May 8, 2012 § 9 Comments
Okay, I’ll admit it. I don’t exercise.
I should. I want to. But right now exercise is fitting into my life about as well as an elephant in my sock drawer. Instead I sit a lot, mostly at the computer, writing, writing, writing. (My finger muscles are very toned, thank you.)
Also, I snack. I eat when I am hungry- and quite honestly, I get hungry often. And I eat foods with fat: red meat, full-fat dairy products, butter and cheese.
According to conventional nutrition wisdom, I should be a prime candidate to be overweight… maybe even obese. So why is it that I am not? How many of us know people out there who don’t seem to follow any of the rules and they’re still thin anyway? What gives?
I am thinking about this because I just finished reading Gary Taubes article in Newsweek about HBO’s upcoming documentary “Weight of the Nation.” About a week ago I saw a trailer for the program and was heartened to see this desperately important topic making prime-time… until I realized, like Taubes did, that the experts in it were pushing “the same tired advice.”
“Eat less and exercise” and “fat makes you fat” are mantras that sounds so easy, so simple, that we all feel they must be true. However, they’re not true. As Taubes details in his article, Americans have been following this advice from the health experts for decades now- eating less meat, eating less fat, exercising more- and where has it gotten us? Fatter than ever before. The latest statistics predict 42% of Americans will be obese by 2030.
Not overweight, mind you. Obese. Clearly, there’s something wrong here.
Yesterday I volunteered at a local fundraising event and I was saddened and astounded at what I saw: a significant percentages of attendees were very, very overweight.
Many were encumbered to the point that it becomes hard to move around, hard to walk, hard to find clothing. I imagined the number of health problems that must have been represented at this event and I was deeply saddened. I felt these folks had, in some way, been let down by our health establishment.
I’m imagining the overweight person who, attempting to follow professional advice, cuts out fat, cuts down on red meat, and works out at the gym. And what are they presented with on the way back to the locker room? A juice bar or soda machine. Well, why not a little treat after such a good work-out? After all, it’s not red meat, it’s not fat, and I’ve exercised, (which makes one both thirstier and hungrier, while burning off relatively few calories.) After all, it’s just sugar…
Even if they choose a diet soda, there’s new evidence saying that may be just as bad for weight gain. It’s really no wonder that so many people just give up- they’re being given advice that does not work.
So, we need a new story, a new mantra. Could we replace “Eat Less and Exercise” with “Eat Good Food When You’re Hungry, Don’t Worry Too Much About Exercise, and Above All Just Cut Way Back On Sugar”?
Hmmmm. A little cumbersome.
How about “NO Sugar Sweetened Beverages”? Still a little long. “NO SSBs” is too cryptic (NO South Sea Bananas? NO Special Spaghetti Bowls? What?).
We could try “SODA KILLS!!!” but that’s a tad melodramatic, don’t you think? And anyway, people will say: “Well- ha ha- I just drank an Adrenaline Attack and I’m, you know… not dead!” They’ll nit-pick us to death until we end up with something like: “SODA Significantly-Contributes-to-the-Resistance-to-Insulin,-Building-Up-of-Arterial-Plaque-and-Cancer-Friendly-Environments-in-Your-Body-Which-Degrades-Your-Quality-of-Life-for-Years-and-Years-Until-it-Eventually KILLS!!!” Try putting that on a bumper sticker.
We could go simple with “Shun Sugar.” That’s kinda catchy- but too general. Maybe we should just swipe a line from the guidelines put forth in David Gillespie’s book Sweet Poison: “Rule Number One: Don’t Drink Sugar.” Hey- I kind of like that.
“Rule Number One: Don’t Drink Sugar.” Why don’t we ditch “eat less and exercise more” in favor of this one? It’s worth a try.
It isn’t the answer to everything, of course, but if we could just follow that one rule, I’m betting we’d be in a whole lot better shape. Literally.
March 22, 2012 § 8 Comments
There’s been a good two and a half months distance now between the No Sugar project and us, and I think every day about what it all means… What were we trying to do with our year, exactly? Did we do it? Does that mean it’s “over”? What place does sugar have in our lives, if any?
Normally, I’m overly analytical anyway, but since January I’ve been pulling together what will be my book (insert trumpet call here!) about our Year of No Sugar, so consequently I’ve been doing an awful lot of backward looking and thinking, even as everyday we are moving farther and farther away from 2011. It’s kind of giving me vertigo.
Most fascinating to me is the wide variety of reactions to the end of our project from friends, acquaintances, and readers. Many people have said “Congratulations!” which is lovely, and many more seemed simply relieved that we aren’t doing “that sugar thing” anymore, just in case it might rub off on them or something. Half the people seem to expect us to now be on a permanent sugar binge in order to make up for lost time, while the other half seem to think we’re terrible hypocrites if we so much as pause to consider reading the dessert menu.
The fact is, for us it’s ever so much more complicated than “All Sugar All the Time!”or “No Sugar Never Ever!” My kids still want to get a dish of ice cream after dinner the way they always did. And me- selfish, guilty parent that I am- I often really want to give them that dish of ice cream as if it were a nice, compact serving of normality I could hand them, with a pretty cherry on top. “See!? We’re not so weird, after all!”
But, the thing is, we are weird. We were weird before- not eating at McDonalds and avoiding soda, and we’re weird now- avoiding juice and crap sugar food (donuts, cookies, free lollipops), as well as anything that’s sweetened when we know it needn’t be: dried fruit, chips, crackers, tomato sauces.We’ve become much, much more selective about the sugar we do consume- and in a culture like ours which is utterly saturated with sugar, that’s weird.
Then again, we’re much more mainstream than we were last year: we’ve stopped flipping out about things like orange juice in the salad dressing or sugar in the bread. We no longer give our waitress the Spanish Inquisition, which is nice for everybody. And anyway, after a year of questions, we also already know which items will have the sugar in them. Sometimes we have them, and sometimes we don’t.
I was also fascinated to find that for about the first six weeks of 2012, sugar actually didn’t taste good to me. It tasted saccharine, syrupy sweet, and usually resulted in a bad aftertaste as well as a rapid headache. This was a phenomenon I had particularly noticed toward the end of our No Sugar Year, when I had begun to enjoy our sacred monthly “treat” less and less. I wondered how long this would last- would I ever enjoy sugar again? Or had I inadvertently removed all the joy of sweet from my life? Given myself a tastebud-ectomy?
