Sugar Rules

October 8, 2013

tutorial for the perfect chocolate chip cookie

By Gabrielle. Image by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

You may remember that months ago I mentioned the NY Times article about toxic sugar. The article really stuck with me — possibly because I have a long-standing passion for all things sugary. : ) Since then I’ve done more reading on the subject and the family has made several sincere (but failed!) attempts to eat less sugar. But our latest effort seems to be working. Granted, it’s a baby step, but I thought I’d share in case anyone else out there is trying to cut back.

We instituted a sugar-only-on-the weekends rule, and I think it’s a keeper. It’s quite loose, and non-stressful, and that’s probably why we’re having more success. Basically it works like this:

1) There are no treats around during the week, except fresh fruit. No treats includes no soda or juice. And I’ve tried to be really strict about finding products with no added sugar. Mayo with no sugar. Tomato sauce with no sugar. Hot dogs with no sugar. Bread with no sugar. Peanut Butter with no sugar. Chicken Stock with no sugar. Crackers with no sugar. (It’s challenging. Sugar is in everything!) If we go out to eat during the week, we don’t order dessert (or soda).

2) Saturday and Sunday are sugar freebie days. If we’re at the grocery store and the kids see Apple Jacks or Sour Patch Kids and make a request, our answer is, “Yum! Is that the treat you want to pick out this weekend?” Also, we love baking, so we save it for the weekend as well. This has been lovely. The kids really look forward to their weekend treats and no one seems to feel deprived.

3) If the kids have candy at school for somebody’s birthday or if there’s a popsicle fundraiser, that’s fine. We try to keep pretty loose about this outside of our house.

And it seems to be working! We’re eating less sugar overall, and when we do eat something sweet, it’s intentional — like a bowl of ice cream on Saturday afternoon, instead of accidentally having sugar in our bolognese sauce. It also seems like we’re craving less sugar overall.

As for health benefits, I honestly can’t say I’ve seen any differences at all! Hah! But I’m trying to keep the long view in mind — my father died of adult onset diabetes at age 52, and research shows the link between sugar and diabetes (and cancer, too) so clearly.

Have any of you tried to cut out or cut down sugar intake at your house? We’re total amateurs, but I’m sure some of you are pros! I’d love your tips and tricks.

P.S. — One more thing that’s helped us: We keep small bottles of sparking water in the fridge instead of pop. It satisfies that soda craving with out a bit of sugar!

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monday: best of last week | The Misadventures of Kelly and Kelly
October 14, 2013 at 6:02 am

{ 91 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Emma October 8, 2013 at 2:46 am

I’ve literally *just* been looking into this again for our family. Here in Australia, the “I Quit Sugar” concept seems to be popular and I am keen to look more into it, thinking of picking up the cookbook this week.

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2 dunski October 8, 2013 at 3:23 am

Last year my mom found out about her fiabetes..and since can only eat sugat very very limited…as in a tiny bit of dark chocolate or fruit that is not on the sugarlist. I always felt that people who di a month a year sugar diet as stupid.sorry.but my moms’diagbose got me to rwthink our sugar diet ..we never drank soda and I don’t like candy..but I am a huge fan of fine dark chocolate and cakes and cookies…and syrups (i’m swiss).So now we also try to bake and eat less cake and to rather eat a salty breakfast..bread with cheese or porridge without sugar or less.I think I’ll neverwant to be wothout sugar but I really believe we people in the western hemisphere eat
to much sugar. I like your approach.my kuds drink soda at other people’s parties and on birthdayparties…and we still struggle with our youngest boys love for candy. :-)

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3 dunski October 8, 2013 at 3:27 am

Sorry for the bad spelling..my phone is not respecting me.. :-( my mom has a form of diabetes..i’ve got kids..aso.

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4 kelly harp October 8, 2013 at 8:11 am

i love that you said “my phone is not respecting me”! great way to put it & i get that!!!

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5 Erin October 8, 2013 at 3:48 am

Oh, that’s a great first step. My daughter (4 y.o.) doesn’t have a sweet tooth, so it’s very easy. I’m the one who needs to cut back. I’ve been doing really well but I cannot escape my morning tea. I have such nice, whole, black tea and brewing it is my little morning ritual. I measured what I use and it is just over 1/2 teaspoon, but it’s still sugar. I might have to just accept that tiny amount on the week days.

Another option for the sparkling water is to flavor it with extract (or get some of the no sugar/no sweetener seltzers that are everywhere now). I find that satisfies the bubbly soda craving and the craving for a drink with flavor that I get whenever I have really savory foods.

You won’t need this tip b/c you have a big family: whenever I do bake the very next day (or the Monday) I send whatever is left with my husband to his office. It’s a win-win b/c the folks there get a treat and there’s no more sugary temptation at the house!

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6 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 9:40 am

I know what you mean. If we went cold turkey on sugar as a family, my kids would adjust quickly, but I would freak out! I’m the one with the sugar issues.

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7 Tasha October 8, 2013 at 6:34 pm

I hate to admit it as I never had a sweet tooth my entire life, but the past few years have had one…and have gained a ton of weight too. I cannot seem to have coffee without a few teaspoons and am a firm believer in real sugar vs. artificial. (Although I have tried and do like Truvia or Stevia). Aside from the weight gain that is a combination of several factors this sugar kick scares me when I also read about the overall negative effects. Help!

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8 rebecca October 16, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Dear Erin,
Try cinammon in your tea, it is amazingly sweet! It also helps to stabilize blood sugar and sharpen the mind. Oh, but not while you’re pregnant!

