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, July 30, 2012

Toothpaste Heaven: Earthpaste

I like foods that have few ingredients. The less, the better. I love how an apple has one ingredient. Same with a beet and a blueberry. I also lean towards body and bath products with fewer ingredients. The more ingredients something has the more likely it seems to have "bad" ingredients.

Toothpaste, for instance.

I had been using my husband's favorite toothpaste, Arm & Hammer's COMPLETE CARE with baking soda and peroxide. The ingredients seemed better than other toothpastes I have seen with added sugars. (Yes, dextrose and sucrose for instance!) However, there are still several ingredients that I can't pronounce. Chemicals? Unfortunately, in doing some looking around for toothpaste ingredients online, I discovered that major brands like Crest and AquaFresh don't post their ingredients online. Weird! (Or they make them difficult to find, as I could not find them.)

Thanks to Earthpaste, I now have a toothpaste with five ingredients. Five. Not only that, the paste is so healthy you can eat/swallow it! Earthpaste sent me samples of all three flavors of their toothpaste: Wintergreen, Peppermint and Cinnamon. All three are delicious and refreshing.

Earthpaste ingredients: clay, xylitol, sea salt, menthol and tea tree oil. Oh, and water, which I am not counting as an ingredient. (Watermelon is full of water but I still consider watermelon having only one ingredient.)

Arm & Hammer COMPLETE CARE ingredients: Sodium fluoride, baking soda, PEG-8, PEG/PPG-116/66, copolymer, sodium carbonate peroxide, silica, water, sodium saccharin, flavor, zinc citrate trihydrate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate.

Although not foamy (no sodium lauryl sulfate), Earthpaste packs a menthol punch and leaves my teeth feeling clean and fresh.

My teeth? It's hard to say if the toothpaste has made a difference yet. I've only been using it for the past few weeks.

Bottom line: I am not using artificial ingredients that might be harmful if swallowed. My mouth is a mucous membrane that I want to treat with care and natural ingredients.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Trouble with Your Teeth? Me Too, and I Don't Drink Soda.

I am freakishly regimented when it comes to oral hygiene. I always have been because a) I don't want halitosis b) I don't enjoy getting cavities and c) I dread getting my cavities drilled out and filled. I have never been to the dentist for a cleaning and exam, in all my 36 years, and been told "Congratulations! You have no cavities!" Rather, every single time I get an exam (not regularly, mind you, but regularly enough) I am told I have at least one cavity, but usually two or more. "Oh they're small, good thing we caught them early......" 


I never drink soda (maybe one root beer every three years?), I gave up refined sugar for years, and brush my teeth every morning and night, and floss every single night. I should be the poster girl for excellent oral health based on my actions. 

Instead, cavities. Enamel erosion.

(Not my teeth, but you get the picture.)

This also chaps my hide: ever since I was a kid, dentists have told me that I brushed too hard and that's why my enamel is eroding. That baffled me because I brushed the way they always showed me: nice, soft circular motions for 1-2 minutes with an "Extra Soft" toothbrush. 

A few years ago a dentist told me that my cavities had nothing to do with my oral hygiene. What?!? He told me that my cavities and enamel erosion were 100% based on the acidity of my mouth. So naturally I  re-examined my diet, bought a book about pH and drank water with lemon* regularly. 

Maybe I'm not drinking enough lemon water. Maybe I should eat lemons. Although it's been almost a year and a half since I visited the dentist, I can feel a few problem teeth that need attention sooner than later. I just dread the inevitable. I feel like Sisyphus!

Then this morning I came across this blog. I don't know if I have Celiac disease or not (I don't like that it's considered a disease....it seems like the body's natural way of just rejecting certain foods. I bet 1000's of years ago it was unheard of, but now that we are fudging around with the science of foods, GMO's, pesticides, etc...?).

Thanks to cookitallergyfree.com for the Steps Known to Promote Enamel Growth, some of which include: getting adequate vitamins, using natural toothpastes and eating unrefined salt instead of the pure white stuff. I have never had a dentist tell me these things. I have, however, come home with prescription "gum creams" to smear on my eroding enamel. Somehow that stuff never made it on my gums... I have come home with little bottles of "dental rinses" that ultimately sting my tongue and hurt my overly sensitive mouth. The best I've been able to come up with on my own is lemon water and a baking soda rinse after brushing, in an effort to alkalize my mouth. 

Since I know I can kick the sugar habit (not that I'm currently doing the best job....) I know that I will be able to kick the foods known to promote enamel loss. Most of those foods I don't eat or drink anyway, but I do eat grains, cereals (healthy, I thought....) and use commercial toothpastes. Thanks to another wonderful blog, I just learned a lot about homemade toothpastes and Earthpaste, an "amazingly natural toothpaste" made with only four ingredients: Redmond clay, Xylitol, essential oils and unrefined salt. 

