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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Seattle PI Interview

Here is another great article about my year without sugar. It is a well written, intriguing take on.....my life without the white stuff!


If you are new to My Year Without, welcome! I hope that if you take the time to look around, you find some interesting articles, information and most of all, inspiration! I would love to hear from you, whether you are interested in reducing sugar or not. Also, I am very interested in what people's New Year's resolutions are for 2009! Do tell!

Thanks for visiting, and to my faithful readers, thank you for a year's worth of support and encouragement! You made it much easier to stay on track. I loved your stories and hearing that there is a common thread with cutting out sugar.....that even though it's tough at first, it's easier to be completely free of sugar than it is to try and moderate the consumption of it.

Here's to a very happy New Year, 2009!

Sugar Has Power Over Me, Only if I Eat It!

Sugar is a mind-altering drug.

I picture myself having one mint on New Year's Day. One mint. You know those pink, green and yellow melt-away mints shaped like Hershey kisses, with little white sugary balls on the bottom? I've been imagining how savory it would be, how sweet and creamy and perfect just one mint could be. But one won't be enough. Just when I start to have that climax of sweet taste, it melts away and I'll need another one. That's why when Santa brings me a bag of them every Christmas, they are always gone before New Year's Eve.

By the time I need another one, my mind will have been altered. My mind will have given way to the forces of my tongue, which makes outrageous demands, especially when it's on drugs: sugar.
The psychology of this is beyond me. I've spent hours talking to friends and different people about the psychology of wanting sugar, and the general conclusion is that, yeah, it's addictive.

I don't want to feel out of control. I would like to taste one of those mints. I feel better saying no to all sugar. What about an old-fashioned donut, oh my gosh it would taste so perfect. I have been enjoying my even-keeled, sugar-free self. A bar of chocolate is all I need. One bite. I feel really good about myself and that has led to my eating healthier all year, and exercising regularly. What about a little squirt of whip cream on a small hot chocolate? Right at midnight tonight. I am satisfied with naturally sweetened alternatives. Okay, just one of those mints and then throw the rest away immediately. This back and forth in my mind has been going on since November.

Do I eat sugar again or don't I?

You have spoken and I have taken all of your recent comments and emails to heart. The common theory is that no one can have just one taste of sugar. It is so good, so literally mind-altering, that one does not mean one. Eating sugar means eating more sugar. That scares me because that is the very problem I worked so hard to get out of my system all year. I had to quit eating sugar cold-turkey because I could not moderate my sugar intake.

Even if I set out to only have one cookie, that always meant at least 3 or 4 or 5, etc. The sugar got a hold of my senses and started speaking for me. The sugar started making the decisions for me. It took a lot of sugar to satisfy the sugar. Usually the only thing that spoke louder than the sugar itself was my tummy ache after I had royally stuffed myself. That tummy ache was the most common problem with eating sugar. I depended on feeling sick to know when I was done eating sugar.

Those days are over.

I know that if I eat sugar, it is likely that it will have power over me, but as long as I don't eat it, I'm the winner!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Greedy Little Taste Buds

Here is a drawing of my greedy little taste buds. Not pretty. I wonder if this represents how they look when they are excited by sweetness, or when they are just hanging out?
"Sweet is one of the five basic tastes and is almost universally regarded as a pleasurable experience. Foods rich in simple carbohydrates such as sugar are those most commonly associated with sweetness, although there are other natural and artificial compounds that are much sweeter, some of which have been used as sugar substitutes for those with a sweet tooth. Other compounds may alter perception of sweetness itself.

The chemosensory basis for detecting sweetness, which varies among both individuals and species, has only been teased apart in recent years. The current theoretical model is the multipoint attachment theory, which involves multiple binding sites between sweetness receptor and the sweet substance itself.

Examples of sweet substances
A great diversity of chemical compounds, such as aldehydes and ketones are sweet. Among common biological substances, all of the simple carbohydrates are sweet to at least some degree. Sucrose (table sugar) is the prototypical example of a sweet substance, although another sugar, fructose, is somewhat sweeter. Some of the amino acids are mildly sweet: alanine, glycine, and serine are the sweetest. Some other amino acids are perceived as both sweet and bitter.

A number of plant species produce glycosides that are many times sweeter than sugar. The most well-known example is glycyrrhizin, the sweet component of licorice root, which is about 30 times sweeter than sucrose. Another commercially important example is stevioside, from the South American shrub Stevia rebaudiana. It is roughly 250 times sweeter than sucrose. Another class of potent natural sweeteners are the sweet proteins such as thaumatin, found in the West African katemfe fruit. Hen egg lysozyme, an antibiotic protein found in chicken eggs, is also sweet.

