Next up in the small changes series… I gave up sugar and lived to tell about it!
Have you ever thought about how much sugar you consume on a daily basis? I mean, I like chocolate but prefer dark chocolate. I eat healthy, including being happy with a salad for a meal.
But even so, there is sugar in everything. Sausage, bread, wine… all the good stuff. Now that I haven’t been eating (or drinking) much sugar in the last 8 months, I’ve realized just how much I had every single day.
(P.S. Links to my favorite dessert recipes are at the bottom!)
First, the most important question… Was this change worth it?
The first thing that I noticed about not having sugar was that I actually had more, not less, energy. When my body isn’t craving an unnatural high from refined sugar, I function better throughout the day and mostly avoid that after-lunch crash.
And while I’m still not a morning person, I feel better every morning when I wake up. The times I haven’t felt okay? I had a sugar-filled brownie or a bowl full of ice cream the day before.
Plus, I’ve lost nearly 20 pounds this year, and I haven’t even tried. Well, I stopped eating sugar, but other than that, life is pretty much the same.
Here’s why this happened…
In January I stopped eating refined, or processed, sugar entirely for 3 weeks. As best I could, I cut out bread, alcohol, sugar-filled desserts, sweet tea… I still ate fruit because it’s a natural sugar and still had nutritional value. But basically, all the really tasty bad stuff was out.
Luckily, I love cooking, so I learned how to make my own honey-sweetened chocolate, and I made a lot of cinnamon apples!
Once the three weeks were up, sugar did not taste the same. Not only that, but depending on what I ate, my stomach was incredibly unhappy with me (I was so disappointed with that first bite of cheesecake…).
As much as I wanted that huge bowl of ice cream, I knew it wasn’t going to work for me anymore. And if I was going to continue not eating refined sugar, I needed research and recipes to help keep me from choosing the sugar-filled snacks and desserts.
Sugar intake in general is something to keep an eye one, but refined sugar is the real problem.
- Increases blood sugar levels
- Is digested quickly so you don’t feel full after eating it
- It’s addictive
- The “sugar crash” is not fun for you or the person next to you
- Among other health concerns, potentially contributing to more serious problems.
The next thing I wanted to know was, since I’m probably addicted to sugar, and if I haven’t had it in 3 weeks… was I anywhere near not being addicted to it?
Luckily, though the internet has many answers, the answer was yes. Some results after Googling have answers like “break your addiction in 4 days”, but I’m pretty sure they mean “habit”, not “addiction”.
I can’t find it now, but I discovered a chart sharing the different phases of your body and tastes when you stop consuming sugar.
The first few days will be relatively easy. Then you’ll crave sugar… then there are ups and downs over the next few weeks. After that, make conscious decisions of what you’re consuming, but you’re doing okay!
The problem with our food today, specifically in America, is that it is incredibly hard to avoid sugar 100%.
So how much sugar is okay?
According to a few articles I saw, like this one…
- Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
- Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
For me, that means I only drink water and tea. Nothing with added sugars, though I will sweeten my tea with honey sometimes (just 1 tsp will do).
I still eat fruit — too much of any kind of sugar is bad for you, but getting it from fruit gives you other nutrients and fills you up.
I’ll eat meals with sugar in them, like sausage or Korean beef. But if I can plan that, then I’ll avoid sugar the rest of the day and make sure I have plenty of vegetables to go with the meal.
If I know that we’re going to eat out, I look at the menu ahead of time and try to pick something on the healthier side before we get to the restaurant. Luckily, this often means I can choose something without any or at least minimal sugar and stick to it.
I don’t worry about eating bread so much, but I will choose something that’s better for you like whole wheat or rye bread.
For alcohol, I’m really simple. I like a glass of wine or about half a shot of whiskey, neat. But that’s all I ever have in a sitting.
Now what about dessert? Remember, refined sugar just tastes gross to me. I have no problem saying “no thanks” to cake at a kid’s birthday party even though I’m starving. I know it’s going to taste disgusting to me.
Luckily, my mom is a wonderful cook and baker, and both her and my grandmother taught me a lot in the kitchen. Plus, with family diets needing gluten free, sugar free, dairy free and low-to-no carb for the last few years… I’ve had plenty of practice cooking and baking for lots of different diets.
Not everything is a win (I’ve thrown out my fair share of baked goods), but there are some that I love with either coconut sugar, honey, vanilla, fruit, or something similar as the sweetener.
And don’t worry, the best ones are the easiest to make!
Here are a few of my favorite recipes
Chai Cheesecake Bars
These babies are at the TOP of my list (and are the picture at the top of the post)! Soaked and creamed cashews make a delicious cheesecake-like dessert. I’ve also done a patriotic fruit bar, and I have chocolate cheesecake on my list to try soon. These are no-bake — just freeze! And when they’re ready, leave them on the counter for 30 minutes so they’re not quite so frozen — they are even creamier. I may not miss cheesecake ever again after having these.
Sweet Potato Avocado Brownies
It’s been awhile since I’ve made these, but they really are delicious. Even David eats them… and he is unhappy about some of my healthy eating habits now. 😉
Paleo Fudgy Almond Flour Brownies
If you’re looking for something a little sweeter but still healthy, these brownies are the way to go. They’re made with coconut sugar, but are still dairy free and gluten free.
Paleo Banana Bread Muffins
I just made these yesterday, and they are delicious! I’m not a banana-chocolate kind of girl, so I skipped the chocolate chips. I also recommend including a bit of nutmeg for added flavor. They make a yummy healthy breakfast or snack. (This is not the first paleo banana bread I’ve tried, but the others came out too dry. I think the difference is the number of bananas used. For these muffins, I ended up using 4.)
If you want to see what else I’ve made, you can follow me on Pinterest. And just look up Paleo or Keto desserts to find healthier alternatives for any food. Not everything is worth making, but after a few disasters you’ll start to discover what’s worth trying and what’s a whole lot of work for bland food.