What?!? Is it possible to cut a few more things from my diet, switch toothpastes and expect healthier teeth and gums? For the skeptics out there, the thing is, nothing else is working for me. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Easy & Delicious Yogurt Cake

When a recipe turns out so well, sometimes I eat and blog at the same time. Right now I have a little plate with a piece of yogurt cake and chopped, fresh strawberries. It is so good I never want it to end. I was having a little sweet tooth fit, with nothing in my kitchen to nibble on. This is a good thing. If I had junk food I would eat it. Days like this force me to get creative in the kitchen.

I searched other blogs for recipe ideas, craving something chewy and sweet like cake. I found a Honey Yogurt cake that I used as a loose guide for my experimenting.

I have a bad habit of not keeping careful track of the amounts of ingredients...and it happened again today. In my excitement (I'm also currently experimenting with making granola bars) I neglected to take pictures and the cake is lying upside down on tin foil. Not so picturesque, but so delicious.

Here is a sort-of recipe, with all ingredients but mostly guesses at how much I used of each.

Easy & Delicious Yogurt Cake

1 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 C vegetable oil (if I had coconut oil I would have used it)
1/4 C honey
1/2 C vanilla yogurt (I use Nancy's organic, nonfat plain yogurt)
1/2 tsp vanilla

350 degrees for about 25 minutes. The cake is fluffy, moist, sweet and heavenly. Especially with fresh strawberries added to each bite.

Next time I make it, I'll take pictures. I may make cupcakes next time, and after they bake add a few slices of strawberry to each top.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Absolutely Delicious, Chewy Vegan Gingersnaps

O. My. Gosh.

I've perfected the gingersnap.

This cookie has been my favorite since I was a little girl tugging at mom's apron, begging to lick the beaters. I used her recipe for years, even sold the cookies at a lovely little coffee house in Seattle called the Library Cafe. During my vegan years I messed with the recipe and toyed with other people's vegan gingersnap recipes. The real challenge came when I cut out refined sugar, and ate mostly vegan. I've posted those gingersnap recipes, using ground date sugar, and they are fabulous.

But the following recipe is perfect. The sweeteners are blackstrap molasses and a very small amount of coconut palm sugar. I knew immediately when I nibbled on the cookie dough that I hit the jackpot.

Best Vegan, Molasses-Sweetened Gingersnaps

2 and 1/2 C white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 C coconut palm sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 C molasses
1/2 C oil
2 tablespoons water

Mix dry, then add wet and mix just until moistened. Roll into balls and place on parchment paper on cooking sheet (so much easier to clean up!) and then smash down a little with spatula.

375 degrees F for approximately 8 minutes

*Next is to experiment further to make these gluten-free. Brown rice flour? Coconut flour? Suggestions?

Friday, April 6, 2012

60 MINUTES: Brand New Research Shows Sugar is Toxic

I don't know what I am more excited about: the 60 Minutes interviews, the doctors doing research on sugar & the body, or the funny response to the interviews on the Sugar Association website.

Watch this segment of 60 Minutes where doctors reveal new studies that show sugar can wreak havoc on your health. Heart disease, cancer, obesity and Type II diabetes are some of the health issues discussed.

"Dr. Robert Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco and a pioneer in what is becoming a war against sugar. Motivated by his own patients -- too many sick and obese children - Dr. Lustig has concluded that sugar, more than any other substance, is to blame."

60 Minutes host, Dr. Gupta, interviewed someone from the Sugar Association, as well: 
"Dr. Sanjay Gupta: You know, a lot of people, Jim, are saying that sugar is different. That it is bad for your heart and is causing a lot of the problems we're talking about. It is addictive and in some cases might even fuel cancers. What would you - I mean you've looked at this. You must have looked at some of these studies. What do you say about that?
Jim Simon: The science is not completely clear here."

For a most fun read on the Sugar Association website, read the article: Sugar Association Responds to 60 Minutes: Unfounded Accusations Mislead Consumers where they state, "Every major review of the full body of scientific evidence has concluded that sugar intake is not linked to any lifestyle disease." 

Wow! I am so excited that the Sugar Association, with no interest in sugar whatsoever, made this statement. Yay. Now I can eat sugar because they say it is not linked to any lifestyle disease! Gimme a break.

Need I go over the last 4+ years of my life where I account for my own personal dis-ease caused by sugar? I want to be livid at the Sugar Association's response, but what can we expect them to say? They have to say something. Sugar=money. 

Let's end on the positive note that sugar studies are being done. That finally medical professionals are saying what I've been feeling all along, Sugar is Bad!


Monday, April 2, 2012

Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

My dogs love these.

The best part is that my older mutt (in the background) has a very sensitive tummy but she can eat these with no problems. Most other treats we try with her and we're running for the bottle of Pepto.