But after having small amounts of sugar on a regular basis- a teaspoon’s worth here and there- I have found that my taste for sugar has gradually returned: I can now order the Mango Sticky Rice at the Thai place and simply enjoy it.
Which I view as a good thing. After all, alcohol is a potentially addictive poison, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a glass of it with dinner on a regular basis. Likewise, I want to be able to enjoy a bit of fructose- potentially addictive poison anyone?- in the occasional dessert. For me, that’s part of the joy of life.
So I’ll have my glass of wine and maybe a small dish of the amazing gelato at that Italian restaurant. But I’m walking right by ninety percent of what’s for sale at my local supermarket- row after row of sugar-sweetened beverages, snacks, candy and convenience entrees. We drink water, snack on whole fruit, rudely ignore candy and cook from scratch. It’s not as simple as “Yes Always!” or “No Never!” but that’s fair, I guess. Food is what keeps us alive, brings us together every day, and gives us the means to celebrate and enjoy. If it isn’t worth our serious consideration, I don’t know what is.
October 4, 2011 § 8 Comments
I was sick last week. Not the kind of sick where you can stagger around and take the kids to school in your pajamas and sort-of, kind-of get stuff done even though you’re miserable every minute. No. This was more the kind of sick where a bullhorn could be announcing imminent, catastrophic nuclear attack and you wouldn’t even bother to raise your head to say “good.”
So needless to say, I wasn’t getting much done besides an alarming amount of sleeping. When I wasn’t busy winning the academy award for “Most Pathetically Miserable,” I was reading. Which was good, because in the beginning few weeks of our Year of No Sugar, I did an Amazon search for books related to “sugar-as-toxin.” A few clicks later I was the proud owner of a small stack of tomes with such cheerful names as Suicide by Sugar. Well! If that doesn’t sound like a fun summer beach read, I don’t know what does.
Now that I’ve plowed my way through most of those paperbacks I have a few thoughts. Firstly, you can skip Suicide by Sugar: Why Our Sweet Tooth May be Killing Us, by Nancy Appleton PhD. Honestly, I couldn’t finish this one, I found it so annoying. Call me petty, but in a book that addresses a topic of health and human biology, I find back-cover references to “Dr. Appleton” misleading: this is not an author who attended medical school. Additionally, her prose is rambling and uncompelling.
What exasperated me the most, however, was chapters like “140 Reasons Why Sugar is Ruining Your Health.” Appleton says she’s been collecting these reasons “for about twenty years,” and they range from the just plain obvious (“5. Sugar in soda, when consumed by children, results in children drinking less milk.”) to the truly strange (“25. Sugar can lead to alcoholism”) Huh? I mean, I believe sugar to be the root of many modern evils, but even I balk at the assertions that it leads to polio, appendicitis, epileptic seizures and cancer of the rectum. No citations are given to lend credence to any of the “reasons,” and no explanations are offered. If sugar really does cause these maladies, we need a little more support for these assertions than just Appleton’s assurance that she read it somewhere, at some point. By the time you reach number 140 you half expect sugar to be found responsible for global warming and that weird fungus that’s killing all the bats.
Like many books that try to change our thinking about what we eat, Suicide contains a wrapping-up, “what to do now” chapter and an appendix of recipes. I’m definitely planning on trying Appleton’s Coconut Rice Pudding… however, if I work up the nerve to present my family with her “Beet Root Dessert” there might be a mutiny.
A much better book is The Sugar Fix: the High-Fructose Fallout That Is Making You Fat and Sick, by Richard J. Johnson M.D. The only book on the subject I found by an actual physician, Johnson is way better at telling his story in logical order, while peppering it with key compelling facts such as the Harvard study “of more than 90,000 female nurses (which) found that women whose daily diets included one or more beverages sweetened with sugar or HFCS… had an 83 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.” (p. 44) I’m sorry, did he say eighty-three percent?? Now, that’s a statistic that makes you sit up and take notice.
Johnson correlates over-consumption of fructose to all the usual suspects: cancer, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, liver and kidney disease, etc. He recommends a “Low Fructose Diet,” by which he means between 25 and 35 grams of fructose per day. And although I’m not a big fan of counting-while-eating, it is fun to consult Johnson’s handy reference guide and compare the differing amounts of fructose present in, say, an apple (9.5g), a 12 oz soda (20.2g), and a McDonald’s M&M McFlurry (30.1g). Gout sufferers will be particularly interested to read what Johnson has to say about the connection between sugar, purines, and the over-production of uric acid. Also intriguing is his argument for increased dairy consumption, which he says acts to counter-balance the impact of fructose.
One thing I don’t understand is why Johnson feels compelled to include instructions for things like “Grilled New York Strip Steak with Portobello Mushrooms and Garlic Butter.” Now, sure, if you’re ordering steak in a restaurant you might want to check to be sure they aren’t marinating it in maple syrup or using pre-packaged ingredients for the sauce which inevitably have sugar, MSG and a host of other hidden baddies … but at home? If you need to be told how to prepare a steak at home without adding sugar to it, then you have my condolences. You need more help than just this book.
Another bone I have to pick with Johnson’s recipes is that he loves Splenda: all four dessert recipes he includes use it. I’m sorry, but if it’s taken us over a hundred years to figure out what’s wrong with sugar…? I don’t really want to replace it with the next thing that will turn out to have been poisoning us a few decades from now. I’m just saying.
Now, if you’ve read this blog much at all you’ll know that the first one of these books that I read is far and away my favorite: Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat by Australian author David Gillespie. (Be sure not to confuse this with the American title Sweet Poison which discusses the adverse effects of aspartame.) This- along with the YouTube video by Dr. Robert Lustig- is the resource I keep coming back to again and again. Gillespie isn’t a PhD, or an MD, but rather trained as a lawyer. Perhaps because of this, he assembles the case against sugar convincingly, persuasively and even entertainingly.
