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.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Humble Pie

I totally pride myself on my health. I love telling people that it's been "xx" this many years since I've been sick. I have felt especially immune, cutting out sugar, so I figured that as long as I was sugar-free, my immune system would have superpowers strong enough to keep me from all harm.

Yesterday I had one of the worst fevers I've ever had. My body ached. My throat just burned. But that was all. No other symptoms, so I'm doubtful it was the swine flu, which seems to include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. However, whatever it was really threw me for a loop. I took a naturopathic approach to my symptoms and let my body have its fever. I needed it to kill the virus that attacked me. I used to pop pills immediately upon feeling yucky, but now I know the importance of our body giving us a fever. It is to help us! If we treat that "symptom" we are only prolonging the flu/virus.

So, today was about recovery. It took a lot out of me to withstand the aches and pains and chills of a high temperature yesterday. My plan was to stay home all day and rest today. Then this morning I ran out of toilet paper.

Do I:
a. Take some from the public facilities in our building?
b. Hold it all day until husband can pick it up on his way home?
c. Go out and get t.p. myself?

I went out. I knew it would be refreshing to get outside today. But on the way to the grocery store I was hit head-on by a woman in her brand new 4x4 pick-up. She pulled out of a store parking lot from behind a parked truck and couldn't see me. I slammed on my brakes but still slammed into her. We pulled over and I had to wait for an officer to arrive who spoke Spanish. Unfortunately my 3+ years learning/practicing Spanish did not amount to much in this situation. It was funny, though. I told the officer that it was my brother's car I was driving and that my brother is currently in Guatamala studying Spanish. It was ironic.

Ironic and humbling, which is why I share this recipe with you.

Humble Pie

1 part being humble
1 part keeping my mouth shut
2 parts being sensitive to others

Practice this daily for best results!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quick, Healthy Breakfast Tip

I was so excited a few weeks ago when I brought home my super-healthy container of organic steel cut oats. Then my heart sank when I read the instructions. It would take over 35 minutes to make, which it did. When I make breakfast, I usually have to do it fast because as soon as I start to feel hungry in the morning, the hunger rages.

I learned something, though. I made too much oatmeal but realized I could refrigerate it and heat it up again the next morning. What may seem obvious to all of you seemed to me a streak of pure genius, until a friend told me, "I've been doing this for years." The next day, I scooped out a cup of the cold, hard, but cooked oatmeal and added it to a pan of an inch of boiling water. I stirred the cold oatmeal until it softened and then added frozen blueberries (from my long-lost blueberry trees back home!) and then pecans. In just a minute or two I had a piping hot, fresh bowl of oatmeal. The following several mornings were just as easy. Now, if I can suffer through making a large pot of oatmeal from scratch once every five days or so, I know I'll have left-overs to last all week.

As far as toppings, anything goes: nuts (especially if you toast them first or caramelize them in honey), seeds, dried fruit, coconut, berries, mango, apricot, bananas, vanilla, cinnamon, etc.

For a bright purple oatmeal that your kids will love, put blueberries in right away and stir until they bleed into the oatmeal.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Super Easy, Healthy Snacks

If you don't have time to make the hummus yourself, buy it pre-made. I would rather have this high-protein snack on hand than not at all.

Cashews, raisins and prunes. The idea here is a naturally sweet snack loaded with plant protein. I usually have a variety of nuts.

Sliced apples and almond nut butter make a refreshing, filling snack every time.

Four ingredients: sprouted organic whole wheat kernels, filtered water, organic dates, organic cinnamon. Absolutely delicious toasted and high in iron and protein. I can only find this bread at Whole Foods in the freezer section. Ask your local health food store or co-op to bring in this line of bread. The other flavors are just as amazing.

Wash and slice ahead of time and choose a healthy dressing for dip. This is the difference between whether or not I eat fresh veggies. I like shitake sesame dressing. Check ingredients!

These super healthy snack bars fit perfectly in my smallest purse. I never leave home without one because I don't ever want to be so hungry and desperate that I justify junk food. Example of ingredients for Chocolate Mint bar: organic dates, organic almonds, organic cocoa mass, organic cocoa powder, organic vanilla flavor, organic peppermint flavor. Can be found at many grocery stores in the protein bar section, and some flavors available at TJ's.