Sugar-Free Peanut Butter Dog Treats

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup white whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 375. Mix together dry ingredients and then add wet and stir together until dough forms. Roll out on floured surface (and/or parchment paper) and then use cookie cutter. I cut a grid, which yielded over 175 inch-sized squares.

I am going to look for goat's milk at the farmer's market this weekend. Goat's milk is supposed to be very nourishing to dogs. I'm not yet done playing around with this recipe, but as is it's simple and the biscuits drive my dogs wild.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Food Companies Transition from Naturally Sweet to Refined Sugar?

In my going-on-five years of sugar sleuthing I've come to understand one thing really well: Food manufacturers know and capitalize on our lust for the white stuff. That is why it is getting increasingly difficult to find naturally sweetened (or non-sweetened) packaged foods. When I started out giving up sugar in 2008, I could verifiably count on a number of companies to provide naturally-sweetened products. Since then some companies have begun to use refined sugar. The horror!

Pamela's cookies The lemon shortbread cookies were to die for. Some (most?) flavors had honey or molasses as the only sweetener. Now Pamela's uses evaporated cane juice and agave. When I wrote to find out why, here was the response:
"I’m sorry to hear that you do not care for the Lemon Shortbread cookies because we had to change the recipe from honey and molasses to sugar. The reason for this is because all of our honey plants were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, and the crops have not been replanted. We had to switch over to using sugar, and it is unclear if Pamela is going to switch the recipe back. I will certainly pass along your suggestions to her, but as of this moment, we will be continuing using the sugar."

Izze beverages I love Izze drinks. Yes, fruit juice is full of sugar, but it is naturally-occurring from fruit. I was horrified one day when I grabbed a Birch-flavored Izze from my fridge and glanced at the nutrition facts/ingredients out of habit and found SUGAR in the ingredients. I thought I could count on Izze to provide a no-added-sugar beverage. In my outrage I wrote to the company asking about this. Here is the response:

"You'll notice that Sparkling Birch and Ginger are not listed on the website, this is because these are not fruit-flavored beverages and not part of our permanent line extension. Because there are no naturally-occurring sugars from fruit, we needed to add sugar to achieve the desired flavor profile."  

Uncle Sam's cereal  My favorite healthy packaged cereals. Attune foods has sent me several boxes of cereal to try since I started my blog. In 2011, I discovered added refined sugars which was very disappointing. The Uncle Sam Strawberry cereal has evaporated cane juice added, which I tasted anyway, at 7 grams of sugar per 3/4 cup cereal. It was too sweet for me. But for most people used to super-sweet, this may be the perfect transition cereal. When I questioned the company about this they responded:

"Our intention in releasing these newer flavors (Strawberry and Honey Almond) to the Uncle Sam cereal line-up was to appeal to the vast majority of Americans used to very sweet cereals and we felt that allowing a small amount of sugar might be a good bridge to get them to try the cereal and eventually transition to Uncle Sam Original. We are considering modifying those particular flavors further and with our Skinner's Raisin Bran, we recently adjusted the recipe and removed 1g of sugar per serving (barley malt as the sweetener)." 

 Attune foods They are wonderful at answering questions and they take feedback very seriously. It sounds like they are working towards more/all naturally-sweetened cereals. Also note, most boxes of cereals include a coupon ($1 off or 75 cents off) on the inside panel of the box. Uncle Sam's original cereal is usually $2.25 or so a box, so with the coupon, it's well under $2 per box.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

High on Juice

Freshly juiced fruit and vegetables do not taste how I anticipated.

The first time I juiced I got nauseous. And I don't get sick like that. However, my husband drank his tall glass of juice and asked for more, so I tried a different blend of fruit and veggies and tried a sip. It was a little better. Since then, it's only gotten better. I can drink almost any blend and I love it. Not sure why my taste buds/stomach rejected it at first.

With amazon credit, I was able to get this fantastic juicer by Breville. The crazy thing is that in January it was $149.00, and now a used one is $200?! Apparently everyone and their uncle is juicing. I LOVE this juicer (we got it based on customer reviews) because it is easy to use and clean and it can take hard veggies like beets, sweet potatoes, ginger, etc. I didn't realize that I would have to clean the parts every time I juiced, but that is a small price to pay (5 minutes) for a glass of frothy, delicious nutrition. Not to mention now my husband gets numerous fruits and vegetables in his diet, too.

I have so many favorite blends, where do I begin?

Pineapple, Carrot & Ginger

The Sour Apple: Granny Smith Apples, Kiwi & Green Grapes (It is our favorite.)

The Beeting Heart: Pineapple & Red Beets (If you juice the pineapple first, then pour beet juice on top, you can pour the beet juice in the shape of a heart onto the pineapple froth and it is adorable. Sorry, no pic of this yet.)