Gillespie has a flair for the simple statement that resonates: “Fructose was killing me and everyone else as surely as if arsenic were being poured into the water supply.” (p. 148) He has a great sense of humor that illuminates his material, which could easily be too dry or too darn scary to be enjoyable: “If obesity was a disease like bird flu, we’d be bunkered down with a shotgun and three years’ supply of baked beans in the garage.” (p.101) This author makes reading about fructokinase and GLUT proteins as easily comprehensible and pleasant as I imagine it can possibly be. It is Gillespie, too, who conceives of using dextrose powder as an alternative sweetener… truly an “aha!” moment if there ever was one. Of all the non-fructose sweetening alternatives we’ve tried this year (from using bananas and dates to ogliofructose) dextrose has, for us, been by far the most successful.
Although he doesn’t include a recipe section in the book itself, the recipes Gillespie includes on his website are excellent. No messing around with useless topics (“How to Make Sugar Free Salsa!”)- these are real no-added-sugar desserts, with no Splenda in sight. Admittedly, you do have to pony up an annual membership fee to join the section of the site where the best recipes are, but honestly? It’s worth it. The Coconut Cake recipe alone is worth it.
From Gillespie’s own initial moment of realization, to his research into the history and biochemistry of sugar, to the scientific data that exists and that which he extrapolates to draw disturbing parallels between our consumption of sugar and our incidence of disease, Sweet Poison is by far the best told story of the bunch and therefore the most likely to actually change your behavior in a way that matters.
In the book’s final chapter, Gillespie distills his take-away message down to some very simple “rules”: “Don’t drink sugar. Don’t snack on sugar. Party food are for parties. Be careful at breakfast. And- there is no such thing as good sugar.” (You hear that, all you Agave-heads?)
Instead of counting calories or grams or servings of fish oil or whatever other improbable fussiness some health experts would have us commit to in the pursuit of health, happiness and next year’s swimsuit fashions, it is “Gillespie’s Rules” that seem to me to make the most logical sense. Isn’t that the Occam’s Razor maxim: the simplest solution is usually the correct one? So when people ask me “What will you do when the No Sugar Year is over?” I think the most likely answer is that we will follow these deceptively simple sounding rules.
Because of the culture we live in, and our collective unwillingness to examine what is really making our society explode with disease… I’m pretty sure it will still be very, very hard.
May 17, 2011 § 2 Comments
Recently, I finished reading David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat, and it’s a good thing too- my highlighters are all running out of ink. Pretty much my whole book is saturated now in pretty shades of florescent pink, orange and yellow, depending on which pen I was near in the house when I sat down to read.
In it Gillespie weaves the story of his own personal journey to escape the effects of fructose with his research on the history of sugar, the biochemistry of fructose, and the attempts in the last century to understand the connections between Western diet and Western disease. If all this sounds dry or clinical, it isn’t. Honestly, I was sucked in from page one, and there weren’t even any vampires or anything.
As I’ve mentioned before, biochemistry isn’t exactly my bag. I can make it through Dr. Robert Lustig’s “The Bitter Truth”- even that brief hardcore science-y bit, but that doesn’t mean I can turn around and replicate the argument. In fact, prior to watching “The Bitter Truth” on YouTube I was pretty much on the opposite side of the spectrum. I was one of the many people whose reaction to the idea of giving up sugar was: “What?” and “Oh sure, why not just give up all the fun in life? I mean really.” I was an avid dessert baker, devoted canner of jams (talk about sugar!), and all-around lover of sweets. Not junk, of course, but wonderful treats made with caring, love, and the occasional french pastry chef.
Nonetheless, I always suspected there had to be an answer out there to the problem of Western disease that was eluding us in plain sight- like Waldo. There had to be an “Aha!” out there somewhere. Once I watched Dr, Lustig explain it, it was as if a lightbulb had been turned on in my head. Fructose was the “Aha!”
Reading Gillespie has been like that again. Sweet Poison turns on a second lightbulb, one that fills in the details where before there had been shadow. A non-doctor, he has a knack for translating all the various medical findings and research into accurate but comprehensible lay-person-speak. He is also, incidentally, very funny, which can be helpful when you’re hanging in there talking about phosphofructokinase 1 and the islets of Langerhans. Here are a few of my favorite passages (all emphases are mine):
“There is one substance that does not stimulate the release of any of the ‘enough to eat’ hormones. That substance is fructose… We can eat as much fructose as we can shove down our throats and never feel full for long. Every gram of the fructose we eat is directly converted to fat. There is no mystery to the obesity epidemic when you know these simple facts. It is impossible not to get fat on a diet infused with fructose.”
“If you look at BMI calculations over time you quickly realize that the obesity epidemic is very real and is a very recent phenomenon… In 1910, just over one in five US adults was overweight and fewer than one in five of those people was obese (one in 25 for the whole population). Less than a century later, two out of every three US adults are overweight and half of those people are now obese (one-third of the whole population). In less than 100 years, the chances of a given US adult being overweight have gone from very unlikely to highly probable, and the trend is accelerating.”
“If obesity was a disease like bird flu, we’d be bunkered down with a shotgun and three years’ supply of baked beans in the garage. But nobody actually dies from obesity itself. You never hear of anyone being pronounced dead from being fat. No, people die from other diseases that may or may not be related to being fat, like cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke), kidney failure or various cancers. Obesity is a symptom, not a disease.”
“A lot of the people conducting experiments on rats had been criticized for giving the animals unrealistically high doses of fructose. ‘Of course the rat would die. Look how much fructose you gave it,’ would be the cry. ‘No person actually eats that much fructose.’ These figures tell a different story. Every man, woman and child in the United States (and Australia) is eating that much fructose and more. The USDA rats were actually on lower fructose diets than most of the people feeding them.”
“(Prior to omitting fructose) I was just as trapped in the dieting-with-no-visible-results treadmill as I had ever been. Free access to the biggest medical library in the world (the web), however, allowed me to read my way to a conclusion that, now that I see it, seems blindingly obvious. Fructose was killing me and everyone else as surely as if arsenic was being poured into the water supply.”
Gillespie plays connect-the-dots between fructose consumption, the resultant circulating fatty acids in the bloodstream and all the nasty consequences thereafter: heart attack, stroke, type II diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), as well as some of the most prevalent and deadly cancers today: colorectal, prostate, pancreatic. He even goes through and explains exactly how tooth decay works: fed specifically by sucrose, or table sugar, a manmade combination of fructose and glucose. Turns out, the bacteria that causes tooth decay thrives not on large amounts of sucrose, but rather a steady consistent supply of it over time. Well, hell-o-o-o, soda!