Interesting facts about the sweetness receptor
Sweetness perception may differ between species significantly. For example, even amongst the primates sweetness is quite variable. New World monkeys do not find aspartame sweet, while Old World monkeys, apes and humans all do.[8] Felidae like cats cannot perceive sweetness at all."

My Resolution
I'm afraid that I may have to go another year, at least, without sugar. No more donut dreams for this girl! I simply can not justify going back onto sugar. If I did, it would be for all of the wrong reasons.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2009 New Year's Resolution-My Dilemma

What is your New Year's resolution going to be?

I can not decide what to do for 2009! This has been the single most frustrating part of going without sugar--deciding whether to continue going without, or if I should loosen up a little, or if I should splurge on all of my favorites that I missed this year: Oreos, donuts, cookie dough ice cream, cookie dough, cookies, cheap store bought cake, hot chocolate with a mountain of whip cream, M&M's, Almond Roca, chocolate bars, etc.

I don't know what to do!

Of course I would love to splurge, and I know I deserve it after a year of giving up all of my favorites, but then again, why would I do that to myself after I've worked so hard to wean myself of these sugary sins?

I've been asked all month, "Why don't you let yourself have sugar in moderation?"

One of the reasons I quit sugar to begin with is because I have no concept of eating sugar in moderation! One Oreo has never meant one Oreo! I don't eat single bites of ice cream at a time. I clean out the entire pint in one sitting, albeit, nice and slowly, savoring each delicate cool, creamy mouthful. I really miss ice cream.

Here are the reasons I hesitate to go back to sugar, even just for one day:
  • I feel so wonderful now without any sugar!
  • I have a lot of energy consistently throughout my day.
  • I have more confidence than I've ever had in my life.
  • I don't ride the sugar high roller coaster.
  • I don't think I'll be able to control myself.
  • I believe sugar was my addiction (both physically and psychologically).
  • What good reason do I have for reintroducing sugar back in my diet? It offers me nothing but unhealthiness and guilt.
  • I wouldn't be able to be an anti-sugar advocate if I was consuming sugar. (I can't stand those who preach one thing and do another...)
  • If I eat sugar again, I will feel guilty and bad about myself because I know sugar is wrong for my body. Knowing this ahead of time, why would I eat it?

Still considering my options and really trying to reflect upon what is important to me. I think if I decided to eat sugar again, I would be very jealous of all of you who have told me you are going to go without. On the other hand, going without sugar is quite a lifestyle change....

To be continued...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Toasted Almond Toffee

I've never made candy before. Last night I used a very simple recipe with three ingredients.
No refined sugar!
I had no idea that I would be standing over the stove for so long stirring the butter and honey. Luckily my husband came wandering into the kitchen right when I needed him to hold the thermometer while I stirred the mixture vigorously. And stirred. And stirred...

Okay, if you've made candy before, you're thinking, "So, yeah, it takes forever, but what's your point?" If you haven't made candy, just make sure you have 20 minutes to stand over the stove, because this toffee is well worth it.

Toasted Almond Toffee

1 and a half C. butter
1 C. honey
2 C. toasted chopped almonds

Melt and cook butter and honey on medium heat stirring constantly to soft cracking stage (found on your candy thermometer, I'm not sure you can wing this one without the thermometer...). Add toasted almonds and cook 1 minute more. Spread onto buttered cookie sheet. Store in refrigerator. **When I try making this again, I am going to add either a few drops of vanilla or caramel extract.

There is about a foot of snow outside...and still snowing. It feels so wonderful to be warm inside, reading and cooking, cooking and reading. This is my favorite season. (Whatever season I'm experiencing is my favorite.) Everyday I've been outside either playing in the snow or tromping through the snow with my dog.

This is the biggest snowman I have ever built. It took serious superhuman strength to lift Frosty's middle onto his lower portion. Jeff and I thought it would be funny to build this snowman on our neighbor's back porch, facing inside her house. She was working all day and had no idea that Frosty the Peeping Tom would be there to greet her when she came home. Here is a picture of Frosty before his head rolled off.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Burger King Launches Beef-Scented Body Spray

If only sugar had a smell....I would market the perfume with the slogan:
"Sugar: Don't eat it. Wear it."

Here it is--the story you've been waiting for:

Burger King launches beef-scented body spray
Thursday December 18, 7:27 pm ET
Where's the beef? A new meat-scented body spray makes men the answer, courtesy of Burger King

NEW YORK (AP) -- Looking to beef up your mojo this holiday season?

Burger King Corp. may have just the thing. The home of the Whopper has launched a new men's body spray called "Flame." The company describes the spray as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."