Kale, Pineapple & Ginger

Tomato, Celery, Parsley & Cucumber (no need to add salt. celery is plenty salty. who knew?)

Apple & Ginger

Pineapple, Jalapeno, Celery, Kale & Parsley

Carrot, Tumeric (stains everything but totally worth it. can find it at some health food stores and most asian markets.) Ginger, Lime & Beet

Pineapple, Spinach & Mango (very thick and frothy)

Orange, Red Apples & Spinach

Now my goal is to find a good use for the fibrous material left behind (besides composting). I imagine that the bits left over from a carrot-ginger juice would be fabulous in a stir fry. I haven't researched ideas but that is my next endeavor.

I tried eating only fresh juice for three days and that was okay. It required a lot of food prep and washing the juicer parts every time I was hungry enough to juice. Three days was a good start. I thought after watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead that I would go two months on juice, but come to find out that if you plan to go longer than 10 days on fresh juice alone, it should be done under medical supervision. If I had the money to pay a naturopath right now, I would consider it, but alas....

For now Jeff and I use juice as a sweets substitute, sometimes a meal substitute and sometimes when friends are over we experiment with whatever they bring over.

Ginger is by far our favorite ingredient. We can't seem to get enough of the spicy, internally warming stuff!

More juicing ideas?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Ice Cream, Sugar and Cocaine

Am I the only one who has a problem with ice cream? Apparently not.

Check out this news story claiming that ice cream may be as addictive as cocaine. Hilariously sad.

Juicing recipes, pictures and my thoughts coming very soon!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Avoiding Sugar Can Change Your Life

The countdown begins. Today is Saturday and Monday begins the juice fast/feast (depending on how you look at it).

All those little bouts of purging sugar from my kitchen ended badly. I kept caving. How is it possible to go almost 3 years without sugar and then have this much trouble quitting again?

My hope is that with 2 months of juicing I will know better than to dabble with sugar. If I play with sugar, it wins. If I abstain from sugar, I win.

Quitting sugar changed my life once. I know quitting again will have the same profound affects. It's what motivates me this time around. Valuable lesson learned? I really can't balance moderation with sugar, I wish I could. It's easier to just go without it 100%.

Check out this interview:

How Avoiding Refined Sugar Changed a Woman's Life

Monday, January 16, 2012

Extreme Make-Over: From Grumpy & Frumpy to Juicing and Sugar-Free

My next endeavor is to juice stuff.

The goal is to try juicing for a month or two and see how it helps with sugar cravings, energy, my sleep cycle and my weight (which has skyrocketed since moving to Texas--go figure!).

My husband is on board with this, too. Amazing.

We watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead together and when it ended we looked at each other and shared an ah-hah moment. We still have to do our research to see how this will be done, the health benefits/risks, etc. We're really not-knowers when it comes to juicing.

Any tips?

Quitting Sugar, Again

2012 Re-Quitting Sugar from myyearwithout on Vimeo.

It was easier to go without sugar for 3 years than it has been to give it up for a month at a time. The holidaze were the worst! I think people wanted to watch me feast on the white stuff. Every imaginable favorite dessert of mine was homemade and waiting for me when I returned to the northwest for Christmas.

On the flight to Portland I turned down freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (Frontier Airlines) and ate from a healthy pre-packed lunch. I was superior and not going to give in.

What is it about being home for the holidaze, surrounded by family and friends with fragrant homemade goodies and sweets everywhere?

Sweet tooth trumped Willpower. I don't understand this, because I was solidly off sugar for 3 years!

Let the justifications begin: I wanted to have a good time with everyone else and not be the only one not eating Mom's hot cinnamon rolls with frosting. I struggle with moderation, so once I let myself have a little sugar, nothing was off limits. I loitered in the kitchen every day in search of delicious ways to feed the monster.

Everything tasted absolutely heavenly but it didn't take long for my sweet tooth to become satiated. But the next day my tolerance for sweet had increased, and the day after that I had three cinnamon rolls in one day, not counting other goodies during the day.

If I'm going to indulge, I do not want to feel bad about it. Feeling guilty ruins things, doesn't it? So I made a mental note that after returning from the holidaze I would go back to being a devout non-sugarist. Until then, I would enjoy finishing off my stocking candy. Which led to making peanut brittle, then a chocolate espresso cheesecake (I am going to attempt this with a less-refined sweetener next time) for my husband, and then I made a lemon pound cake which I substituted for lunch.

The other day I looked through my cupboards to purge the demons, and Jeff quickly set up the video camera. Although I wasn't looking my best and would have liked to shower/do hair/make-up etc. (I mean, I am posting this on my blog!) I appreciated Jeff's quick reaction to the spontaneous moment and let it be.