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9 Marjolein October 8, 2013 at 4:33 am

Great initiative! I didn’t eat refined sugar for about 10 years, because it made me tired and shaky. There are so many tasty alternatives you can bake! Like banana bread (http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Sugar-Free-Banana-Bread-Recipezaar_1?columns=4&position=1%2F40) sweetened with orange juice. You can also use date syrup, agave syrup, honey or 100% stevia as natural sweeteners for baking with your usual recipes. I always make quick apple strudels with puff pastry, apples and raisins, nothing else. Once you get used to eating less or no sugar, you will taste everything so much better. In a few months, you don’t need the really sweet stuff anymore. Good luck!

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10 Allison October 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Given that the NYT article was raising the issue of sugar based on the insulin response it creates in our bodies, I am curious if honey (or any of the other alternative sweeteners) would be any better?

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11 Mollie Frances *The Almond Flower* October 8, 2013 at 5:01 am

This is such a timely post! I know more and more people becoming aware of sugar and trying to cut it out. It’s really hard!

I run my gluten free blog called The Almond Flower, where I bake with almond flour and natural sweeteners, like honey. I had to seriously cut out sugar a few years ago after I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and was still feeling poorly, gained weight and still had severe migraines.
Cutting out sugar seems like it’s solved almost all of my problems! But I had a HUGE sweet tooth before hand and would eat all things sugary any time of day- even cake for breakfast sometimes.
Anyway,
Good for you for cutting it out where you can and enjoying it still as a treat!
xoxo Mollie
http://www.thealmondflower.com/

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12 Sydney October 8, 2013 at 5:06 am

This is a great idea and it awesome that it is working for you guys! I think I could cut out most sugar except from my morning coffee! Lol Maybe I’ll give it a try this week :)

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13 emily October 8, 2013 at 5:21 am

we do this at our house! and we love it. it definitely makes you more thoughtful. also sparkling water helps a lot!

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14 Andrea October 8, 2013 at 5:34 am

I love this. This is my “rule” for fun screen time. It’s so easy to just relax and save up for the weekend and to just not think about it during the school/work week. I don’t know why I’ve never done something like for sugar. Probably because I’m the addict on this one!

But honestly, a few years ago I eliminated sugar (and simple carbs) completely and have never felt better! Unfortunately, I have drifted back into a lot of sugar consumption! Good for you all – I think I’ll see about doing the same around my house. My kids think no meal is complete without dessert! I’ve even been asked for “breakfast dessert”! Hahaha!!!

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15 J Lara October 8, 2013 at 5:37 am

Hi G – I just started to refollow my gestational diabetes diet as I literally lost so much goo from my body (legs, thighs, back, arms) when I was on it and pregnant. I am not trying to consume as many calories as a pregnant woman needs, but the diet calls for very limited sugars – maybe one piece of fruit a day, absolutely no added sugar, no desserts, very small portion sizes and eating about every 2-3 hours (vs. 3 meals + snacks). I figure it worked before when I was pregnant; it could work again now that I am not, but feeling like sugar rules my world. Good luck to you!

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16 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 9:46 am

Seeing your “one piece of fruit a day” reminds me we still eat lots of fruit — probably too much. I seem to do okay with fruit, but I have a friend who can feel ill effects from even one apple! He reads Gary Taubes work, and has eliminated most carbs from his diet — even whole grains and fruits.

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17 rebecca October 16, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Bake that apple with some butter and cinnamon!

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18 Catherine October 8, 2013 at 6:06 am

Congrats on a really great health choice – you may not feel any different yet, but the long-term benefits are so, so worth it!
We were really keen that our son (now 17 months old) not feel the urge to consume sugar (and the hassle that comes with having to control that urge), so we just never introduced it to him. We meticulously check everything we give him that’s ready-made, and otherwise we make things from scratch. He also never drinks fruit juice (though he eats plenty of actual fruit).
We didn’t want to have a dietary divide, so we completely quit sugar ourselves too. The first couple of weeks are truly brutal, but, once it’s exited your system, you never crave it again. We bake using honey or coconut sugar – it actually tastes better. We’ve never regretted this choice.
Good luck!

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19 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 9:47 am

Congrats! I confess, I’m jealous of your will power. I seem to have a sugar addiction — I don’t think I could make it two weeks!

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20 Catherine October 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Your very own Raleigh-Elizabeth introduced me to this:
http://www.amazon.com/BabyCakes-Gluten-Free-Sugar-Free-Recipes-Talked-About/dp/0307408833
It made the two weeks so much easier! Actually, even if you don’t want to quit sugar, the recipes are amazing! :-)

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21 Rachel October 8, 2013 at 6:43 am

I’m a fan of coconut palm sugar for baking. It’s full of great minerals, low glycemic and a 1:1 replacement for white or brown sugar.

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22 Caryn October 8, 2013 at 9:24 am

I second the coconut palm sugar! It is more expensive, but we don’t keep sugar in the house at all and use it as a great replacement. Other recipes fit with xylitol or stevia and I typically sub honey or even a little maple syrup occasionally too. All better than refined sugar and you don’t feel the crash. :)

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23 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 9:51 am

Good to know! I’ve never heard of the coconut palm sugar. I haven’t experimented much with baking sweetener alternatives. I’m thinking during the week, we wouldn’t use them (nothing sweet but whole fruit), but on the weekend, maybe they would improve our baking.

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24 Dawn October 8, 2013 at 6:51 am

I am just curious. Is this an American thing. Are the French worried about sugar intake? How do the two diets differ?