Check the ingredients of salsa or make your own. Add extra crunch and nutrition by adding fresh peppers, beans or corn.

High in iron, five ingredients: whole kernel rye, water, whole rye flour, salt, yeast. Delicious when toasted with Earth Balance margarine and sprinkled with nutritional yeast or a few drops of honey. Similarly packaged breads available at: TJ's, Whole Foods, World Market, and most grocery stores in the bread aisle.

Although I enjoy the crunch and saltiness of pretzels, they put me right to sleep (white refined flour) which makes this a yummy-yet-sinful late night snack. It's mostly just a delivery system for mustard, which I love.

Edamame, sea salt and cashews make a tasty, high protein snack that will help tie you over until your next meal.

The difference between a healthy snack and a packaged-not-so-healthy snack is whether a healthy version has been prepared ahead of time. When I take a fruit or vegetable out to cut, I try and take as many fruits and vegetables as possible and line them up behind my cutting board. This way when I need a snack, I can count on having something healthy instead of forging through my pantry trying to justify something else.

Your suggestions and tips are more than welcome!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Heaven

The other day I was cruising around looking for a dessert recipe that called out my name. Apparently I was craving cake because when I found this recipe I jumped up, grabbed my apron, and got to baking.

The cake turned out beautiful. So many of my baked goods are whipped up so fast that I neglect the aesthetic appeal and tending to the appearance. This recipe would be difficult to make anything but pretty, by how it is made. I was able to make it in about 15 minutes or less and then a half hour after baking, I was chewing a very luxurious, moist cake. The top of the finished product is wonderfully sticky sweet and reminds me of my mom's monkey bread made with brown sugar and butter. I added pecans to this recipe and it added a nice, flavorful crunch to an otherwise soft, perfectly moist cake. Although it was perfectly moist, it did not burst with flavor. I would add spices next time or more vanilla, and I even thought of adding macadamia nuts instead of pecans and putting shredded coconut in the batter. As it is, I halved the recipe since my cast iron skillet is much smaller than the one used in the original recipe.

*Note: This recipe can be altered in so many ways. You can easily substitute gluten-free flours, or take the dairy products and eggs out and use substitutes, although I have not tried it yet.

By the way, since I've been talking about coconut milk lately, I've been putting two or three spoonfuls of it in my coffee every morning and it is sinfully perfect. It almost seems too good to be true. I do not want my coffee tasting like coconut and it doesn't. It's just thick, creamy, rich and slightly sweet. It has now replaced the tablespoon of heavy whipping cream that I was using every morning.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

For the top:
sliced pineapple
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 C. honey
*optional: pecans

For the cake:
1 C whole wheat flour
1 C white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C butter or coconut oil
1/2 C honey
2 eggs
1 C buttermilk
1 and a half tsp vanilla

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the 4 Tbsp butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet (I halved the recipe and used my smaller skillet). Once melted, add in the honey and stir until combined. Cook a couple minutes until the mixture is nice and bubbly.

Place pineapple slices in pan.

Continue to cook another couple minutes, turn the slices over, and turn off heat. (If using, place the pecans in pan after you turn off heat.)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Next, cream together the 1/2 C butter, and the 1/2 C honey until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time and then stir in vanilla. Alternating between flour mixture and buttermilk, add them into creamed mixture, stirring just until combined.

Pour over the pineapple slices.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the sides and quickly tip over onto a flat plate or cutting board.

Enjoy with a hot mug of coffee & coconut milk!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Glycemic Index: A Real Shock

I started writing a different post today but was sideswiped by some startling information. Info that I thought I understood and grasped a long time ago. I am sitting here in shock at how much I did not understand the Glycemic Index (GI). A year or more ago I read about it for the first time. It seemed almost common sense. But I totally missed something. I was of the understanding that on the index scale of 1 to 100, table sugar is 100. WRONG! Glucose (blood sugar) is 100.

