Sucrose Dextrose Maltose Corn Syrup High Fructose Corn Syrup Cane Juice Evaporated Cane Juice Organic Cane Juice Maltodextrin Table Sugar White Sugar Brown Sugar Powdered Sugar Agave Syrup Maltodextrin Sorbitol Xylitol Mannitol Malitol
These are all essentially the same thing: Sugar. I used to eat all of them - often with abandon. I have not eaten these ingredients for the past 22 days.
Highly processed sugar completely devoid of nutrients is what I've been trying to eliminate from my diet for the past 22 days. This is harder than you might think. Especially for someone like me who really didn't pay any (or very little) attention to how much sugar I was consuming.
Sugar is BIG business and in foods you would never even think it to be in, like dry roasted peanuts for example, or tomato sauce, or frozen french fries, or canned soups, or mayonnaise, or even my beloved Siggi's Vanilla Skyr (I've since switched to Plain instead of Vanilla flavored). The majority of bread products - even the whole grain, healthy organic versions - often have some form of refined sugar listed in the ingredients. I'll admit, it was a little daunting for the first week.
I also decided to make sure I wasn't simply substituting artificial sweeteners for the lack of sugar in my diet. Honestly, artificial sweeteners have always kind of scared me so it wasn't much of an adjustment. I'm just more conscious now of making sure there are no crazy chemical sugar substances in the foods I'm eating, like: Splenda, Aspartame, Saccharin, and Sucralose.
So what AM I eating? Well, I've been allowing moderate amounts of honey - like with my Siggi's Plain Skyr I'll mix some chopped raw pistachios with a drip or two of honey and a pinch of ground cardamom and top my skyr with the mixture. Or when we have oatmeal, we'll drizzle a little honey into it along with some cinnamon and then top it off with unsweetened coconut shavings and chopped raw macadamias.
I am not opposed to pure maple syrup although I haven't actually eaten any in the past 22 days. I have purchased some whole grain fig cookies that are sweetened with molasses and some of the breads we've been eating have molasses or barley malt listed in the ingredients.
Fresh fruit is still on the menu and the naturally occuring fructose contained therein. Also minimum amounts of dried fruits (although you really have to check ingredient labels to make sure there is no added sugar) - especially apricots and prunes. I also haven't eliminated the naturally occuring lactose found in dairy products. Food products sweetened with dates or pure fruit juices or fresh fruit have been consumed with moderation.
I've also eliminated refined starches like white flour, white breads, white rice, and white pasta. Although we rarely, if ever, ate white rice or white breads, our pasta was sometimes of the refined kind and we used white flour almost exclusively for baking and cooking. No more.
Things I've Discovered:
Date Sugar - It's exactly what you expect, dates. Dried dates that have been ground up to the texture of brown sugar. I had no idea this existed until recently. We haven't used any yet, but Daniel will be making my Birthday Carrot Cake with it next month.
White Whole Wheat Flour - This may not be what you think. Nutritionally it is almost exactly identical to whole wheat flour. The difference is that it uses a naturally occuring albino wheat (instead of the traditional red wheat) which is a little softer allowing for a finer, fluffier texture to the flour. Again, this is an experimental product that will be used in the Birthday Carrot Cake.
Coconut Milk - Has more fat than cow's milk, but fewer calories and ZERO sugars. We've used it to make oatmeal so far and it turned out well.
Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Bread - This is actually a pretty mainstream bread that I have seen before but just never tried. It's REALLY delicious! A great breakfast idea I pilfered from someone else's blog includes a slice of toasted Ezekiel bread spread with almond butter (we get ours straight from the grinder at Fresh Market which is less expensive), topped with sliced bananas, sprinkled with ground cinnamon and finally chopped raw macadamia nuts.
Barbara's Whole Wheat Fig Bars - Found these, of all places, at our local Kroger. No refined sugar and a couple really take the edge off of a raging sweet tooth.
It's Not So Bad - Quitting refined, processed sugar and minimizing natural sugars, while not a walk in the park, hasn't been nearly as miserable as I anticipated it was going to be.
Things I Miss:
Chocolate - I do love me some chocolate and carob is just not the same. I've heard of grain-sweetened chocolate chips but haven't found any yet, and also raw cacao, of which I am highly suspicious (for no good reason).
Cereal - The only cold cereal I have eaten in the past 22 days has been one small bowl of Grape Nuts. Now, I enjoy Grape Nuts (who doesn't!?), but I miss my Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Rice Krispies, and Frosted Mini Wheats.
Ignorance - Being able to just go the store and pick up food items without having to read the freaking ingredients. Or going to any restaurant I want and ordering whatever sounds good without having to ask (or already knowing) about the sugar content.
There are some great blogs I've found that have been really helpful and provided valuable information. Probably the best of these is My Years Without Sugar. Informative, motivational, and interesting. If you're thinking about quitting sugar, or have already quit sugar, I highly recommend checking it out.
Additionally, I just finished reading Get the Sugar Out by Ann Louise Gittleman. It was a fairly informative read. I'd say half of it was information so basic as to be almost insulting. But the other half was interesting facts and research about sugar I was unaware of.
Currently I'm reading Don't Eat This Book by Morgan Spurlock. This was the guy who produced the documentary Super Size Me (which Daniel and I recently watched as one of our Netflix picks) and the book, while not exclusively dealing with sugar, offers insight on the topic of sugar and other nutrition and food industry information. It's basically an in-depth extension of the film, and so far it's not bad. His writing style is a little hokey and comes across as inelegant, but the information seems sound and reliable thus far.
No doubt this experiment is not without its faults. I am still reading and absorbing as I go along, so any book, website, movie, or blog suggestions will be appreciated. Just keep the donuts to yourself!