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25 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 9:37 am

Great question! I’m actually working on a post related to this so it’s on my mind. Despite the tempting bakeries, in my experience the French eat far less sugar than Americans. They are more likely to cook with whole, unprocessed foods — eliminating the risk of added sugar. And though they eat a dessert after every lunch, they consider whole plain fruit a dessert, or a slightly sweetened yogurt.

One of the tricky things in America is that sugar is in almost everything at the grocery store — even where it has no business being (like mayo). You have to really hunt to find no-sugar-added products. They have plenty of junk food and treats in France, but it’s easy to find things like bread without sugar.

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26 Miggy October 8, 2013 at 7:24 am

This is so similar to something we just started doing–we have treat days on Saturday and Wednesday. Except here’s the thing–it’s for our kids and not my husband and I. I know….hypocrites! Our kids are still pretty young and we realized they were getting out of hand expecting a treat after every meal and like you said we’re pretty loosey-goosey about it, but still now they know they don’t just get treats every day.

My husband and I are definite sugar addicts and while we don’t eat it in front of the kids on non-treat days, we still have treats daily. We realize we need to make the same change as well but it’s easy to justify…like you I don’t feel a different when I go off sugar. Some people say once you stop for a couple weeks its out of your system and you don’t crave it anymore. Not true for me in my experience! I may crave it less, but I still want it. Also, since neither of us have weight issues I guess we feel OK about it. That being said, we don’t want our kids to be like us (sugar addicts) and so that’s why we want to make sure they don’t eat it daily. And I know in the long run it’s not good whether you feel a difference or not. We do know we eventually need to be on the same rule as the kids, but …. (hangs head in shame.)

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27 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 9:53 am

Oh I hear you. I seriously crave sugar! It is my one big dietary vice.

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28 Corrie Anne October 8, 2013 at 7:49 am

Those seem like reasonable guidelines — and saving baking for the weekend is definitely actually kind of fun in a way!

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29 Sarah October 8, 2013 at 7:54 am

i quit cold turkey a few years ago, and while i went back to eating it, my appetite for it was greatly reduced. (this was right after reading that article!). i eat just a bit now, usually in the form of very dark chocolate. i think my energy levels are much more stable…

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30 Melissa L. October 8, 2013 at 7:56 am

I’m doing my second round of Whole 30. My husband and I did it together for the month of July, and I’m doing it again this month. My downfall is dairy + sugar – I discovered it wrecks havoc on my skin as well as creating the cycle of irritability and tiredness. Like you, I am trying to cut out out the hidden sugars. I love ice cream and bread (not together) and chocolate so they won’t be gone completely once the month is up, but limited to weekends and trying to upgrade the quality (purity of ingredients.) I have been unsuccessful finding store-bought chicken stock or pasta sauce without sugar; would you share the brands you have found?

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31 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 9:56 am

That’s the trick, isn’t it? I feel like I need extra time at the grocery store just to read labels! For pasta sauce, we end up making our own. We’re out of chicken stock at the moment, and I don’t remember the brand — it’s a new one to me — but next time I buy some I’ll update the post.

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32 The Other Robin October 8, 2013 at 10:57 am

For pasta sauce, we like Trader Joe’s Marinara Sauce. The one in the green can has only a few ingredients, all of them pronounceable, and none of them sugar. It’s also low fat. As for chicken stock, that’s a tough one! My husband makes homemade when we have chicken (I’m a lucky girl!) but when we’re out, it’s not easy to find a good stock without a bunch of additives.

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33 Melissa L. October 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Thank you!

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34 Karen October 8, 2013 at 8:05 am

What always alarms me is how much sugar is added into products you don’t think of as sugary…bread, sauces and oh my gosh, yogurt. It’s startling how many grams of sugar are in yogurt. I’ve been slowly shifting my kids toward yogurts with less sugar by it’s amazing how accustomed their taste buds are to the sweet taste. One very tasty brand of no sugar added pasta sauce is Amy’s Family Marinara. So good.
I think our family could do the weekend only sugar plan. I couldn’t completely give up ice cream but I definitely could strive toward a week free of treats if I knew I’d still be able to indulge a bit on the weekend.

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35 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

Yogurt! Since we moved back from France, we have ended up buying plain yogurt and sweetening it ourselves — it’s just too sweet here! And the whip cream too. We make our own now because the spray stuff tastes too sugary to our altered tastebuds.

But if we hadn’t moved I’m sure it would taste totally normal to me. I basically had to move away and be forced to eat less sugar for me to change my eating habits. I swear I have no will power where sugar is concerned. Hah!

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36 Koseli Cummings October 8, 2013 at 8:10 am

Yes, we are trying to do this too. Saturday is our free day but we honestly end up not wanting tons of fatty and sugary foods because we just don’t have the taste for it or forget. It works great.

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37 Sarah @ Hunting for Ladybugs October 8, 2013 at 8:13 am

We’ve been a sugar-free family for about 3 months now – I still have to think about it every day and cut that little bit more out. I now use Dextrose (powdered glucose) in my baking and have found that much easier for coping with morning and afternoon tea snacks. I also found the ketchup recipe over here great and very like the original store-bought sugar-laden variety — http://www.redhillrecipes.com/ Good luck with your journey!

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38 kelly harp October 8, 2013 at 8:20 am

we’ve tried this before & i’m now inspired to give it a go again! thanks for sharing :)

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39 Elisabeth October 8, 2013 at 8:24 am

Good luck sticking with your new habits! When you change your sugar habits you will make your kids a huge favor in the long run but it does require some persistence. Also, make sure the “no/low sugar” food does not contain artificial sweeteners. Those might be worse than real sugar! With three kids, we’ve tried to stick to the Swedish tradition of “Saturday candy”. It means that the kids get some candy on Saturdays and none on other days. It worked well when the kids were small, but we wish that teachers, other parents and stores would not give out candy as a reward as often as they do. We also serve water at dinner to avoid the sugar highs right before bed time and the sweets we serve are less sweet than what most Americans are used to.