The fragrance is on sale at New York City retailer Ricky's NYC in stores and online for a limited time for $3.99.

Burger King is marketing the product through a Web site featuring a photo of its King character reclining fireside and naked but for an animal fur strategically placed to not offend.

The marketing ploy is the latest in a string of viral ad campaigns by the company. Burger King is also in the midst of its Whopper Virgins campaign that features a taste test with fast-food "virgins" pitting the Whopper against McDonald's Corp.'s Big Mac.

Burger King Holdings Inc. shares rose 15 cents to close at $20.53."


Tips on How to Quit Sugar

Here are tips for those of you who would like to quit sugar for a month, a year, or forever. I find it hard to make forever plans, so I take things one year at a time. I'll probably do this forever.

So, you want to quit white, refined sugar. Maybe you've tried before, maybe you think it's impossible. Maybe you don't want to quit, but you are still curious what the process of quitting looks like. Maybe you need a year to think about quitting. For me it's cold turkey or I won't do it. I realize this isn't the tactic for everyone, but even if you quit sugar slowly, weaning yourself from the addiction day by day, I think these pointers will work for you, as well. If you have any pointers of your own or suggestions or comments, please let me know, as I will most likely re-post on New Year's Eve. What works for you? Do share!

* * * How to Quit Sugar * * *
  • Make a grocery list and visit a local health food store. If you don't have a health food store in the area, try to find these items anyway, or do some online ordering.
  • Stock your kitchen with all kinds of naturally sweetened goodies. Here are some examples for when that sweet tooth comes a'callin:
  • 100% fruit juice (I'm not a wine snob, I'm a grape juice snob. I drink R.W. Knudsen)
  • Dried fruit, fresh fruit, frozen fruit (smoothies)
  • Naturally sweetened cookies and ice cream
  • Ingredients to bake with: natural sweeteners, grain-sweetened chocolate chips, pure cocoa, unsweetened almond or rice milk, honey, molasses, agave, brown rice syrup, etc.
  • Buy some flavored tea that you wouldn't normally get. Get cream and make sure you have honey. You won't believe how wonderful some of those hot teas are with a drop of cream and a spoonful of honey. My favorites are the spicy flavors and the vanilla/nut flavors. Buy plenty. Treat yourself. Spend more money than you normally would on tea. This may be what it takes to keep off of sugar. It sure beats the price of hypnosis.
  • Make sure you buy naturally sweetened breads, chips, crackers, salad dressings, etc. These normally have hidden sugars and you don't want to cheat just because all of your salad dressings have sugar, do you? Also, remember to get cereals and other snacky foods that are naturally sweetened. If you don't have a health food store, there is one huge commercial brand of cereal that consistently keeps sugar out of its ingredients: Post Grape Nuts.
  • Double-check your kitchen. Is it stocked? Make sure it's full of naturally sweetened goodies.
  • Keep junk food in your kitchen. Yes, you read that right. It's good practice to have junk food available, because then you can practice turning it down and choosing something healthier. I was going to throw out all of our junk food last year, but not only was that not fair to Jeff, but if I didn't see junk food on a daily basis, how would I react when I did see it? You'll have to think about this. Even if you live alone, you want to have junk food available to your guests, right? You still want to have visitors, and they certainly want their junk food. They don't want to go on your sugar-free diet! However, if you are an excellent cook, it is possible to make naturally sweetened goodies for your guests, but keep in mind that it usually takes white sugar to satisfy the sweet tooth of those on a white sugar diet. Honey will not satisfy. It takes a couple of months to change your palate and train your sweet tooth to like natural sweeteners. If you know yourself well enough to know that you will sneak treats if they're around, then by all means, clean out your kitchen. Just ask guests to bring their own goodies.
  • Do not buy "Sugar Free!" labeled goodies. These are tricky gimmicks usually found in the regular cookie aisle, and they are sweetened with a laxative otherwise known as Maltitol. It's the worst sugar substitute I've ever experienced. If you read the fine print on the label, there will be a disclosure statement warning against eating too many. Well, I don't want to worry about a laxative affect. Sometimes I just want to eat the whole box of cookies, thank you very much. Anyway, name brands like Oreos will have a "Sugar Free" variety of their product right next to the original variety. Beware, I have checked the labels and they contain maltitol.
  • Do buy "naturally sweetened" and "No Sugar Added", as these terms usually mean what they say. Read the label to be safe, but these are terms that usually identify good products.
  • Check for "Sucralose" which is a generic term for Splenda. You can make your own decision about Splenda. I don't touch it.
  • Decide how dedicated you are to eating sugar free--are you focused mainly on quitting desserts? Drinks with sugar? Breads and cereals? If you are just trying to stay away from "sweets", that's one thing. It is another issue to go without white sugar entirely, because it is included in so many ingredients. Now, before you start, is a good time to decide how far you are going to take this. Keep in mind that sugar is in just about everything packaged and hidden in foods at restaurants. If taking your goal to this extreme seems too hard, don't give up. Start with sweets/cookies/obvious no-nos. Consider going 100% sugar free later. You have to find your starting point. Something that is realistic. For me, because I had practiced going weeks at a time without sugar, it wasn't a huge deal to do it again for a year.
  • Set a realistic starting point/goal for yourself!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holidaze: How to Just Say No