In a nutshell, the Glycemic Index is a measurement for how carbohydrates affect our blood sugar levels. Carbs that break down quickly, releasing glucose rapidly into our bloodstream have a high GI. Carbs that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more steadily into our bloodstream have a low GI. Pure glucose serves as a reference point, and is given a GI of 100. This information has been thought to be especially important to people with diabetes, but come to find out it is also important for the rest of us. You know that "sugar" high you get, associated with eating crap? There is a physical reason for it. You've just spiked your blood sugar.

Makes me wonder if our assumption that turkey makes everyone tired at Thanksgiving is wrong. Maybe it's the mashed potatoes.

Surprisingly, many starchy foods have a higher GI than table sugar. (I don't quite understand this yet.)

Sugar (sucrose) has a GI of about 68.

Foods with a GI of 55 or lower are considered low GI and foods higher than 55 are considered high GI. An example of some foods that cause our blood sugar to rise more rapidly than white sugar are:

Pretzels: GI 83
Popcorn: GI 72
Rice Crispies: GI 82
Parsnips: GI 97
Pumpkin: GI 75
Rice crackers: GI 91
Wild rice: GI 87
"Sticky" rice: GI 98
100% Whole wheat bread: GI 77
French Baguette: GI 95
English muffin: GI 77

Here's a look at how white potatoes compare to sweet potatoes:

Yam: GI 37 LOW!
Sweet Potato: GI 44 LOW!
White baked potato: GI 85 HIGH!
Boiled Red-skinned potato: GI 88 HIGH!

Yams and sweet potatoes are the obvious choice. From the above list, I just don't understand how pumpkin and parsnips can have such a high GI. Does this mean they are digested quicker than white sugar? How is this possible?

The reason GI matters:

"Your body performs best when your blood sugar is kept relatively constant. If your blood sugar drops too low, you become lethargic and/or experience increased hunger. And if it goes too high, your brain signals your pancreas to secrete more insulin. Insulin brings your blood sugar back down, but primarily by converting the excess sugar to stored fat. Also, the greater the rate of increase in your blood sugar, the more chance that your body will release an excess amount of insulin, and drive your blood sugar back down too low. The theory behind the Glycemic Index is simply to minimize insulin-related problems by identifying and avoiding foods that have the greatest effect on your blood sugar." (3)

I have much to learn about the GI. I am fascinated by the concept that sugar isn't the only thing that causes such a dramatic spike in blood sugar.

1 (http://www.lowglycemicdiet.com/gifoodlist.html)
2 (Eat, Drink & Be Healthy, by Walter Willett, M.D.)
3 (http://www.nutritiondata.com/topics/glycemic-index)
4 (Wiki)

*The picture above is a real, sugary espresso chocolate cheesecake that I made for Jeff the day he got a job out here in DC. It's his favorite but a very rare treat. I have plans to try it with honey someday....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Amazing Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate

I found a deliciously improved recipe for hot chocolate. Thanks to the nourishing gourmet, I now have a hot chocolate recipe that is rich, creamy, frothy and still perfectly sweet. I tinkered with the orignial recipe and mine is as follows:

Coconut Milk Hot Chocolate

1/3 part coconut milk
2/3 part boiling water
2 heaping spoons of pure cocoa

1 small spoonfull honey
(or more for sweeter)
dash of vanilla

To my french press I added the coconut milk then stirred in cocoa and vanilla. After pouring in the boiling water, I stirred in the honey and then pumped my French press to mix and make it frothy.

I'm drinking this wonderfully warm, happy beverage right now. I lift my mug to you and say, "Cheers! Isn't it wonderful to be so happy without white refined sugar?!!"


Friday, January 15, 2010

Banana Almond Butter Macadamia Nut Toast

I don't like bananas anymore. I used to eat them every single morning chopped up on cold cereal, or as a snack in the afternoon. For some reason over the last few years they have started to become disgusting to me. The flavor is too strong and the mushy texture is a big turn-off but I also don't enjoy them under-ripe.

I still eat them, though. I rarely eat cold cereal anymore but bananas go well with warm oatmeal, nuts and dried fruit. I've been craving and eating sprouted wheat toast with almond butter since I started going to Jazzercise recently. It's filling and two pieces is all I need. This morning I added some simple flourishes for variety and it was really tasty, even with bananas.