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40 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 10:03 am

I know what you mean. When we’ve tried to go really strict on no-sugar, we end up feeling anti-social and kind of obnoxious, because it’s offered up to kids in innocent contexts every day — at school, at church, by well-meaning neighbors. We couldn’t make it work, so we had to relax about it and just deal with the sugar in our own home.

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41 sarah October 9, 2013 at 10:29 am

So smart. As long as you don’t have to be totally strict (no allergies or serious, immediate health effects), I find it’s important to teach kids about balanced eating. When we restrict things in their entirety, we then to pervert them.

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42 Sandra H. October 8, 2013 at 8:45 am

Cutting out added sugar is huge progress — and this rule makes you choose better alternatives at the grocery store, too, doesn’t it? We virtually eliminated processed, white sugar. Our daughter, 7, has type 1 diabetes (and a sweet tooth!). Honestly, I think foods with artificial zero-carb sweeteners (“sugar-free”) are more evil than a little natural sugar. We don’t use Stevia either (don’t like the taste). I sweeten everything with local raw honey, dates or agave, and my daughter’s little body handles these natural sweeteners much better. Her blood glucose level doesn’t spike as it does with white sugar or processed treats — goes to show you. I also bake a lot (mostly gluten free, by choice) and usually cut the amount of sweetener in the recipe in half. No one has noticed/complained (so shhh). Give your kids time, it’s a process. But you can literally train their taste buds to love less sweet things (dark chocolate, etc.) Good luck!

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43 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

So fascinating that her body treats natural sweeteners differently than processed sugar — and that you can measure it! I feel like the articles and books I’ve read are inconsistent on this point.

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44 allysha October 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

Several years ago we seriously cut down on sugar at our house when it appeared to be having some really adverse affects on one of our kids. We instituted “no sugar month” and we do that 2-3 times a year, and keep our sweets to a minimum. I even changed the kind of jam we buy!

What shocked me the first time we did a month without sugar was how much junk my kids got at school. It makes me really frustrated. I told my kids I’d pay them for their candy, and several of them do that (except for the child I am concerned about! :)

I love the weekend approach. We’ll have to try that out.

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45 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

School and church! They’re both a sugar fest around these parts.

I like your idea of buying their candy from them. I may try that!

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46 Jane October 8, 2013 at 9:09 am

I bake often, and most of the time, it’s without sugar. Try making savory muffins: Banana-carrot muffins: 2-3 bananas mashed; 1 lb carrots, grated OR 2 cups pumpkin puree OR 1-2 cups grated zucchini & yellow squash OR 1-2 cups any veggies like spinach, kale, eggplant, whatever; 1/4c sunflower oil; splash of vanilla extract. Mix it all, then add: 3/4c whole wheat flour; 1/2c ground flax; 1/2c baby oatmeal; 1 tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp baking soda; 1/4 tsp salt. Mix, add a handful of golden raisins. Bake in silicone muffin cups for 35 minutes at 350F. After 35 minutes, check the muffins: if the insides stick to a toothpick, they aren’t done — then turn off oven and leave muffins inside for another 5-7 minutes; otherwise, take them out. Makes about 24 muffins (sometimes less, sometimes more depending on how full you fill the cups).

Also, banana bread doesn’t need any extra sugar:

3 large bananas
1/4 cup oil (vegetable, olive, whatever)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1.5 cups whole wheat flour or 2 cups almond meal or 1 cup whole wheat & 1 cup ground flax
2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch of salt
Cinnamon to taste
Walnuts, chocolate chips, dried cranberries, almonds, etc. — just pick something you like and eyeball the quantity

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Grease a loaf pan
3. Mash bananas, add vanilla and oil and mix to combine
4. Sift flour, soda, salt, cinnamon into the wet ingredients until just mixed
5. Add flavorings, mix lightly.
6. Turn mixture into prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick — if nothing sticks, it’s done. If not, turn off oven and leave in there for five minutes.

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47 Tanya October 8, 2013 at 9:15 am

Awesome! Just be careful about the no sugar items that you are using; sometimes they are worse than sugar. It is scary when you really look at the ingredients!

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48 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 10:10 am

I agree. We don’t buy anything that has a sugar replacement, we just try to buy foods that shouldn’t have sugar — or any sweeteners — in the first place. (Except on the weekends, of course.)

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49 Rose October 8, 2013 at 9:41 am

Hi Gabrielle,

I have extensive experience with this as my son has a very high sensitivity to cane sugar (almost allergic). Sugar is in everything! I recommend the Barbara’s brand of cereals and cookies for kiddos as they tend to be sweetened with molasses instead of cane sugar (mostly found at Whole Foods). They are good and still have that sweetness and it’s nice to still let them have what they think are treats. Good luck with the good fight!

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50 Amy3 October 8, 2013 at 10:08 am

I really admire you and all the readers who’ve posted about their reduction (or elimination) of sugar. I really need to do this. My dad has borderline high blood sugar (or may be pre-diabetic, I’m not sure). I sit a lot at work, and I know how detrimental that is in terms of blood sugar. However, I think it would be such a hard sell in my house.

How did you convince your kids to get on board?

