I’ve heard it takes 21 days to create a habit. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I can attest to the fact that one month is definitely long enough to change your eating habits and your palate. When we decided to eliminate processed food and all added sugar, everything changed. After a month of eating a virtually sugar-free diet (except for fruits), I am ready to share the lessons we learned.
1. Sugar is Everywhere. We don’t need it at home too. My children get sugar from school all the time. Birthday treats brought in, teachers giving candy rewards (ugh…don’t get me started), class parties, snacks at clubs, reward parties for bringing in Box Tops, etc, etc. We also eat out once a month and I’m positive it’s impossible to avoid all sugar when eating out. Sugar can also be found in food offered at friends’ homes and in presents from friends & relatives. The list just goes on and on. So, we are doing our part to cut down on sugar consumption. We don’t bring added sugar into our house. Any added sugar we get comes from outside sources.
2. A Low Sugar Diet is Good for Your Mood. At least in our experience. During our strict month of no-added sugar, my son only had 2 meltdowns. Both times were when he had received sugar at school (birthday treats). The rest of the month was smooth sailing. Everyone slept better, had better moods in general, and the household just seemed happier.
3. Eating Sugar Makes You Want More Sugar. So, as I mentioned above, my son was given sugary treats at school twice during our month of no sugar. Both those times, he had “withdrawals”. He started searching for sugary items in the house. I don’t think he even realized what he was doing, but he looked for flavored yogurts, ice cream, cookies, etc. And, the following day he remarked on feeling especially tired. But, when our blood sugar levels stayed stable, our sugar cravings were just not there.
4. Eating Sugar Free, Whole Foods is Easier (and cheaper) Than You Think. I thought I would be in the kitchen all the time when we eliminated sugar. And, I thought I would struggle with making so many meals. But, honestly, it was easy. It helped that I planned our all our meals for the week in advance. I went the grocery store and stocked up on what we needed for the week. For lunch, we mostly had leftovers from dinner or simple lunches like apple sandwiches or crackers and cheese. We repeated a lot of our favorite meals. Our grocery budget honestly got cut in half (and I was the coupon queen!) by eating real, unprocessed foods.
5. Sugar Does Not Equal Love. Almost every time we want to show someone we love them, there is sugar involved. Birthdays, holidays, celebrations….they all involve cake, cookies, chocolate or special trips to the ice cream store. When we weren’t eating sugar, we had to find otherwise to celebrate big accomplishments, like getting a good grade on a difficult project. We found other ways to show love….sharing fun activities together, writing cards, playing games. And, you know how when you’re feeling depressed or had a bad day, you reach for the Ben & Jerry’s or the big bar of chocolate? We had to re-train ourselves to seek out hugs and long talks. Sugar doesn’t equal love, but sometimes it feels like that’s what our society believes. It did take some extra effort, but we were able to find ways to feel love, share love, and give and receive comfort without eating sugar.
So, what does all this mean for our family going forward? Well, we enjoyed our unprocessed, sugar-free month so much that we are going to continue eating that way (for the most part). Real, whole foods will always be our priority. I’m done with processed foods and ingredients I can’t pronounce. However, I’m not going to nit-pick about what happens to my family outside of our house. I’m not going to make my kids feel bad for indulging in an occasional treat at school or a friend’s house. And, we are going to continue eating out once week. Again, I’m not going to give my children a complex about making the healthiest choice possible. Hopefully, they will learn with time to do that on their own. In the meantime, if they choose to have a hot dog for dinner out, so be it.
We will continue to avoid sugar in our house. I will not buy 100% juice or anything that has sugar (in any form) listed in the ingredients. I will use monk fruit extract for the occasional baked good that needs some sweetener. We will eat whole grains, nothing processed and refined. We will continue to eat in fruit in abundance. Although I know fruit sugar is controversial to some who avoid sugar, I just can’t yet be convinced that something so good for you is also bad. Whoever got fat from eating apples?!?! I think the natural fibers in fruit slow down the sugar absorption and keep your blood sugar levels steady.
So, basically after a month of eating sugar-free, we have changed our lives. We no longer crave sugar and everything tastes much sweeter now. Our palates have changed, our lifestyle has changed, and we are better for it. Life is sweet without sugar.