(One of the reasons I still eat bananas is because they are indicated for healthy digestion and elimination. Heard of B.R.A.T.? If you need to bulk things up, four foods are commonly indicated: bananas, rice, apples or toast.)

This morning I created a toast masterpiece for my mouth. Perhaps I was giddy from the goodies I brought home from Trader Joe's: dried cherries, prunes, cashews, macadamia nuts, and lots of fruit to name a few. Right now my local TJ's has organic oranges, apples and grapefruits so I loaded up.

As for my toast:

Sprouted wheat berry bread (5g of protein per slice, and although it contains dates and raisins, it does not contain them in whole form. They must grind them up and add them in pulverized or something. Terrific sweeteners.)

slathered with almond butter, topped with chopped banana, and loaded with roasted-but-not-salted macadamia nuts, and then sprinkled with cinnamon.

It was so filling that I could only eat one piece of toast with all of that. My other piece was just Earth Balance and cinnamon. You don't need cinnamon sugar, which is something I grew up with. Just recently I started sprinkling straight cinnamon on toast and it's perfect.


On a different note, I was thrilled to bring home sugar-free "dried bing cherries" from TJ's....until this morning when I opened the package and took another look at the ingredients just to make sure I wasn't hallucinating last night when I bought them, because it is SO hard to find dried fruit without sugar. Indeed they are sugar free, but contain sulfur dioxide. What the heck is this stuff, I asked myself. I referred to two different books about additives to see what came up. Not good. Very bad.

From Food Additives, it says, "See sodium bisulfite." Okay. "Sodium bisulfite: destroys vitamin B1; small amounts may cause asthma, anaphylactic shock; dangerous for asthma, allergy sufferers; has causes deaths; banned on fresh fruits and vegetables, except potatoes." Next to the definition were the letters "A" which means, "The additive may cause allergic reactions," and "X" which means, "The additive is unsafe or very poorly tested."

Wikipedia says, "Inhaling sulfur dioxide is associated with increased respiratory symptoms and disease, difficulty in breathing, and premature death." Is that why I coughed when I swallowed a few cherries?

My What's In Your Food book says "Produced by burning sulfur," and the "Potential Effects" are as follows: "Asthma; bronchospasm; bronchoconstriction; hyptension; anaphylaxis, bronchitis; cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, liver and neurotoxicity; destroys vitamins A and B1 in food; animal mutagen." It has a frowny face next to it.

I love TJ's. I feel like I represent many of their health-conscious customers when I say that an ingredient like that is not acceptable.

Sometimes, though, I wonder how I can keep up being pro-active in the food world. I feel like I'm always writing letters to companies, grocery stores, restaurants, etc. However, once I believe there is a problem I feel it's my responsibility to do something about it. You should see the havoc I wreak in my local big box grocery store where they continue to try and sell "Conventional" produce under "Organic" labels..... It's not a pretty sight.

If you are inspired to give TJ's your feedback, here is their contact form. I'm going to personally return the package of cherries with a letter to the manager attached.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Welcome Crazy Sexy Life-ers!

A warm welcome to those of you new to my blog!

I woke up this morning and was excited to see that CrazySexyLife had posted an article I wrote for them. It's a brief overview of going without sugar...

So now that you're here, (and some of you are working on a New Year's resolution to give up sugar) I've dedicated this post to help you find what you need, quickly.

This Table of Contents should help
. (I gathered a few of my favorite posts...):

FAVORITE RECIPES: World's Best Gingersnaps, Mounds Bars, Peanut Butter Rice Crispie Treats, Pear Tart, Nori Roll, Easy Tabouli, and more..... See the list to the right.