No, Audrey, No!

Be Strong! Don't give in to temptation! If I can resist donuts, then you can resist anything. For some reason this time of year is especially daunting. Everybody bakes and brings over dishes that haunt me with amazing aromas. I watch my husband light up at each gift of dessert that is brought over. As long as I have hot coffee with cream, or one of my favorite teas, then I'm okay. Sometimes I busy myself with an apple while my husband splurges. The other day I bought prunes. You either love them or you hate them. I love them. I just pop two slimy prunes in my mouth and that is a sweet shot that will last me for hours.

I have to set out each day with the reminder that I am strong enough to say no, and that I feel wonderful and would like to continue feeling wonderful. That donut, though decadent, will only last a few minutes in my mouth, but will leave all sorts of guilt lying around-physically on my butt, and emotionally. Who feels really good about themselves after eating a greasy donut?

Not to make those of you feel bad, who eat donuts, this is just me free thinking out loud--this is what one must do to have the willpower to say no. Sugar supremacy. Sometimes it's fun to say no, other times I really begin to feel resentful. When I begin to feel resentful, I tell myself that I can have sugar if I really want to. And of course I don't. Not enough to blow my goal, anyway. It's a psychological mind game, this sugar thing. You wouldn't believe the thoughts that go in and out of my brain on behalf of sugar. Most are best kept hidden in my gray matter. On the other hand, I love to share my process, because I'm guessing there are a lot of you who can relate.

Since it's the holidaze, I will share my favorite psychological tactic for having the willpower to say no. I've shared it before, and here it is again. It works, but you have to keep it to yourself. No one will appreciate you saying this out loud. Here's what you do: Tell yourself that you are superior. You are a sugar supremist. Everyone else is splurging on goodies and you are nibbling at the veggie tray with no Ranch dressing (loaded with sugar). Look at everyone around you. All kinds of people, all different backgrounds with varying social status....and you are superior. Yes, you are superior to everyone else in the room based on one little fact: you are able to say no and no one else has that willpower. People might notice. Hold your head high, but do not rub it in or talk about food. Be nice and act like yourself. Be kind, and understand that you were once the one who stood there with a plate of brownies, mini-cheesecakes, and truffles.

Let's Review: How to Have Holiday Willpower:
  • Fill up on healthy foods before going out
  • Have coffee or tea in hand at all times
  • Tell yourself that you can have sugar, but that you'll pass
  • Notice everyone else's lack of willpower
  • Be kind to everyone, but know you are superior!
(Okay, disclaimer time. Of course no one person is superior to anyone else. Sugar requires extreme psychological self-talk, though. And it works. It's worked for me all year.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chocolate Cake: My Story

A really wicked guest brought over a home made chocolate cake the other day. Full of sugar. Butter. Made from scratch. Thick, hardened frosting on top with moist-looking black chocolate cake underneath. How do I know all of these decadent details without eating it myself? I've been serving it to my husband each morning for breakfast with coffee. I definitely feel like I'm missing out, eating my cold, hard, crunchy Ezekial cereal while he eats his chocolate cake with his eyes closed.

So yesterday, I decided to make my own chocolate cake. Mine would be more chocolately, moist and heavenly than his--and it would be healthy! Ha! I used a recipe that someone gave me recently (I'm not telling whose--and I've received several in the last week!) and the recipe called for a lot of chocolate. Pure cocoa. Chocolate chips. Natural sweeteners. When I poured the batter in the cake pan, I licked the bowl clean. Delicious! I was going to flaunt my cake all week long. Ha! Ha!

It was disgusting. Dry. Wheaty. But I really wanted to pretend that it was good so I ate some. I poured some coffee and tried to swallow it down. Ew. Gross.

This morning, my husband sits down to his delicious-looking, moist, tall piece of cake and he's looking all smug and superior while I go to the pantry looking for my cold cereal. That cake I made last night was terrible....But I never told Jeff.