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51 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 10:18 am

Good question, Amy. For us, it’s one of those times where we’re the parents, and can choose the food we’re bringing into our house — complaints be damned. And we’re quite open with our kids about what we’ve read and learned about sugar, so they know this isn’t a random thing we’ve instituted to torture them. I think that helps.

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52 Shani October 8, 2013 at 10:24 am

This is great! I love the reminder to be vigilant about seeking out the hidden sugar in savory foods.

Friends of ours do something similar that we intend to adopt. Their kids get to choose one weeknight and one weekend night to have dessert. This way, treats are limited but the kids are empowered and get to control the specific days. It works really well!

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53 Leah October 8, 2013 at 10:54 am

Good for you for taking sugar seriously! We are a sugar-free family…the only sweet things we consume are fruit and local raw honey. We have seen amazing benefits in our family since we completely kicked the habit (we had always limited it’s use before). My husband used to have terrible aches and pains in his joints but since about three weeks into the no sugar business all of that has completely disappeared. We also eat very little grain and practically no processed foods (I call most things you can buy in a box or bag “white death” as most of the nutrition has been stripped from them and they have been bleached to give a “perfect” appearance…a sad but common thing in our American food culture).

One of the nicest aspects of being processed-sugar free is that natural foods taste so much sweeter…I can simply add coco powder to our raw milk and the kids think its sugary chocolate milk!

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54 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Your version of chocolate milk has me curious! I think I’ll have to try it.

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55 Leah October 8, 2013 at 1:20 pm

If you need a little sweetener just dollop a tad of raw honey in the milk with the coco powder and whip it up with an immersion blender…it’s really delicious and helps ward off the chocolate cravings!

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56 jax October 9, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Our version of chocolate milk is 1 cup of whole milk, 1 banana (frozen is even better), and cocoa powder to taste in a blender. It’s really sweet! Sometimes I’ll drink this after a workout w/a tablespoon or so of natural peanut butter blended in. Tastes like a milkshake, and not just to palates weaned off of sugar! :)

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57 Julie October 8, 2013 at 11:05 am

I have spent the last 20 years trying to change my diet so that I will feel and be more healthy. Mentally, emotionally, physically, etc. Over time I have lost my desire for most of the sugary treats I once adored. It takes time, but it is so worth it. Just like my daughter said, “I stopped biting my fingernails one finger at a time.” In order to see an overall difference in the health benefits of “no sugar” you have to go without it longer, and longer… With that said, sugar is everywhere and in everything. I can report that with a change in diet I have reduced stress and anxiety by 90%, I am off all asthma drugs after 10 years of steroid inhalers, allergy shots, and nebulizer treatments. I am happier and more stable – physically, mentally, emotionally, and hormonally. The best I can do for my kids is educate them about the harmful effects of sugar and be an example. Good luck!

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58 maryann October 8, 2013 at 11:07 am

Great post! I’m curious if you’ve noticed your kids being more sensitive to sugar when they do get it now, e.g. bigger sugar highs or lows? We have a similar approach to sugar at home, and I notice when my kids don’t have sugar for awhile and then eat some, it seems to affect them more than when they have been eating more sugar in general (like on a vacation). They get a super sugar high followed by big sugar crash. So curious to hear it others have similar experiences.

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59 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I haven’t noticed, but I’m not the most observant about this sort of thing. Hopefully someone else will chime in.

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60 Elizabeth October 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I am a week or so into 60 days of no sugar. While it is a little difficult (especially those first couple days and when visiting with friends), it is so worthwhile. Studies say that sugar causes inflammation — the main cause of numerous diseases, including CANCER. ack!

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61 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Congrats on 60 days! Maybe some day I will follow your inspiring lead. For now, I am trying to be satisfied with my baby steps. : )

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62 Regina October 10, 2013 at 11:43 pm

I heard about those studies too. Seeing my mom deal with aching joints the whole day and that we have cancer on all sides of the family, it’s been a bit easier to kick the sugar habit. Not to say that I don’t get cravings every so often, but I’ve definitely cut down.

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63 Kelly October 8, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I have been thinking about sugar reduction in our household as well and this post has kicked me into gear, thanks! I would love it if you could share one or two typical weekday menus. Maybe even a few of your favorite new no-sugar products and or foods that the whole family loves.

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64 Vertie October 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Sugar is a challenge in our household too. Since fruit is the closest thing to a vegetable that my 3.5 year old will eat, he gets a lot of fruit. Otherwise I try to avoid processed foods. It’s shameful how much sugar is allowed into all foods but especially those labelled as kid foods.

I did want to mention that for some kids (and adults), weekend only or x-day only may end fetishizing (?) sweets. For a while we had a Sunday ice cream day. My son asked every day, several res a day, if it was Sunday and getting upset that it wasn’t Sunday. Sunday itself was a nightmare until he had ice cream. Once I stopped Sunday ice cream and made it a random, infrequent event, things were much better. Just a suggestion if others are having difficulty limiti g sweets to certain days.

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65 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 1:31 pm

I think that’s a really good point, Vertie. If we were to get really strict, I can imagine the whole thing backfiring.

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66 neda October 8, 2013 at 1:24 pm

i have cut sugar from my diet for about the past 2 years. i have found it weakens my immune system and makes me more prone to getting colds and UTI’s (bacteria love sugar!). I do eat honey and i bake with maple syrup sugar (Trader Joe’s has a great organic maple syrup sugar and it’s priced quite well). I just moved to the UK and it’s hard to find that here, so luckily I brought about 20 packs with me, which should hopefully last at least 6-8 months. It’s great to bake with maple syrup sugar, because you don’t have to substitute for maple syrup (a liquid), you can add in the same amount as you would normal refined or even brown sugar.

it’s harder to limit my kids intake of sugar, but basically i don’t cook or bake with it at home, and they are allowed occasional treats (chocolate, gummy bears) that are of good quality. i also allow them to have it at school if they are celebrating a birthday, etc. I don’t want to deprive them too much and have it backfire.