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Random Info, Mayo Clinic, Splenda, Truvia, Sucralose-Splenda, Artificial Sweeteners, Aspartame, Mannitol, Maltitol

HOW TO'S & TIPS: Tips for Sugar Addicts, How To Quit, How To Pass on Dessert, How & Why to Cut Sugar, Get Through the Holidays, Hide Your Twinkies!, Your Kitchen

INTERESTING FACTS: Coca-Cola, A Word on Sweetness, Harvard's Food Pyramid, USDA Food Pyramid, More Pyramid Facts, Definitions, Alcohol, Cereal, Center for Consumer Deceit

MOTIVATIONAL MATERIAL: Don't Eat This Book, List of Books, Sugarettes, Mindless Eating, Sugar Addiction, The End of Overeating, Psychology of Sugar, Video: Sugar & Disease, Video: Sugar Addiction

STORIES: Chocolate Cake, Inspirational, Down with Cool Whip, The Great Debate, Carbs, Honey & The Difficulty of Being Sugar-Free

I hope you've enjoyed this site. I would love to hear from you and what your goals are!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Breakfast Recipes

Every once in a while when I'm in a panic for a good, sweet recipe, I'll pull this book off the bookshelf: "Get the Sugar Out, 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet". The content of the book is true to the title. It's a great book with pointers and recipes throughout.

Recently, I had a humongous craving for sugar in the morning. I don't get humongous cravings often at all anymore, so I'm not sure why I was hit with one. Anyway, I made my all-time favorite breakfast food: French Toast. I was out of farm fresh eggs so I made my once-favorite vegan recipe for French Toast, which is just as good. While I was throwing the ingredients together, I grabbed my Get the Sugar Out book just to see what hidden breakfast recipes lurked. There are some great ones, one of which I am currently baking in my oven: Peanut Butter Muffins. I halved the recipe, which called for oil, and used oil in one bowl and coconut oil in another. We'll see how these two ingredients compare in this quick and simple recipe.

In the meantime, here is a recipe for my vegan French Toast. I have no idea where I got it....I've been making it for years. I rarely measure, so sorry!

French Toast

dairy-free milk
nutritional yeast
cinnamon (lots)

Soak your sprouted wheat bread (or whatever healthy bread you currently have) in the batter and throw it on your lightly oiled griddle. I cover generously with Earth Balance and then a quick pour of maple syrup. This is how I get my sugar fix. It's so amazing with a mug of hot joe. If you want to use eggs, just add them to this batter.

Here are the recipes from Get the Sugar Out:

Banana French Toast

2 eggs
2 large ripe bananas
1 scoop vanilla whey protein
1/2 C water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
6 slices spelt bread

Blend the eggs, bananas, whey protein, water, cinnamon, and vanilla in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour the mixture into a 9x13 pan. Place the bread in the banana mixture and let soak until the liquid is mostly absorbed, about 15 minutes, turning the bread occasionally. Lightly coat a large heavy skillet with olive oil spray; heat over medium heat. Add the bread and cook until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Freezes well. Serves 6.

This next recipe I am going to try tomorrow morning.....I like using leftover ingredients like canned pumpkin (which I used to treat my dog's digestive system) when I don't have enough to make an entire dessert.....

Sweet Potato Pancakes

1 egg (or 1 and a half tsps Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed in two tablespoons water)
1 4-ounce jar sweet potato baby food (I'm going to use left-over canned pumpkin.....)
1 and a half tablespoons oil
1/4 C water
3/4 C brown rice flour

Preheat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Beat the egg lightly and add sweet potato and oil. Add water to the emptied sweet potato can, shake it a couple of times, and empty its contents into the liquid ingredients to get all the sweet potato. Add brown rice flour and mix again. Drop batter into 2-inch-round pancakes and cook until brown on one side. Flip over, push the pancakes down, and cook until done.

The muffins just finished baking. In the book, they are called Peanut Butter Muffins, but I used almond butter instead of peanut butter. I made two batches, one with canola oil and one with coconut oil.

[Almond Butter] Muffins

2 C whole wheat pastry flour (I used white whole wheat flour from TJ's)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt (optional)
1/4 C almond butter (or peanut butter)
1/3 C oil or coconut oil
1/4 C honey or molasses (I used molasses--love the flavor and how it moisturizes any recipe)
1 and a half C rice or almond milk

Stir flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix almond butter, oil, molasses and rice milk in a separate large bowl until smooth. Add dry mixture to liquid mixture and mix with minimal strokes. Do not beat. Fill 12 oiled muffin tins two-thirds full. [Or use baking cups.] Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven 25 minutes or until done. (Mine took 15 minutes).