He explains why low fat diets don’t work, and why the Atkins diet will work but why no one can stay on it for very long. He explains why exercise- while good for you in other ways- won’t help you lose weight. He explains how he gradually stepped away from fructose, in particular a soda habit, by first switching to diet soda, then seltzer, and finally simply water, and describes the consequent palate change that took place over the course of a few weeks. He lists five deceptively simple rules to live by, including: “Party foods are for parties,” and “There is no such thing as good sugar.”
What Lustig and Gillespie are trying to tell us is not to never have dessert again, but to understand that “dessert” is a phenomenon that our bodies are not evolved to understand or process effectively, much less the onslaught of non-dessert sugar that is, in the Western diet, omnipresent and getting worse. We have to understand this dietary “loophole” in our digestive system and act accordingly.
“The results are in,” Gillespie writes, “If you feed humans fructose for the first 40 years of their lives you get an obesity epidemic, and massive health system costs associated with treating cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, oral health, cancer and miscellaneous other problems. It’s time to stop.”
Special thanks to the Year of No Sugar reader who recommended this book!
All quotations above are from Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat. For more information on David Gillespie visit his website: http://sweetpoison.com.au/
March 24, 2011 § 2 Comments
Food extremism is nothing new to my husband Steve. He grew up in a home that was a bit of a nutritional house divided: his mom serving the foods most people were eating in the mid-west in the seventies and eighties- pot roast, mac and cheese, pudding, etc.- while his dad frequently ate a different meal altogether, experimenting with various different nutritional theories he was reading about in specialty magazines like “Dr. Shelton’s Hygienic Review.” (motto: “Let Us Have Truth Though The Heavens Fall.”)
Steve’s father, who passed away a few years ago, was a vegetarian before people even knew what that was, back when health food stores were still fringe operations frequented and operated by folks who still thought communes might be a really good idea. But Bill Schaub was no long-haired hippy; he was a trim, clean-shaven lawyer who would one day rise to become Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board and be conferred the rank of Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service by President Bill Clinton. I try to picture him walking into the Toledo-area granola shop in his suit, his aftershave clashing with the smell of patchouli and wheat grass.
My husband recalls the time his father took him to see the watershed movie Star Wars. Steve was not very excited to go, because outings with his father were often nutrition oriented and pretty dry stuff for an eight year old: “I thought we were going to a lecture on carrot juice or something.”
In another favorite Bill Schaub story, he grew a mustache, (of course! it was the seventies!) This development coincided with the peak of his interest in the nutritional value of mangos and his decision to import boxes of the fruit himself, which of course resulted in his brown mustache turning mango-colored from the sheer volume of orange fruit that passed his lips.
There are lots of Bill Schaub anecdotes like this, illustrating his passion and single-mindedness when it came to the subject of nutrition and food. Steve is his father’s son, and inherited from him not only an attentive attitude toward food and nutrition, but also the unusual ability to endure strange and restrictive diets for various goals.
For example, in addition to our family’s ongoing No Sugar Project, Steve has for the last seven weeks also been shunning all dairy, and all bread products. Also no potatoes. Basically just meat, eggs, and any vegetable and fruit which you could eat raw. You can imagine how much fun we are in restaurants.
Eve: “I have a strange question. Does the lasagna have sugar in it? And also, what about the soup?”
Steve: “Can you tell me, is there gluten in the sausage? What about in the cabbage? I’m also not eating dairy…”
Eve: “No, the kids don’t want lemonade, could they just have water…?”
Oh yes, the waitresses just love us.
The thing is it has worked. I mean, Steve looked completely fine before, and thin compared to your average American profile. But in a few weeks on this Paleo / Raw diet he’s lost over twenty five pounds. I know! We’ve been buying him new pants since nothing fits anymore- he looks great. More importantly, he’s clearly happier.
Interestingly, Steve’s father had an addiction to sweet things- cookies, ice cream- which he battled with all his life. Steve’s own addiction is much more specific: diet Dr. Pepper. Not to put to fine a point on it, Diet Dr. Pepper is Steve-crack.
The other day Steve sheepishly brought home a case of the stuff, justifying, “well, I thought it could just drink it in the evening as a snack…”
After I gently pointed out the Steve-crack phenomenon, even he agreed it probably should stop. I know it’s not easy- we all like to have our crutches to lean on when we feel depressed and deprived. For me, “mother’s little helper” is more vague… once upon a time pre-project I would’ve enjoyed a bit of chocolate or cookie after every lunch and dinner- a sweet of some kind albeit a small one. I still miss that ritual, that sweet little ending to a meal. Lately I supplement that desire with an alternate treat- a banana, an unsweetened cappuccino, a GoRaw granola bar with raisins in it. It gives rise to the question: do we have to chose between health (long-term happiness) and desire-gratification (short-term happiness)?
The other day Steve was talking about his dad. “If my dad was alive today he’d be fascinated by this project,” he said. “He’d be sending us articles and talking to us about it all the time…” I know. It’s sad he isn’t here to share it with us.
March 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The Mayo Clinic is a humbling place.Whenever I think I’m having a tough time here because I’m having trouble finding something to eat- I can’t eat the dinner rolls, or the bacon, or the tortillas, or the entire bloody complimentary breakfast bar- I remind myself of this very important fact: here at Mayo I am surrounded by folks who have troubles worlds away from mine.
Not to mention that my No Sugar regime is self-imposed. Nonetheless, I take it pretty seriously- ask any waitress who’s had to run to the kitchen three times to ask about ingredients for me. In fact, I’ve gotten to the point where I dread the asking, because I fear I’m going to get “The Look.” “The Look” is that mixture of dismay and confusion which regularly appears on the waitress, cashier, or cafeteria line lady’s face when I ask if the penne with red peppers and broccoli has sugar in it.
“Sugar in it?” they always say, as if they perhaps didn’t hear me correctly.
That being said, I probably couldn’t have found a place on earth as willing to accommodate my ingredient queries as they are here. Because of the clinic, they are used to fielding just about every question you can ask about their foods… so many folks here have restrictions, special diets or upcoming test requirements. But even the diabetics aren’t asking quite the same question that I’m asking. Sometimes I preface it by saying “I have a little bit of a weird question…”
Now, on Saturdays and Sundays Mayo Clinic is closed, and so are, consequently, a whole lot of the restaurants. What stays open is just the kind of food I totally can’t eat… sub chains and coffee shops. In the sub shop the meats are probably cooked with glazes and other additives which are likely to include sugar, and the bread usually has it too; coffee shops are basically one big dessert.