Overall, it’s been great. I miss the occasional chocolate eclair or coconut cream pie, but I’ve found that when I’ve broken my no sugar “rule” for myself, it has more than often slapped me in the face, and I came down with either a bad cold or a UTI. lesson learned!

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67 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was sort of wishing I had some kind direct, negative, bodily response to sugar — like getting an infection when I ate it, just so that it would really force me to make better food choices. It is hard to stay disciplined when I don’t see the physical proof of the positive impact of the habits.

But really, I wouldn’t wish sickness on myself or anyone else. Having a cold is rotten!

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68 Carly October 8, 2013 at 6:02 pm

For me too, sugar=UTI. It was just about the only thing that could have made me give up chocolate! I still have cravings, but it’s worth going without lovely chocolate for my health. I bake with glucose powder (also called dextrose) because the fructose in regular sugar really sets me off – I can have a slice or two of cake baked with glucose no problem. If you substitute it 1:1 for the sugar then your cakes won’t be so sweet (fructose tastes sweeter than glucose) but you can just put in more if you want, and your sense of sweetness changes when you cut back on sugar anyway, so that really sweet stuff isn’t as appealing. I have to say that I admire you cutting back on hidden sugars, Gabrielle – American food seems to have so much sugar hiding EVERYWHERE! :-)

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69 Carla October 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Thanks for sharing. You have really piqued my curiosity. When you say that you are not eating sugar, what exactly are you not eating? Does it include bread and milk? I feel like my family does not eat much sugar but I am wondering if that is just because I am unaware of it? Like in boxed cereal? (Although we have a rule with the kids, that if sugar is one of the first four ingredients in the cereal we don’t buy it). Is that what you mean? My kids do drink juice at breakfast but have milk or water for the rest of the day. Chocolate milk is an occasional treat but we always buy skim milk – does that make a difference? What about natural fruit bars or granola bars? goldfish crackers? My kids never drink pop and hardly ever eat candy, maybe only at friend’s birthday party. We don’t often have dessert but if we do it is homemade cookies or maybe a pie usually only once on the weekend. I usually read labels to check for salt content in soups and sauces so now I guess I need to look for sugar. I am wondering if you could recommend some resources, or information. What to eliminate and what to keep. Thanks!

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70 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I’d say that if you’re happy with the amount of sugar you’re consuming, then don’t stress. Not everyone needs to change their diet.

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71 Cori October 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

So what are some healthy snacks that you substitute when you have a sugar craving? I have a huge sweet tooth and would find this challenge difficult! Kudos to you!

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72 Design Mom October 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm

During the week, it’s really down to fresh fruit if I’m craving something sweet. Luckily California is amazing at producing excellent fruit! If it’s simply a snack I’m wanting (not necessarily sweetness), I go with things like chips and salsa, cheese, or salted nuts.

Sometimes, I really just want sugar, but I remind myself I’ll have it on Saturday or Sunday. And then I eat some grapes to tide myself over.

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73 Melissa October 8, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I like to dilute our juice with a bit more water and my daughter never notices. She just thinks it’s normal. You can do this slowly until your taste buds adjust. My mother had a rule, no sugar cereal except on Christmas. Each Christmas we could pick out one sugar cereal box. Why we always chose Trix, I have no idea. The box lasted only two-three days, but it made Christmas breakfast so much fun!!

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74 Zoe - SlowMama October 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm

You are so right — everything in the average supermarket has sugar in it… even things you would never think, and really don’t need it. You certainly get to know brands once you start reading the labels! Soda is a banished from the house, and we only drink fresh juice as a treat. It’s mostly water, tea, and nut milks in here.

I don’t tolerate sugar very well and limit myself to desserts for special occasions or when I’m out, dried fruit at home (and fresh fruit in smoothies), and I bake a lot with honey, maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar. The rest of my family has a harder time going sugar-free so we’re working on it!

Changing your diet is one of the hardest things to do. (Just wrote a post about this very topic today before I saw your post.) Good for you for making incremental changes — that’s totally the way to go!

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75 Mary October 8, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Gabby– Thank you for this post! I have started researching this but hadn’t come across the NYT Mag article yet. So compelling. I think I will adopt your weekend-only strategy–great idea!

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76 Cecilia October 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm

Something that has helped me eliminate 99.9% of sugar cravings is making sure I get enough protein and good fats in my diet. Yep, fat. I think that protein and good fats have eliminated my sugar cravings. For the past two weeks I’ve been following the Perfect Health Diet. I used to be a constant snacker—almost afraid to leave the house without some nuts or dark chocolate—but now I am completely satisfied with three meals a day. I have to admit, I’m kind of stunned by this. I have no awful blood sugar dips and I can look at a piece of chocolate in the cupboard and not care to eat it! It feels strange, but I like it.;) Everyone is different, but since this has (surprisingly) worked for me, I thought I would mention it.

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77 Tasha October 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm

You are all inspiring me! Thank you for this and all of the free information! I think it’s doable!!! Starting now…♥

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78 Kelsey October 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Most of our sugar issues come from outside sources. Each Tuesday, a father on our daughter’s soccer team brings a maple bar doughnut for every player. Last Friday, two kids in our childrens’ class had a birthday and they each got two chocolate cupcakes. Kids at school give our kids their packaged treats while our kids eagerly accept them because they we don’t have them much at home. The piano teacher gives candy for every song learned, and theory completed. The candy jar for the kids on time at scouts. At church, the kids try to earn candy too. I wish the adults in their lives could understand that, in the long-run, sugar is not a kind thing to give. It is harmful and addictive, but because kids will do a lot for a treat and it is cheap and requires no thought, many adults feel like the good guy having some sugar to give out for their one time with a child that week.