I ditched my efforts to get my cereal and instead, walked smugly over to last night's cake (it was so awful I didn't even bother to cover it). I cut a big chunk of it and tried to make it look like it was easy to cut through. Have you ever tried cutting a loaf of sourdough bread with the wrong knife? Then I poured a piping hot cup of coffee and sat down next to him. My first bite took about three minutes to chew. Oh well, I had my chocolate cake, too.

"Honey, you don't really like that cake, do you?" my husband says, and I can hear the twinkle in his eye.

"It's delicious," I said with my head down, trying to swallow this big, dry lump of gross cake in my throat. I could only get it down with another swig of coffee.

"Honey, don't eat it if it's not good!" he implores, his mouth full of his gooey, moist cake.

"It is good," I said, still looking down, trying to fool him.

"Throw it out! It's okay if that recipe didn't turn out."

He knew. There was no fooling him. I looked up and nodded at him, with a big wad of cake stuck in the side of my mouth. He jumped up, grabbed my cake pan and promptly dumped it in the trash. He didn't look at me smugly or make fun of me. He just sat back down and continued eating his cake.

UGHHHH! It is so hard for me to throw out food! It's easier to just eat it, little pieces at a time, knowing that the ingredients cost me a fortune. I felt much better after he dumped that cake, though. I didn't have to eat any more of it. "It's okay to throw out food. It's okay to throw out food," I have to repeat to myself. It's either in the trash or on my hips. I'm just glad that he didn't talk about it after he dumped it. I'll find that perfect, annoyingly healthy recipe.

For starters, for naturally sweetened recipes, I usually check out Nourishing Gourmet's site and look through all of her wonderful recipes. I have found some really delicious goodies over there, my virtual kitchen, my home away from home! It is where I found that great "Mounds" bar recipe.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Made the Sunday Oregonian!

It's freezing cold outside--and snowing! It's a good thing I have all the ingredients to make sugar- free hot chocolate, because today is perfect for a hot mug and the great book I'm currently reading, Dune. It's quiet here, white outside, and I am inspired.

If you are coming by for the first time, thanks for reading! I hope that you are inspired to make healthy food choices after looking around my site, or maybe just be inspired to make a New Year's Resolution for 2009. I would love to hear from you and what motivated you to visit my blog--are you interested in quitting sugar, too? Are you interested in recipes? Natural sweeteners? Glycemic index? Donuts? Discussing your wild sugar cravings? Whatever it is, I would love to hear from you.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quick! Grab a Sunday Oregonian!

If the Oregonian is not available to you, you can check back here tomorrow and I will provide a link to a very exciting, cutting edge story. In fact, if you are new to my blog, I would especially recommend that you check out this story because it will give you an entire year's worth of information....about me and my year without sugar!

Last week, Margie Boulé, long-time columnist for the Oregonian, interviewed me about my year without sugar and the story published in the Life/Arts/Books section of this Sunday's Oregonian--page 2. The story is not available online yet, as of this posting, but check back tomorrow because I hope to provide a short-term link (these stories expire online) and possibly the entire story if I'm given clearance.

What is exceptionally neat about this is that I'm not sure this article would have been published if I did not have a blog to back up what I am doing. By dedicating my time to writing about my sugarless experiences, I was able to provide most of the information in the story. There was a 90-minute phone interview as well, but a lot of the details in the paper are straight from my blog--and some I had even forgotten about until I read the story!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Are Cane Juice and Raw Sugar the Same as White Sugar?

I am again attempting to find out at which steps of the sugar refining process we get these products. Also, what is their nutritional value?
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Cane Juice
  • Organic Sugar
  • Turbinado
  • Raw Sugar
  • Molasses
I posted something about this earlier in the year, but I want even more details, from more sources. The cold, hard facts. I can not get the best information from any source that is selling something. Unfortunately, I am having a difficult time finding this information elsewhere!

I have many people asking why I don't eat some of the above listed sugars. I do eat molasses. A naturopathic doctor once recommended that I eat one tablespoon of molasses a day. I was eating vegan then. I haven't touched the other sugars all year because I believe they are much more refined products of sugar cane/sugar beet than molasses. Molasses is full of iron and other vitamins and minerals. You really can't overeat the stuff--it's so strong! It makes a wonderful sweetener, especially in my favorite gingersnap cookies.

I think that the other sugars listed are advertising "gimmicks" to get us health-concious folks to think a product is okay. I really don't believe that there is a big difference between white table sugar and evaporated cane juice, cane juice, raw sugar and turbinado. If the differences are microscopic, then I think they hardly count. I think the differences should be as obvious as molasses compared to white table sugar. If there are "trace" amounts of nutrition in cane juice or turbinado, does that really make it healthy?