These renegade muffins jumped out of the tray and tried escaping me, but they got what was coming for them anyway.

These turned out fabulous.

The coconut oil muffins weren't amazing, but they were okay. I forgot how much coconut oil takes over the flavor in a recipe. I could taste the molasses a lot better in the recipe with oil.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Easy Tabouli Recipe

Tabouli....Mmmmmm. Crunchy, fresh, raw, tart salad that fills. Eat parsley--it's wonderful for your health. Since I quit eating sugar, I coincidentally began making tabouli--lots of it. I'm excited for you to try this easy, delicious, super-healthy recipe.

Easy Tabouli

1 bunch of parsley chopped finely (if I had a food processor, I'd use it)
2 tomatoes cut into small pieces
1 bunch green onions, chopped
juice of 2 fresh-squeezed lemons
olive oil (I don't measure! Just coat the ingredients....1/4-1/2 C., maybe?)
1 cup bulgar
1/4-1/2 tsp. sumac
pinch sea salt
(You can add finely chopped cucumbers, and most recipes call for chopped fresh mint. I don't care for the taste of mint in my tabouli, which is why it is not listed. Experiment!)

Soak one cup bulgar in one cup water for approximately 30-60 minutes. Transfer to bigger bowl and mix in parsley, tomatoes, onions, olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkle with sumac and salt.

Combine well so the olive oil and lemon juice coat all the ingredients.

One reason I love this recipe so much is that my meat-eating, sugar-consuming, fruit-and-vegetable-negligent-husband happens to love it and devour it. We eat it several times a week.

I learned from a Lebanese friend that you can use sumac in this Middle Eastern salad, although typically sumac is used in recipes like spinach pie... You can find this wonderfully tart ingredient at international grocery stores.

Bulgar is a whole grain packed with protein and iron. It's delicious in all sorts of recipes after soaking in water. Try using it in place of white rice or pasta, or add it to salads of all types.

Parsley is an amazing herb. When I worked at a health food grocery store 10 years ago, I learned a lot about this plant. Though I worked in the vitamin and mineral section of the store, and customers came in looking for a magic pill for all types of maladies, I constantly brought the sick and weary over to the produce and explained the benefits of parsley. One bunch of parsley is so much cheaper, fresher and more natural than a bottle of this or that. Fighting fatigue? Eat parsley. Gassy? Halitosis? High blood pressure? Parsley is indicated for these and many other problems.

According to Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by James and Phyllis Balch (excellent comprehensive guide to drug-free remedies) the actions and uses of parsley are as follows:

"Contains a substance that prevents the multiplication of tumor cells. Expels worms, relieves gas, stimulates normal activity of the digestive system, and freshens breath. Helps bladder, kidney, liver, lung, stomach, and thyroid function. Good for bed-wetting, fluid retention, gas, halitosis, high blood pressure, indigestion, kidney disease, obesity, and prostrate disorders. Contains more vitamin C than oranges, by weight."

I don't love the flavor of parsley, in fact it's a little bitter for me, but in Tabouli I could eat bunches and bunches...

Is Sugar Addictive?

(picture: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/231/471510638_94acf2e71f.jpg)

"IS SUGAR ADDICTIVE?" is the title of Marion Nestle's blog post dated January 7, 2010, on her wonderful, most informative blog, Food Politics.

Either way you flip it, both sides of the coin are extremely interesting here:

Say there is such a thing as sugar addiction (I know most of you reading this believe there is, and that is why you are here). What is going to happen to the multitudes of people with this addiction?! How are food suppliers/manufacturer's/FDA/USDA going to respond, not to mention nutritionists, dietitians, naturopath doctors and M.D.'s? Not only do we have a national eating disorder (preoccupation with food, food used as entertainment, overeating, etc.) but a possible national sugar addiction?

What is at stake? Health, money and politics, in my opinion.