On Saturday night I took my Dad to the sub chain inside our hotel. While he ordered his sandwich I noticed that they had a “no carb” option of wrapping your ingredients inside a large lettuce leaf rather than their bread (which- I checked- had sugar.) Rather than enter into a ten-hour discussion of the ingredients of the various cold cuts, I ordered the veggie sub with the no carb option… basically a vegetable bonanza, with a slice of cheese thrown in there for good measure. I couldn’t very well add mayonnaise because that has sugar (oh yes!) so I slathered on some mustard and dug into a very crunchy meal.
The next day was equally tricky. After a good breakfast of plain oatmeal and berries at a nearby hotel I thought I was full enough to get through till an early dinner. Not so much. I really should realize this about my metabolism by now, but somehow I still manage to convince myself that maybe I don’t really need to eat all three meals if it isn’t entirely convenient. Instead, I am like a wind-up toy that stops working when its short little energy source runs out.
So there I was, mid-afternoon, dinner still hours away, and not a thing in sight to eat. As usual when I miss a meal, I began to feel slightly ill, and then desperate. The Larabar from my suitcase had helped, but not enough. I couldn’t face another vegetable sandwich wrapped in lettuce, but I had an idea. I went to the counter at the sub shop and asked if I could just order some cheese.
“Just cheese?” the twenty-something man behind the counter asked. He checked with the sandwich makers behind him, “We can do just cheese, right?”
No one could think of any reason not to sell me some cheese. “Hey- there’s no reason why we can’t!” he said brightly, and he rang it up. The cheese came to 75 cents. After checking the ingredients I also added a bag of potato chips and received my tiny little package of cheese from the pick-up counter.
Back in my room I was sorry to see they had only given me two small pieces- should’ve asked for two or three servings worth. Oh well- paired with the banana I had stolen from the largely inedible (for me) breakfast bar, and the chips it still made a very serviceable lunch.
It was all there: I had some carbohydrates, some salt, some fat and some fructose wrapped in fiber and sprinkled with micronutrients. I was happy with my little improvised meal and even happier that it put a stop to the gnawing in my belly.
And honestly, it was waaaaay better than a lettuce and mustard sandwich.
February 17, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Once again, I’ve been attempting too much around here (baking all our bread, making every meal from scratch, leading after-school activities, learning to bungee-jump in my spare time, re-grouting the bathroom blindfolded) and it started to get to me again. The other night I went to bed at 9PM! Which to my mind means that pretty soon I’ll be showing up for the early-bird special at the all-you-can-gum buffet. Beyond feeling old, I’m feeling incompetent too, because it seems that nothing is getting done around here except the things that don’t stay done for more than a few minutes.
Let me give you a for-instance: on Sunday I mixed up a nice batch of no-knead bread, only to have to pitch it last night when I discovered it fermenting in a soup on top of the toaster-oven, a good 24 hours after I should have turned it out onto a lightly-floured surface and let it rise an additional two hours before baking for 30 minutes at 450 degrees. Instead of a lovely loaf of crusty chewy bread, I got a slimy mess to scrape into the trash, before piling the gooey bowl on top of the desert island of dirty dishes we’ve been amassing in the sink.
Meanwhile, our family has been much anticipating our special Valentines Day dessert. Our family-agreed upon once-a-month confection being… (drumroll please): chocolate mousse! Now, I’ve never made chocolate mousse before, so this places more than a little bit of pressure on the chef… I mean, what if it turns out awful? Or deflates? Or does whatever it is that goes wrong with mousse? As one of only twelve official desserts of our family’s YEAR, that would be, to put it mildly, an enormous disappointment.
Nonetheless, I set out Monday night— after a long day schlepping to BJs warehouse to push around a shopping cart larger than a Volkswagen and read ingredients with a magnifying glass, then leading a two-hour after-school activity, and finally driving two additional kids to their corresponding homes, while picking my younger daughter up— to find the only chocolate mousse ingredient my pantry lacked: heavy cream.
Dutchie’s in West Pawlet? Closed Mondays. Sheldon’s in Pawlet? No heavy cream. Mach’s Market down the road? Yes! Heavy cream hiding on the top shelf behind the half and half… score! We hurried home so I could heat up the potato pizza leftovers from the night before and concentrate on making a beautiful Valentine’s Day dessert to show my family how much I loved them and make their tummies feel all happy and full. Despite the deprivation of the “Mommy’s idea” no-sugar project, this was one of only twelve nights this year I could indulge my affection for my family in the form of a sugar-containing treat.
That was when my older daughter Greta, in an effort to be helpful, read out loud the pivotal part of the recipe that I had somehow missed: “must chill for a minimum of two hours.” I stopped. I wilted. The dish mountain in the sink loomed at me like Kilimanjaro. The potato pizza had not been a hit the night before and was not likely to inspire more confidence on it’s second trip to the dinner table. There was no bread. No time to make dessert. And everyone was hungry.
I wanted to lie down on the couch and cry, but it was covered with a huge pile of unfolded laundry. So instead, I stood still in the middle of the kitchen and looked lost. Fortunately for me, Steve came home at precisely that moment, recognized the look on my face and took over: he took steaks down from the freezer for dinner, heated the potato pizza for a side dish, and handed me a pink bag with a pretty pink dress in it: Happy Valentine’s Day. He might as well have been wearing a cape and tights.
We all felt much better after eating dinner, despite the fact that the laundry and the dishes didn’t magically disappear. The kids were disappointed that our special dessert would have to wait, but I explained to them that- sugar project or no sugar project- there is only so much that Mommy can do.
Remind me to write that on my mirror, or my forehead, or something, would you?
February 11, 2011 § 4 Comments
Okay! I’ve done my homework and you get to be the beneficiary of that morning-long endeavor, unless of course I have got it all backwards in which case I am here to mislead you terribly. After watching Dr. Robert Lustig’s “Sugar: the Bitter Truth” on YouTube for the third time, as well as doing further slogging around on the internet, I’ve gotten to what I hope is a slightly better understanding of the “ose” question. Here is what I have come up with, which is very likely a gross oversimplification of the matter:
Sucrose- is processed table sugar in all it’s many forms: raw, white, brown etc. It is made up of both glucose and fructose and is harvested from sugar cane or sugar beets.