I guess the thing about it is, we work so hard to have healthy food in our home, that as a mom, it seems like the one who should get to be the once-in-a-while treat-giver…should be me! Ha.

Last Spring we finally decided that instead of asking adults to stop giving regular sugar to our kids, our kids would have to be the ones to say no to affect change. So we had a “Forgo for Health” month where the kids earned one point for every processed sugar they decided to forgo. And at the end of the month the points bought seats to a late night home movie and also toppings for some quality Sundae stuff.

Still though, it would be so awesome if there was a movement among the adult teachers and group leaders in children’s lives not to automatically hand out sugar!

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79 Tasha October 9, 2013 at 4:06 am

As a teacher I hear you! I have done so in the past…and probably still would dole out candy for prizes or other IF it weren’t for being aware of so many allergies these days that in out school even snacks in the classrooms are NOT allowed! I realize between this and your comments how this has changes my prizes for the better:) But the kids did get happiest for candy, you’re right – Good luck!

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80 cath October 8, 2013 at 10:29 pm

That’s a really interesting post. It reminds me of the first time I went to the US; I thought that everything tasted sweet, even vinaigrette and mustard!
Today I have a weight problem due to water retention; I’m not really fat, more like swollen. They to losing water is to eat no sugar at all and no salt.
Basically, you can’t eat anything!
So I ‘ve been cutting back on sugar because it seems easier, (no more viennoiseries, michokos, chocolate…) but reducing salt is almost impossible, it’s everywhere, too.

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81 johanna October 9, 2013 at 2:48 am

Hi there,
I live in Sweden, where we, ever since I was a kid, swear by ”saturday candy”. This means no candy, icecream or soda etc. in weekdays. This is really common over here and actually really few question it during their childhood.
I really think we have to cut down on sugar over all in our lives, as you suggest, i.e. in bread, food and so on, where we don’t really notice it. Instead of buying icecream I’ve gotten my kids into making their own popsicles using natural, un-sweetened youghurt which they can combine with a spoon of homemade jam. The kids love it and at least we get out of artificial sweeteners and E-numbers.

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82 Kris October 9, 2013 at 5:11 am

My husband and I just finished 6.5 months of no sugar… It was a challenge I never thought I could manage. Our plan was to go a year without sugar. We made an exception of occasional honey and pure maple syrup in small quantities and no desserts made from them. The only thing that kept us going is that we put aside money each month for each of us in an account that could only be cashed out after a year. We are on a tight budget and the money was significant to us. The catch for me was that if I cheated and ate sugar, my husband lost his money and vice versa. We had four days in the year we could splurge and have the day off (each of our four birthdays). We did great… Until the first birthday at 6.5 months into it and I got pregnant. The sugar cravings were that much harder to ward off. After having a day of sugar I could not go back! My husband could probably have gone forever! We instead put the money we saved into a I.R.A. Which is not nearly as exciting as the plans I had for it… I have to say that I felt GREAT not eating sugar (until I got pregnant). Strange little symptoms that I had had disappeared (like fluid in my ear…). I plan on eating a lot less than before and like your idea about no sugar during the week! I never realized before that I possessed so much self control! Do you just do one treat on the weekend? Or is it free for all? Thanks for sharing!

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83 Sara October 9, 2013 at 6:01 am

I love this approach. I’m a baker! So sugar is part of my life. That being said I like for it to be intentional. A teaspoon in my coffee or the 2 cups that go into a birthday cake. I think the important thing is to eliminate the unintentional sugar, like you said. Once we started looking, it’s in everything. Sugar in sauces, sugar in sausages! Just nuts. Eliminating the unintentional sugar is the key. Then you can indulge in a cookie! Definitely going to try the no treats on the weekdays with the kiddos!

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84 Cheryl October 9, 2013 at 6:57 am

Our family too, has been cutting out sugar. As far as eating treats when we are at others homes, we always just gave the kids a limit such as telling them they could chose 2 (or a specified number of your choice) treats from anything they like. It helped them feel in control of what they were eating and they still got to eat goodies.

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85 Raizel October 10, 2013 at 5:46 am

I’ve been off sugar for half a year as part of my struggle with food addiction. My kids are allowed treats and soda on weekends as well, or on special occasions.We always have bottles of ice-cold water in the fridge, and that helps with the soda craving. At this point, a couple of dates or a handful of raisins are like chocolate to me…

Lots of luck!

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86 Martina October 11, 2013 at 5:59 am

I really like this post and all the comments! I totally share your concern and I unfortunately have a sweet tooth too. I always thought my parents played a bit of a role in it because I didn’t really grow up eating so healthily and therefore I have always struggled with my weight (not drastically but considerably).

That’s why I wanted to make it better with my own kids. I also read once that your eating habits as a kid form your habits in later life! We all know how hard it is to change your habits… I have always looked out that our kids have very limited amounts of sweets. When they are small it’s relatively easy but ones they start kindergarden and school they are basically bombarded with sweets from all sides and it becomes quite hard I find. We live in a very French area of Brussels at the moment (for that reason I followed your time in France with great interest!). A lot of French families live in our area but still our kids are more or less “outsiders” when it comes to their lunch boxes and other kids sometimes comment or joke about the content of our children’s lunch boxes (which contain food like you suggested in recent posts, so nothing really so unusual). My kids tell me that other children very often have chocolate sandwiches in their lunch boxes… beside all the other treats they consume… Oh, I could write for hours about this subject but I don’t want to go on forever.