  1. HEALTH: Being addicted to a non-nutritive substance related to diabetes, heart disease, overweight, and other health issues. What are the national and individual implications?
  2. MONEY: The trade-off for food suppliers to supply us with food is to make money. When we buy food at the grocery store we are surrounded by obvious junk foods/beverages but also foods with "hidden" sugars, like salt, pepper, bread, sauce, etc. With every purchase of food we are casting a vote in the system of supply and demand. Though in some cases the supply creates the demand, for the most part suppliers follow demand trends. Because we love our goodies so much and continue to buy them, we are putting money in the pockets of those who are creating the goodies.
  3. POLITICS: Ever heard of the Snack Food Association? (I can't help myself from picking on them). In part, they: "Serve as the voice for the snack food industry before government," among other things.
By chance the book is closed on the issue and it is concluded by experts that there is no such thing as sugar addiction. What do we call it, then, when someone (like myself, back in the days of sugar consumption) obsesses all day about where to get sugar, and then eats it in unnatural proportions to fulfill the "sweet tooth"?

Whether there will ever be a clinical term coined for sugar addiction, there exists a problem. I had it, and I see it, hear about it and read about it every day.

If you have the time, jump over to Food Politics to read the post and the very interesting comments that follow. "Mason" put it best: "So is sugar physically and chemically addictive, or is that dependence purely psychological? I don’t think it matters. Either way, we’re so addicted to our lifestyles and our rabid-overconsumption that arguing the point seems trival. Who cares if the lights don’t work when the plane is crashing?"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Michael Pollan on the Daily Show

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Michael Pollan
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

This is a fantastic short interview with Michael Pollan. The basis for the interview is his new book, Food Rules, but he mentions other great information, too.

Here are some highlights, although I recommend watching the clip.

"Americans are getting 20% of their calories from high fructose corn syrup."

"240 pounds of sugar a year....is what we're eating."

"Right now the food industry creates patients for the health care industry."

"[The Farm Bill] subsidizes the least healthy foods at the supermarket."

"Eat food. Avoid edible food-like substances."

(More about the Farm Bill here and here)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tips for All You Sugar Addicts!

Hello sugar junkies!

I am one, too. (Once an addict, always an addict.) I have had a plethora of mail recently from many of you who are challenging yourselves to be sugar-free in 2010. I hope to inspire those resolutions and offer helpful tips. I have successfully been off of sugar for two years now, and realize that it is one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. Looking back, if someone told me I would be staying off of sugar this long I would have keeled over laughing. Seriously, I had a major problem. I could not get enough of it. Being sick to my stomach was basically how I felt most of the time in an effort to quell the almighty sweet tooth. Although I desperately wanted to boot out sugar in my life, I had no idea if it was possible for someone like me or what it would look like in reality. Was I going to become a weird hippie or get totally obsessive? (I love hippies)

At first I did get obsessive. Sugar was all I talked about. I bored my poor friends and family to death with all kinds of details about sugar and sugar alternatives. Many people still happily indulging in sugar just don't care.

Now that the holidaze fog has cleared and it's back to the swing of things, I thought I would re-write some pointers for how to stay strong and keep sugar at bay. Keep in mind we are up against the well-oiled sugar machine. Everywhere you look we are being bombarded with ads for junk food or the actual junk food itself. You can't stand in line anywhere (health food stores included) without being surrounded by chocolate and other sugar-laden goodies. I have noticed that even at non-food stores the registers are surrounded by a sea of candy as if to appeal to our spontaneous senses. It's a sugary freak show out there. I can't believe how much sugar is everywhere. Even though our country is faced with an obesity epidemic, heart disease as the number one killer, a national eating disorder and a growing number of children with diabetes, you can find sugar anywhere. Yet try and find a piece of fruit when you want it!

Despite all the efforts out there to appeal to our sweet teeth, we can rise above the mixed messages and eat healthy.