The research that I am looking for is harder to find than I thought. All I want is a chart that shows the sugar refining process, with these different sugars listed at the point at which they are a final product. Ideally, these different sugar products would then be charted according to their nutrition. Do these charts exist? I've looked on both sugar websites and "anti-sugar" websites.

Wikipedia apparently agrees with me, "Evaporated cane juice is used more widely across the globe and is gaining currency as a euphemism for refined white sugar." I think "euphemism" is a loose term, and definitely not a scientific term, but nevertheless...

I'm finding the same thing on most websites, "[Evaporated cane juice] may also be known by a variety of other names including dried cane juice, crystallized cane juice, milled cane sugar and direct consumption sugar."(1)

If you've heard of Sunspire Natural Chocolates, they also have something to say about raw sugar, "Raw sugar is coarse, tan to brown-colored sugar (sucrose) which results from the first processing of cane or beet sugar. True "raw sugar" cannot be sold in the USA because it contains impurities such as soil, mold yeast, bacteria, and wax. When further processed to remove the impurities it is sold as turbinado sugar."(2)

Here is an interesting perspective written by Nutritionist Vimlan VanDien, "One hundred grams of dried cane juice is pretty much the same thing as 100 grams of other sweeteners, no matter what you call it," says Vimlan VanDien, a nutritionist at the respected Bastyr University, in Seattle, Washington. "When people call these sugars something other than sugar, it's deceptive in a way if the market is uninformed. Because dehydrated cane juice is sugar. It simply sounds like a whole food."

VanDien feels that calling these sweeteners something other than what they are is a way that some consumers can sugarcoat their consciences too.

"To a certain extent," she explains, "when people buy products with so-called alternative sweeteners, it gives them an excuse to eat sugar. They'll say, Oh, it's organic, so it's O.K.' Or, It's a whole food.' But it's not whole food. If you wanted the whole food, you'd go out in the field and eat the sugar cane, and get all the fiber and nutrients it has." (3)

I found a sugar refining website (4) that talks about the process of sugar refining, but leaves out when the various sugar products are produced. The sugar refining process is very interesting to me. It reminds me that sugar is in no way a whole food. What once was a beautiful green sugar cane (sold at open markets in Hawaii and fun to chew on) ends up an embarrassed little pile of tiny white, nutrition-less crystals.

Ah, I should write a children's book about the sugar refining process from the sugar cane's point of view. Poor guy.

(1) (-http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=120)
(2) (http://www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ExecMacro/nspired/sunspire/faq.d2w/report#gsweet)
(3) (http://organicanews.com/news/article.cfm?story_id=23)
(4) (http://www.refinedsugar.org/)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sugar: An Outdated Kind of Diet

I love the fact that there were people who believed this ad and ate candy before a meal. Now it doesn't matter if that ad is true or not, people are eating all kinds of candy before, during and after meals.

In looking at some of these vintage ads, my dad recollected a kid named Donald in his 2nd grade class who used to bring a lunch box to school filled only with candy. My dad remembers feeling envious of all that sugar, and of all the friends Donald made by trading candy with other 2nd graders. I wonder what Donald is doing now and how his health is. I wonder how long he continued bringing candy for lunch. I wonder if his mother packed his lunch with candy because ads like the one above were convincing.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Sweet, Sticky Irony

It is so sad that all of this natural sweetener was wasted. I bet the artificial sweetener people are behind it. Or perhaps the HFCS companies caused it. Seriously, I'm glad that no one was critically injured.

To see a picture of a highway covered in one of my favorite natural sweeteners, go here:


Am I the only one who would have tried to scoop up the runaway molasses, for goodness' sake? Molasses makes the best gingersnaps! And the dark, unsulphured kind can be really expensive! I would have happily picked out the sage brush and tumbleweeds.

When the commute really turns to molasses in Harney County

Posted by jrose December 05, 2008 09:47AM

Molasses on 395 shuts down traffic for three hours.

Here at the Hard Drive blog, we often quip in our traffic updates about how Portland area traffic has turned to "molasses" during the peak commuting hours.

Little did we know that there would be a day when that simile would become reality. Thursday, it happened in rural Harney County. Well, sort of.

Two people suffered minor injuries and Oregon 395 was closed for three hours after a truck crashed, spilling ... wait for it ... molasses all over the highway.

About 2:45 p.m., the driver of the rig, which was pulling two tanker trailers loaded with molasses southbound on 395 between Riley and Wagontire, swerved to avoid a herd of deer crossing the road and crashed. Both trailers and the big truck rolled over, spilling hundreds of gallons of the thick, sticky stuff. The molasses crept into ditches on both sides of the highway.