I actually wanted to share a little tip I discovered for myself over the last months. Apart from eating really healthily (homemade fresh organic food, lots of vegetables and very little meat, etc.) I also have a sweet tooth (I enjoy baking as well) which I have been trying to control. I started to do one fast day per month (full moon is a good day for it even though it sounds a bit crazy). I just drink that day. It’s supposed to cleanse your body and also gives your digestive system a bit of a break. As a positive side effect I noticed that it moderated my appetite in general a bit and somehow made me even more aware of what is good for me to eat and what not. The first time it’s hard – especially if you still have to cook a meal for the whole family like me. But it gets easier and even gives you a little “high” at the end of the day!

Good luck with your new routine and I look forward to reading more about this subject on your blog!

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87 Margaret October 12, 2013 at 6:17 pm

This is a great way to manage a families habits! Our kids do well now but I can see how “weekends only” would provide manageable parameters as they grow older. We always have sparkling water on hand with a variety of fruit nectars and lemon juice for a splash of flavor. And I completely agree, it seems a must to read labels as everything has added sugars!

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88 PollyS October 14, 2013 at 12:24 am

G-I began taking an herb called Gymnema Sylvestre back in March after reading that (eastern) Indian mothers gave it to their children to cut their craving for sweets. I was facing a “pre diabetic” diagnosis and was willing to try anything.
I can say for certain that it does indeed work. I have definitely reduced my cravings for sweets. The only negative is that it makes you VERY thirsty. Not just regular thirsty, but REALLY thirsty. I drink at least 80 oz or so of water a day.
Try it, you may like it.

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89 gina October 14, 2013 at 1:27 am

I agree! This is really my philosophy, too — and one that I just find very easy to live by and we truly live by this… ( the only exception for us would be on a rare day (that we had the time!) and that we might have the chance to bake together on a weekday , I’d make an exception for baking something like an apple crumble especially if the kids have been a part of the full process — going to the orchard or to our trees to pick the fruit, planning the time, reading the recipe, etc then, I feel that the whole process changes the food …. but, never candy, soft drinks, etc. (Also, since the children have been raised with this philosophy, they’re sweet threshhold is very low! Although they love a dessert, in general I cut the sugar down from most of my American recipes to 1/4- 1/2 of the original amount called for or they feel that they’re too sweet … unlike their mother, who as I kid, was a true sweet tooth.)

I’m just curious if you find that soft drinks were easier to avoid while living in Europe vs the US? In Sweden, I find soft drinks to really be a non-issue here (except parties) on weekdays and in our daily life but, I basically feel that the “cat leapt out of the bag” on soft drinks on visits to the US — I feel like they’re so much more common place on these visits – even TV ads under the blanket of action and sports — and I wondered if you experienced this, too? (Of course, another discussion altogether is pastries and chocolate in France that are common “goute” … but, the kids really understand how it works in our house and these “goute” items are just really pleasures of the weekend and trips to the bakeries on vacations to France — and Swedes, contrary to this, eat fruit as weekday snacks which is helpful support.)

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90 MarT October 19, 2013 at 6:40 am

Great Topic–
I actually read parts of the National Geographic article aloud to my 12 year old daughter. She accumulates candy from friends.

People who crave sugar are often not sleeping enough or well. Something to consider.

People who skip meals or don’t have them on time often crave sugar.

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91 Maike October 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I am five month pregnants right now and until a few weeks ago I had a lot of trouble keeping any food in. I was fine in the morning and over the day I got sick and sicker until in the evenings I just felt like I had the worst hangover. Over weeks I tried to figure out what it was that affected me so badly, it was cleary something I ate, because eating always made it worse.

What I finally did find out what caused my bad state: White Sugar. As soon as I stopped eating it, I felt so. much. better.
I replaced everything with white sugar in it with something from the organic shop, which was sweetened with raw cane sugar, honey, etc. Did the trick. Than I started feeling not so good again. So I tried to eliminate the alternative sugars. Fine again. A few days ago I felt sick again after drinking a few glasses of orange juice (fruit sugar), so I am aware now of drinking smaller portions of it if I crave it.
Eating fruit is fine, even very sweet fruits. I suppose, in fruits you always have a lot of fibers that keep the sugars from entering your body too fast.

Parallel to that I replaced all the regular sweets in the house with organic ones (made with alternative sugars) for my 5 year old daughter. Here is what happened: She didn’t mind. Until now she doesn’t ask for the regular sweets at all. She asks MUCH LESS for sweets in general.

So here are my conclusion (completely unscientific):
White sugar is the worst. It also makes you want more of it all the time. Once you stop eating it, your body actually gets a chance to tell you, how much sugar and what kind of sugar you really want and can digest. My daughter now sometimes says stuff like: Don’t give me so many sweets, they make me sick. Or: This is too sweet to eat. And I myself notice that after 2 pieces of chocolat (with raw cane sugar), I feel oversweetened. Has never happened to me before with regular chocolat.

I asked my gynecologist about it and she said: You seem to have a really smart body. Sugar is toxic.
I know this post is a few weeks old, but I wanted to share this with you.
Also, just to be clear: I used to eat tons of sweets and never felt like I wanted to stop it. I am healthy and not overweight and always called myself a sugar addict without any guilt. So I wasn’t anti sugar at all. And now that I have to, I found it easy and very benefiting.

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