Fructose- This is the naturally occurring sugar present in fruit, fruit juice, honey, etc.
Glucose- This is the “breakdown product of ingested carbohydrates and the form of sugar that the body uses for energy.” Also known as dextrose.
The quotation above comes from livestrong.com which had several helpful articles on the “ose” question, which was good, because Dr. Lustig’s talk makes the assumption that his audience already knows the difference between these terms.
As a side note, I have to say that I was once again dumbfounded at what an incredible, informative and persuasive talk “Sugar” is… Maybe it’s just me, but then again it has been watched, as of today, 766,122 times on YouTube, so I guess I’m not the only one to find it compelling. And this is despite the fact that he bandies about terms such as “hepatic steatosis” and “dyslipidemia” with unsettling ease.
One of the most striking, if complicated, parts of this video is where Lustig goes through and, point by point, details exactly what happens in your body biochemically when one ingests two pieces of white bread versus a shot of bourbon versus a glass of orange juice. You might be surprised to see his very clear demonstration that the glass of orange juice (fructose) behaves in one’s body most like the alcohol, with the exception that alcohol is processed by the brain while fructose is processed by the liver. Acute toxin meet chronic toxin. As Lustig puts it:
“You wouldn’t think twice about not giving your kid a Budweiser, but you don’t think twice about giving your kid a can of Coke. But they’re the same. In the same dosing. For the same reason. Through the same mechanism. Fructose is ethanol without the buzz.”
Whoa. And that goes for fruit juice too, by the way. Pediatric patients coming to Dr. Lustig are advised to drink only milk or water. And by a funny coincidence, that’s exactly what you are left with after omitting all drinks containing either sucrose or fructose.
So the only question that I’m still ruminating on for the moment is that of dextrose specifically: is added dextrose okay on the No-Added Sugar Project as Devised and Implemented by Eve? After all, it isn’t sucrose and it isn’t fructose. According to just about everybody it’s glucose- which Dr. Lustig describes as “the energy of life.” So, does it matter that it’s added as an ingredient, rather than manufactured by my body after eating a piece of bread? Or, is it like other ingredients such as artificial colorings or preservatives, ie: better to do without, but not expressly prohibited under No-Added Sugar? And if so, does this mean my kids can eat the french fries at the skating rink again, resulting in my popularity as a mom going up by about ten-thousand points?
These are the questions that keep me up at night.
February 9, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“So we are being poisoned by this stuff and its been added surruptitiously to all of our food; every processed food.”
-Dr. Robert Lustig – “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”
You’d think it’d be simple to exclude sugar from your diet, right? Not easy perhaps, but at least reasonably simple. You wouldn’t have to be an Einstein. Just look at the ingredients, and then when you find sugar- don’t eat it. Simple.Yet lately I’ve been running into some ingredients that have been defying my supposedly fool-proof plan. Dextrose for one.
Flashback to last week: for several days I wasn’t feeling so well, and as a result I was behind: behind on my cooking, behind on my shopping, behind on my meal-planning. Somehow we muddled through, but one night when I was feeling particularly desperate, half-ill and starving, I hauled out an industrial size bag of frozen “Bertolli” chicken with cream sauce and bowtie pasta. Okay, the ingredient list was longer than my arm, and appeared to have been at least partially written in some unknown foreign language, but this was a food emergency. At least there was no sugar; I had purchased this on my first “no sugar” BJ’s run a few weeks ago.
Of course, silly me had to double check, which as we have already thus far learned can be a big mistake if you’d like to actually eat anytime in the near future. What I found was within the chicken ingredients of meat, water and seasoning, the first sub-ingredient under “seasoning” was: “dextrose.” Dextrose? %^&*#$!
So you know what? I felt crappy. I was starving. And there was pretty much nothing else in the kitchen at that moment that seemed even remotely appealing. I cut open the bag, dumped it into the non-stick pan, cooked it for the requisite ten minutes and we ate it anyway… dextrose or no dextrose.
Upon completing our meal my first thought was that something was amiss- what was it? I realized it seemed really odd to me how quickly our meal had come together- I mean, a meal like chicken and bow-tie pasta with spinach and cream sauce doesn’t just happen all by itself! How long would a recipe like that normally take me? At least an hour but very likely more, not to mention all the dirty dishes that would result from washing spinach, separately cooking chicken, carefully simmering the cream sauce in a pan while boiling the pasta in another pot.
So it occurred to me that this meal had been sponsored: brought to you by dextrose! (As well as its friends isolated soy protein product and sodium phosphate!) The inverse correlation was very clear: the fewer chemicals and additives, the greater amount of meal prep/ cooking and clean-up time, and vice versa.
But it had also become clear to me that there are so many pseudonyms for sugar and it’s variants that I need to do some homework. When I look up “dextrose” on the internet I find a host of confusing answers: “Better known today as glucose, this sugar is the chief source of energy in the body.” While another advertisers hail dextrose powder as “Corn sugar!” that is “30% less sweet than pure or refined sugar.” So, forgive me for being dense, but which is it? Is it something that we create in our bodies to provide energy, or is it an added sugar?
True confessions time: biochemistry was not my best subject. Can you tell? So what is sugar? What are the differences between terms like sucrose, glucose and fructose? And where the heck does dextrose come in? Are all “ose” words sugar-related? What about bellicose? Today I happened upon a website of diabetes information that listed a frightening amount of “reduced calorie sweeteners” to look out for, without so much as an “-ose” ending to tip us off:
…found primarily in packaged foods such as cookies, gum, and candy. Reduced-calorie sweeteners include sorbitol, mannitol, lactitiol, maltitol, xylitol, isomalt, erythritol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates.
Am I the only one who is starting to break out in a sweat just trying to define “sugar” in a list of ingredients? Probably. I don’t know too many other people who would worry whether their food contained isomalt or not.
It’s clear to me that sometimes I’m splitting hairs, because I have to. I put back a box of cereal in the supermarket because it contains “two percent or less” of molasses or cane syrup, and yet how sure am I really that the waitress in the restaurant knows there is no sugar in the tortillas? Did she check for isomalt? Or xylitol? Of course not.