The driver, Julio Cesar Gil-Juarez, 22, of Twin Falls, Id., walked away. But the highway backup caused a second wreck, injuring a Twin Falls couple, police said.

As for the molasses, it's non-hazardous and caused very little environmental impact, officials said. Less than five gallons of diesel fuel also leaked from the truck's fuel tanks. Police cited Gil-Juarez for careless driving.

So, there you go: Proof that it's not always easygoing on the roads in eastern Oregon. Still, we'd take a molasses spill over this morning's nightmarish mess on U.S. 26 any morning.

-- Joseph Rose; josephrose@news.oregonian.com

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Virgil's Root Beer Writes Back!

I made a mistake, everybody!

On Thanksgiving I wrote about how upset I was that I had accidentally drunk a bottle of root beer that contained sugar. I wrote about the label not including sugar, but that when I checked the website later in the evening because of how I was feeling, sugar was included in the ingredients. Here is what I found out--Virgil's Root Beer has two ingredient labels on each bottle of root beer. To explain what happened and share the communication I had with Reeds, Inc. (the company who produces Virgil's Root Beer) I have copied and pasted our correspondence here.

(I will not re-post my first letter to them here, but click on THIS to take you to it, if you have not already read it.)

I will begin by posting Reeds, Inc., first response to my letter:

We are very sorry to hear that our product caused you to miss your goal of not having sugar. We do have a list of ingredients on the back label that says “Purified carbonated water, unbleached cane sugar, caramelized unrefined cane sugar, herbs, etc…” Also on the right of the front label under the nutrition facts it says that there is 42g of sugar per bottle. I am sorry you missed that info. Also, we do not have honey in our root beer. Are you sure you read that on our label?

Lastly, we do offer a diet version of our root beer that is sweetened with Xylitol and Stevia. Sorry again that our Root Beer caused you a less than perfect Thanksgiving holiday. If you have any more questions, please feel free to reach back out to me.

-C, Reed's, Inc.

Then I wrote back:


Thank you for your response. I appreciate the time you took to write me back. However, I still have some concerns.

I would like to point out a couple of very confusing aspects of your labeling. After reading your message to me, I scanned the label on the bottle in an effort to find the ingredients you spoke of. After some effort, I noticed that there is a second ingredients list on the back label that does indeed include sugar as an ingredient. Not seeing that the first time was my mistake. However, on the side of the bottle near the front, in much larger font, there also seems to be an ingredients list. Neither one of the "ingredients" lists ever says, "Ingredients". The list on the back, bottom portion of the label that contains "sugar" in the list, is printed in extremely small font. It is almost unreadable. In fact I had a few people take a look at it and they could not read it without their glasses. Why is the list of ingredients that contains sugar so tiny and hard to read, while the list of ingredients on the side label is much larger and easier to read? This makes your labeling very misleading and easy to misinterpret, as I have done. Is there a reason you list ingredients twice, one time without sugar and one time with sugar?

Every time I want to purchase a product, I make a thorough investigation of the labeling, in an effort to be clear about whether or not sugar is an ingredient. By having two sets of ingredients on your label, I think that people are apt to make the same mistake that I did.

You mention the "nutrition facts" on your label. I never go by this list of information because, although it lists "sugars", it does not identify the source of those sugars. For instance, molasses is made up of sugars but I have chosen to include molasses in my diet as a natural sweetener. 100% fruit juices are another example of no added white sugars, but if you look at the nutrition facts, there will be a high amount of "sugars", even though they are natural fruit sugars. The nutrition facts are not helpful for someone who is concerned with the exact ingredients.

I suspect that you have had other complaints about the duplication of ingredients on your labeling, because as I have said, it is very misleading. I hope that in the future if you revisit packaging ideas, you would take my input into consideration. I believe that you are a company who cares about your customers, but this issue needs to be addressed so this mistake does not continue to be made.

As for the "honey", I apologize for that mistake and recognize that it is not on your label as I had thought.

Thank you for telling me about the diet version of your root beer. Although my local grocery store does not carry it, it is nice to know that it's available.

I hope to hear from you again.

Reed's Inc. responds again:


This is honestly the first complaint I have received about our labels and how it can be misleading. I have forwarded your concerns on and it is something that we will pay attention to. The left front label is more of what we call “romance copy” listing the different spices and herbs in the drink. The nutrition facts on the right front label and the contents on the back label can to your point be missed and putting all that together in the future is something we will have to look at.

Please email me your address and I will send you a few bottles of our Diet Virgil’s Root Beer and some coupons. I am sorry again about your unpleasant experience with our products.