It's not that difficult when you make a few things habit:
  • Keep healthy snacks with you AT ALL TIMES. Being broadsided by hunger pains and a sweet tooth can lead you into temptation unless you planned ahead. Take a moment to sit somewhere and enjoy the flavors of that apple or those juicy green grapes. Enjoy each of the different flavors in your little bag of mixed nuts and dried fruit.
  • If you forgot your healthy goodies and are hijacked by a craving, run to the nearest available water source, preferably where you can add lemon. After a glass of water you will probably get your senses back. Sip some hot tea with honey if you have to.
  • When you do your grocery shopping, Do not give yourself a limit buying healthy foods. Buy a variety of healthy foods that you know you will go to when you have a craving. Keep your pantry, fridge and freezer full of these items.
  • Some of you will need to empty out your kitchen of all sugary goods. Personally, I don't have a problem seeing my husband's sugary goodies around. I fear that if I remove all his sugary goodies, when I am around sweet treats I will just lose all control. I like to know that I have control even when I'm alone. Whatever works for you.
  • Decide right now what your exact goals are. To give up all refined sugar? To give up natural sweeteners, too? Know whether or not you will eat artificial sweeteners because you will find a lot of sugar-free goodies and beverages out there, full of chemicals otherwise known as: Splenda, aspartame, maltitol, saccharin, etc. Many of these sugar alternatives have dubious beginnings and unknown futures based on lack long-term human trials. And take it from me, even though ingredients like maltitol seem like a benign sugar alcohol, it can really wreak havoc on your system.
  • You will have cravings. Prepare ahead of time for these and know that you can get through it. Have new, flavorful teas ready to try with a drop of honey, fruit pre-washed and prepared, healthy gum to chew on, baked goods sweetened naturally, etc. The craving will pass and you will be stronger each time you don't run to sugar.
  • Offer to bring an appetizer, main dish or dessert to gatherings. Make them sugar-free, of course, and have fun experimenting with different recipes.
  • Explore the giant blog-o-sphere and read what other people are doing. This has been incredibly inspiring for me. There are so many people revamping their diets and eating healthier and posting recipes.
What else do you think it takes to be free of the white stuff? What do you do to help with cravings?

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 in Pictures

Happy 2010!

There were big changes in my life in 2009 including moving from my beloved west coast to experience the fervor of the east coast. I am still sugar-free and will be posting a re-cap soon, on helpful hints for making sugar-free a reality.

Here are a few pictures taken in 2009 since my move to the D.C. area:

Views from my 6th floor balcony.

We were welcomed to the area by some of the most beautiful lightning I've ever seen.

I love that there are farmer's markets everywhere, but I have rarely found the produce to be organic....

I spend a lot of time at the zoo here. It's free and amazing. There are beautiful jellyfish at the DC zoo, but the one above lives at the Baltimore Aquarium.

My first loaf of perfect, yeasty artisan bread!

Delicious dark chocolate, moist raspberry cupcakes. You can't eat just one.

I tried to give up coffee a few times throughout the year but always go back to it. It is really my only vice. I found a locally roasted coffee in Old Town called Misha's. I can't live without it.

At a thrift store in Old Town I found an old cane sugar brochure. I love the first line: "The food value of sugar is surprisingly high." And the last lines: "The high dietary value of sugar is universally recognized by scientists and physicians. It is vitally necessary for you to have a goodly amount of sugar in your diet--and important medical authorities tell us that for health and enjoyment there is no substitute for sugar." 50 years from now I wonder what we will think of some of the foods we are eating now.

I spied this great little piece of art as part of an art collage in the tunnel connecting the Library of Congress to the Capitol.

At the theater, Jeff ordered a small soda and it came in this size. I was and am still shocked.

One of my favorite outings here is the Eastern Market. You never know what artsy item you will find or interesting vendor you will meet.

I discovered a scary supermarket that dedicates five aisles to sodas and other sugary drinks, not including juices.

At a health food store I discovered bathroom tissue made from sugar cane fiber. I tried it and would not recommend it to my worst enemy, if you know what I mean.

My brother invited us on a trip to Charlottesville for a show, but we end up spending just as much time in a toy store, beforehand.

Once a year the Kennedy Center has an open house arts festival. Street performers from all over the world come to put on shows. I was quite taken by this guy.

Our year ends in a blistery cold storm that produced two feet of snow.

I haven't had this much fun in city snow since Portland's big snow storm in 2004.