So I’m off to watch Dr. Lustig’s talk “Sugar: the Bitter Truth” for the third time, in hopes of decoding the mystery of the “-ose.”
January 20, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Restaurants are getting interesting. For one thing, I’m beginning to realize that I’m going to have to start being a much bigger tipper. For another, I’m going to to have to get much better at planning. Gone are the days when we could simply go to a restaurant, on the spur of the moment. Take last night, for example.
It was “date night” for my husband Steve and I, and we had big plans to grab a bite to eat and squeaking in to the 7 o’clock showing of “True Grit.” The key was going to be being quick about the food issue. Unfortunately we were late getting out of the house (usually the sitter has to forcibly shove me out and slam the door while I am still making sure she knows our cell phone number for the fourteenth time) and so time was even more tight. But we had a plan: Panera was right across the way from the theater and has been our non-so-fast-food-y fast-food of choice for some time. Even if we couldn’t eat most of the sandwiches on the menu- we suspected sugar in the bread, sugar in the deli meats, sugar in the condiments- we could surely get a quick salad, right?
Well, if I learn anything at all from my year of no sugar it will be to never assume anything ever again. We were delighted to be the only folks at the counter- no line! No waiting! We’d make this movie yet. We ordered two chicken Caesar salads.
“Would you like baguette, apple or chips with that?” asked the young lady manning the cash register.
“Does the baguette have sugar in it?” my husband asked. The young lady said she could check and proceeded to haul out the plastic three ring binder I have recently become aware exists in most chain restaurants on a shelf just under the counter. She paged through the plastic sheets. Yes, it did.
“What about the chicken salad?” I asked. “would you mind looking that up for us?”
“Oh, it’s no problem” she said, paging some more. First she looked up the Caesar dressing. “Dextrose?” she said uncertainly.
“What about just the salad itself, minus the dressing?” I asked. Now there were people waiting behind us. The list of salad dressing ingredients took up almost an entire typed sheet of paper, and the chicken salad, when she located it, was worse. There were dozens of ingredients in the “chicken salad.” Would it be too much to ask, I wondered, that the ingredients of a salad with chicken be salad… and chicken?
We were starting to feel really self-conscious now. The lady at the counter was still being very nice to us and I felt bad for her, as if we were the two cranky old people who come in at rush hour and hold up the line for twenty minutes trying to ascertain whether there are any poppyseeds in the poppyseed muffins. Steve turned to me, defeated, and said quietly, “There’s no way we’re making the movie.”
Meanwhile she handed us pages from the book to peruse to the side while she helped some other customers and as I stared at the page of four million ingredients I realized he was right: no movie. And as it seemed, no dinner either. What a total bummer of a date night. We thanked the young lady, returned the plastic pages and left in despair. For the first time since beginning the sugar project I wondered how a year of no sugar would affect our marriage.
Food, food was everywhere, but not a thing to eat. McDonald’s, Burger King, all the usual fast-eating suspects were right there, and Steve and I were both starving. Fortunately, after several rounds of driving in circles and sniping at one another, we settled on a nearby German restaurant, where I was fairly confident some sausages and sauerkraut would fit the no-sugar bill. This was much more encouraging. After informing the waitress that I couldn’t have a meal with sugar as an ingredient, she checked and found that the weiner schnitzel and the spaetzel noodle side dish did not have sugar in them.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We would both have that. Oh, and we get soup and salad with our dinners, what soup and what dressing would we like? We asked if the chowder had sugar in it, and Steve asked if the blue cheese dressing had sugar.
“Wait,” she said, “You can’t have sugar either?” Whenever I ask about the presence of sugar, I tend to just ask, as politely as possible, and not explain very much. I figure, if people assume I have a dietary restriction due to some health concern they are far more likely to be accurate and truthful than if I tell them I’m doing this for a lark, or just to be completely annoying. This works, of course, until Steve asks too, in which case my cover is blown and he starts to tell our waitress about my blog and hopes for a book.
“Oh, how cool,” our waitress enthuses, which is very polite of her because I’m fairly certain she doesn’t think it’s cool at all. We chat about the omnipresence of sugar and such for a moment and how hard it can be to avoid sugar entirely. After a minute she genuinely asks “Why?”
“To see if it can be done,” I say. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one.
So it turns out, in fact, all three of the soups on the menu contained sugar, as well as the blue cheese dressing. Of course.
January 16, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Yesterday we had our (drumroll, please…) our first official dessert of the month- chocolate cupcakes with “strawberry” (well, okay, it was pink) cream cheese icing. And it was good. Just good. Not amazing, not oh-my-God good, but good. Fine. The unfortunate thing about waiting two weeks to have dessert is that once you finally have it, you’ve got a fairly high probability of being disappointed. The icing was very good, the cake was a little on the dry side, and my favorite part was the strawberry pieces on top- but hey- I can have those anytime!
Well… not anytime anytime. Ahem. In my effort to supplant real sweets for fake ones I have filled our house with fruit: apples, bananas, cherries, watermelon, clementines. It looks a little like Carmen Miranda exploded in our kitchen. However, we all know what too much fruit can do… right? Well, let’s just say we’ve had to be a little bit careful in the fruit department lately.
And there are other reasons to beware of fruit, too. Barbara Kingsolver, in her book Animal Vegetable Miracle, makes an excellent case for eating locally on the basis of environmental responsibility. Perhaps just as compelling is the knowledge that other countries aren’t going to have the same pesticide regulations we do, and likely won’t define terms like “organic” the same way we do either. Sure, I can buy local apples at the farmer’s market and often at our supermarket… but the list of other available local fruit at this time of year? Stops abruptly there.
So many people I know struggle with this impossible balancing act on a daily basis: should we care more about buying organic or local? What about price: does getting a great deal at BJ’s Warehouse trump buying local and/or organic? What about if the organic produce looks like yesterday’s dish-water? Were animals tortured in the making of this product? Were they made even mildly uncomfortable? We scan the labels for increasingly long lists of alarm-bell ingredients: does it have High Fructose Corn Syrup in it? Preservatives? Dyes? MSG? What about endocrine disruptors? Hydrogenated oils? Poison? Is there any poison in it?