-C, Reed's, Inc.

As a follow up to their last letter, I wrote:

Thank you very much for listening to my concerns and responding today. I really appreciate it and it shows that you sincerely care about your customers.

Also, thank you for informing me about "romance copy"...I will take that into account in my future scanning of labels. I'm sure other companies use it, too, although I have not come across it before.

This experience for me started out negatively, as I was upset that I ingested sugar. However, your addressing the issue has made it a good, learning experience for me. Ultimately, it was my mistake and I am not likely to make this mistake again! I look forward to tasting the diet version of your root beer. Also, I gave my neighbor the left over root beer I had, and she absolutely loved it. You gained a customer in this experience, and I learned a valuable lesson!

Thanks again.

I love when a bad experience turns into a good experience. I love that one voice can make a difference.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Healthy Dark Chocolate Fudge

This fudge is amazing, and I don't like fudge. I was a little hesitant to use my expensive, high quality ingredients on a practice run, but after looking closely at the ingredients, how could this recipe be anything but wonderful? For those of you sweet-a-holics who haven't kicked your sugar habit yet, keep in mind that although the flavor of this fudge is intoxicating, it is not very sweet. It is definitely sweet enough for me, but the average fudge you would buy at a bake sale is much, much sweeter and perhaps why I don't care for regular fudge.

I would almost label this fudge gourmet. The ingredients are not cheap, and the taste is absolutely exquisite. Someone sent me the recipe, but like I usually do, I altered the ingredients a bit. I froze it overnight and this morning wandered sleepy-eyed to the freezer in anticipation. In combination with my dark roast coffee, the fudge was the most elegant taste sensation I've ever experienced so early in my day. Here is the catch...it's healthy. Check out the ingredients and see for yourself. The original recipe I received did not call for any sweeteners. I halved the coconut oil portion and added some brown rice syrup instead. This recipe is quick and easy and worth the expensive ingredients.

(DISCLAIMER: I repeat, this fudge may only be delicious to those whose palates have given up white sugar. People who are still addicted to sugar have tried it and many think it is much too bitter...and it is, for their sweet tooth. Just a caution for those of you who still need your treats excessively sweet. For those of you who have kicked the white sugar habit, I have confidence that you will enjoy!)

Gourmet Dark Chocolate Fudge
1 C. almond meal (or grind your own almonds in a food processor)
1/4 C. organic, virgin coconut oil, melted (put the coconut oil jar in a glass of hot water for easy melting)
1/4 C. brown rice syrup
1 C. pure cocoa powder
2 tsp. vanilla
1/3 C. raisins, soaked
5-6 tblsp. water from raisin soak

Place raisins in small bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak 5-10 minutes. Do not drain. Spoon out the raisins and save the water for later.

Get your blender or food processor ready and add: almond meal, coconut oil, brown rice syrup, cocoa powder and vanilla. Blend well. Add raisins and a couple tablespoons of water from soak. Blend again. Add enough water to get your desired consistency. Mixture should be thick like cookie dough and may have to be stirred intermittently and then re-blended until smooth.

Transfer to small glass pie pan, pressing down to get an even layer. Refrigerate or freeze.

Grab your partner or call a friend, make a pot of coffee and enjoy with a piece of fudge!

Pepsi Co. & Coca-Cola Listen and Are Changing Their Ingredients!

Just kidding, kind of. I found an interesting article today about Montagne (owner of both PepsiCo. and Coca-Cola) looking into changing their formula from artificial sweeteners to stevia. I am very interested to see where this is going to go. I would like to think that they paid some of their marketing and PR staff to cruise my blog thoroughly to see what they should do. Of course they would read about Splenda, Aspartame, and other highly informative articles and report back immediately that it's urgent they change their formula!

We'll see if they credit me at all in their big switch.

As excited as I first was when I read the article, I fear that the soda companies may be coming full circle as far as switching ingredients to meet the demand of the consumer. What I mean is that if all they are going to do is refine the hell out of stevia, then they might as well go back to using sugar cane. The only reason they can never go back to using sugar is that consumers are savvier today and want a sugar alternative. A lot of people have heard about how wonderful stevia is, and it is, if it is not refined down to another cocaine-like substance of white powdered crystals.

Here is an interesting piece of the article....Merisant Co., the maker of Equal and other artificial sweeteners, is the company responsible for working to obtain FDA clearance for rebaudioside A, a compound of stevia. Stevia has been used for centuries but there is already controversy about the breakdown of stevia at a scientific level. Check out Wikipedia for more information on this.

I'll play the waiting game for now, and know in my heart that going a year without sugar had the power to influence a multi-billion dollar soft drink industry!