and rich. And of course, once you've added the sugar to your coffee cart coffee, you simply can't go wrong." -NYCDonutReport.blogspot.com

3. My last and most affirming condolence is my new exercise routine. It helps me think about donuts for what they are-fattening, caloric, sugary, unhealthy and heavy. My new routine is one that I will have for life. It is very easy and I can choose every day how hard I will work at it. My routine is to do push-ups, sit-ups and one yoga pose (the plank) every morning upon waking and every evening before climbing into bed. What I believe will make this a lasting routine, is that I only have to do one of each, more only if I choose to. Last night camping, I forgot about my new routine until I was snuggled deep in my sleeping bag in our little tent at the edge of a gorgeous lake. To prove to myself that I can keep this routine in any situation, I climbed out of my sleeping bag, crouched over my husband and my dog, and did ONE sit-up, ONE push-up and the plank for only a few seconds. I adopted this new routine last week, and I can already see a difference in my abs. While I want a stronger, firmer middle, donuts want to plump me up. Maybe next year.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Healthy Snacks for a Road Trip

This is the first long road trip I've taken where Oreos and Nutter Butter's were not packed! We were very excited to drive along the western and southern part of the state. We left 24 hours after coming up with the idea! With my husband's involvement and support, the day before we left, we grocery shopped together and picked out all of our favorite fruits and vegetables. Then that night we rinsed them and prepared them for snacking. We were in a small car, in the hot sun, with our dog in the back seat guarding the cooler. When the munchies set in, we grabbed some of the vegetables and they really hit the spot! Given the temperature outside and the fact that we were so sedentary in the car, the fresh red bell pepper slices were delicious, followed by fresh, organic long carrot sticks. I highly recommend buying organic carrots that come by the bunch with the stems still attached. To prepare them, just take off the stems and peel them, but don't cut them. It's too much fun to eat a whole carrot. My husband won't eat carrots but when he tried these, he ate several. They are extremely delicious and sweet. To keep them crisp, I added a damp paper towel to the zip-lock bag and they lasted several days, fresh and crispy. We also ate sliced green peppers (not as sweet as red/orange/yellow, but very snappy!), sliced cucumbers, bananas, oranges, apples, and had lemons and limes on hand to add to our water. We also packed other snacks like almonds, organic string cheese, crackers, healthy bread and a small jar of peanut butter. Some days we ate strictly from our cooler and did not eat out.
So, the trick is to shop, prepare and pack fruits and vegetables before leaving on your road trip. It made all the difference to us, and once we started, we didn't even want to eat anything unhealthy. It felt spectacular to eat so many fresh vegetables. Here is a list of what I would pack next time, including some vegetables that I wished I had packed on this trip (all organic):
  • red, orange and green bell peppers
  • carrots by the bunch
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • radishes
  • grapes
  • oranges and apples (fuji apples are my favorite-they are very crunchy)
  • watermelon balls
  • asian pears (stay crispy longer and don't bruise easily)
Add to this list anything else you can think of! I am a really snacky person-I love munching on nuts, popcorn, dried fruit, etc. as well.