The Sweet Life—Sans Sugar
By Sue Carr
I’ve been very food-focused over the past couple weeks, with good reason.
You may have heard that Mrs. Green is taking on a new project, “What Am I Eating and Why Should I Care?” I’m excited about this project because frankly I find it frightening that most of us put more conscious thought into what to wear on our bodies each day than on what we put into our bodies.
This spurred me to think—really think—about what I consume on a daily basis. When I did, a single ingredient came to the forefront.
The effects of sugar on the human body are coming under increased scrutiny, even beyond the obvious consequences of obesity and diabetes. An article in the Huffington Post details a number of lesser-known ill effects brought on or exacerbated by excess sugar consumption, such as heart failure, liver damage, cancer risk, cognitive impairment, and premature aging—all excellent reasons to pass on the extra sweetener.
Now, I know I have a sweet tooth – the kids know to steer clear of mommy’s stash of dark chocolate or suffer dire consequences – but I didn’t realize just how much sugar I eat all day every day, in inconspicuous forms. Here’s a sampling of my typical daily diet:
Breakfast: Vanilla yogurt, granola, and dried fruit (sugar, sugar, and sugar)
Mid-morning snack: Dark chocolate and oat granola bar (sugar)
Lunch: Often natural peanut butter and all-fruit spread on whole-wheat bread (more sugar)
Mid-afternoon snack: A piece or two of dark chocolate (ahem—SUGAR)
Dinner: This seems to be the only time of day I don’t consume excess sugar, but…
Snack: I make up for it after dinner with a “little something” sweet
Add to this my beverages, which generally consist of sweetened coffee or fruit-juice spritzers, and I found that I basically consume sugar ALL DAY LONG. It’s remarkable to me that I’m not bouncing off the walls like a kid with ADHD.
I knew I had to make a change. And so for the past two weeks I have overhauled my eating habits to eliminate as much added sugar as possible from my daily routine.
It isn’t easy, to be sure. I’ve given up all the usual suspects—cookies, cakes, candies, chocolate, pastries, muffins, caramel macchiatos, etc.—as well as some less-obvious items—cereal, granola, yogurt, granola bars, sweetened trail mixes and the like. My sweet treats at this point consist only of fruit, including dried fruits (I figure their nutritional benefits outweigh the extra sugar they contain), and my beverage options include unsweetened coffee or tea, water, or seltzer with a dash of lemon or lime. No juices. No sodas. No smoothies. No macchiatos. And no artificial sweeteners, either. They only feed the addiction.
Now, I’m not going to fool you into believing that this chocolate-loving, ice-cream-licking, cookie-baking dessert enthusiast is giving up the sweet stuff forever. But I’m hoping that this experiment will make me more conscious about what I’m eating minute to minute, and how little alterations here and there could have a huge impact on my health. Already I’m noticing my sweet cravings transition from chocolates and pastries to dates and figs. I can only imagine how this switch will impact my overall health. I’m looking forward to finding out.
Over this next week, I encourage you to give serious thought to what you’re eating each day, and to make some tweaks to your diet that could truly impact your health—maybe try a meatless week, or a sugar-free one, or go gluten-free for seven days—and then send us a comment about the results. Who knows, that one little change could be the catalyst that spawns a longer, better life for you and your family.
Sue Nelko Carr is a freelance writer, editor, blogger and a full-time mother, trying to live a greener life in Pittsburgh, PA.