Since beginning this project only two weeks ago, I’ve been confronted with these contradicting forces seemingly constantly. I grudgingly put the Morningstar veggie sausage patties in my cart, feeling annoyed that a “health food” product has stuff like “disodium inosinate” in it, even while being delighted that the hundred and 12 ingredients listed do not include sugar. I purchase the shredded wheat cereal, delighted to have found it, yet irked at the use of BHT “added to the packaging material” as a preservative, (“Some embalming fluid with your breakfast cereal, madame?”) I attend the weekly Farmer’s Market and try valiantly not to blanch at the prices, only to find that when I cook my hard-won organic produce that the spinach tastes funny and the brussels sprouts have mysterious “black spot” disease. Ew.
It’s really enough to make any sane person throw in the towel altogether.
But we’re not throwing in the towel, we’re managing and that is something to celebrate, even at this early stage of the game. Maybe especially at this early stage of the game.
So, to sum up, the best thing about our daughter’s sixth birthday party was that she loved it. She was happy, her friends were happy- and to seal the deal they all had cake. If that isn’t a special occasion, I don’t know what is.
January 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“People will eat what’s cheapest and most available, and what’s cheapest and most available right now is food that makes people fat and unhealthy.”
-Dr. Andrew Weil
(from interview in The Sun issue 421)
After topping off at the gas station the other day the digital screen graciously effused: “Thanks for using.”
“Oh yeah,” I thought, “Like I have a choice.” And I was struck by the thought that sugar in our culture works very much the same way. Like it or not; we’re all “using” as they say.
To live in our culture, shop in our supermarkets, and eat in our restaurants is to buy into our national, yet utterly silent addiction to sugar. Exhibit A: the Health Food store/aisle (dum dum dum DUMMMMM!)
Look closely folks, is this really an alternative? Well, yes, in some ways it certainly is. Want organic, non-genetically modified marinara sauce or wild-caught, dolphin-free canned tuna (to the tune of $7 a tin)? Want breakfast cereal that educates your kids about the rainforest or biodegradable toilet paper? Free-range chicken and growth-hormone-free milk? Even if these products aren’t local, their commitment to a world that is more responsible in terms of our environment, animal welfare and our bodies is laudible.
But don’t assume that this is a free ride, no matter how much that can of tuna costs you. Better isn’t perfect, I’m afraid, and in more cases that you can possible imagine we’ve apparently traded sugar and high-fructose corn syrup for things which just sound a lot nicer: unsulphured molasses. Dehydrated cane juice. Apple-juice concentrate. Brown rice syrup. Even in “hard core” brands that health food aisle veterans know and trust like Mothers and Barbara’s… seek and ye shall find, I’m afraid. I spent freaking forever in the health food cereal aisle yesterday and out of several dozen boxes came up with two- TWO- that had no sugar of any kind in them. Undaunted, (okay, maybe a little daunted) I pressed on to the regular cereal aisle, composed of perhaps a hundred different choices and found one more (hooray for good ol’ shredded wheat!)
I know that as we go on in our project it will get easier- I’ll know the items to go directly to, and my shopping will occur with laser-like precision and speed. In the meantime, though, going to the grocery store takes fifty percent longer, is twelve times more frustrating, and leaves me sorely needing a nap.
January 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
You know, if I hadn’t been there myself, I would’ve said it wasn’t possible. But I am astounded to report that our now-six-year-old Ilsa had a lovely family birthday party Tuesday night, complete with presents, candles, her requested birthday meal, and a special dessert… which we really did do (drumroll please…) without sugar. YES!
Even better is the fact that she had no idea anything was afoot in the dessert department- which makes me SO glad. The last thing I want is to have my kids growing up feeling warped and deprived because of their crazy-ass mother’s hair-brained projects. Sure a “Year Without Sugar” means one thing to you and me- but to a six-year old? It might as well be forever.
On the other hand, it might as well be three seconds too. That’s the plus side- 99 percent of the time Ilsa forgets about the project entirely: she still asks for dessert regularly and tells me about eating cupcakes at school with an innocence that I find utterly charming. This morning we had oatmeal for breakfast, which I jazzed up by adding some lovely cut strawberries and blueberries. I was pretty impressed with myself, but she was not. After a few bites she said to me, “I wish we could have some maple syrup or something on this…” she thought for a moment, “But… we can’t? Because of the sugar…?” “Yes,” I said gently.
“But it’s not forever,” I added hopefully.
Now, promptly after this conversation I ‘m am fairly confident she went off to school and had her usual second breakfast of Frosted Flakes, (more about that in an upcoming post) so don’t fret too overly much on her behalf.
Meanwhile Greta, our ten year old, has a much more fully-developed consciousness about what it is we’re trying to do here and how she feels about all of it. Trouble is, that opinion varies from moment to moment. One minute she’s shocked, simply shocked that I am serving a frozen pizza to our family that has (gasp!) evaporated cane juice listed as the ninety-seventh ingredient… the next she’s eating Skittles at All School Meeting, or sneaking peppermints from the jar near a store cash register.
Hey- I’m no ogre. When Greta got that handful of Skittles, she reluctantly came over and asked me if she could eat them. She had been having an exceptionally hard day at school and a well-meaning soul had offered them in an attempt to cheer her up. I told her truthfully that I was going to leave it up to her- at which point she departed with lightning speed, presumably in case I decided to change my mind on that pronouncement.
I don’t think I’m going to though. We’re doing this project as a family, and for the most part the food of the family comes through one conduit: me. I do the vast majority of the menu planning, shopping and cooking in our house, not to mention lunch packing, so consequently the vast majority of what the kids eat is being affected by this experiment. In other words, while I am strict and very serious about sugar and it’s myriad faces, and following our rules to the fullest extent possible- am I going to be the Sugar Nazi? No. After all, this experiment is in part about teaching our children to make good, informed, conscious choices about what they put into their bodies. We have set up the guidelines, and already we’ve all learned a lot we didn’t know before about our food; but only they can figure out what this project specifically means for them.
Which for some reason makes a small victory like the other night’s birthday dessert all the more significant to me. After our traditional birthday meal of english muffin pizzas (after finding alternative, no-sugar brands of English Muffins and marinara sauce, or course) paired with some spinach, we stuck a candle in what I fervently hoped would be a delicious grand-finale… banana splits: bananas halved, banana ice cream (Steve’s famous single-ingredient recipe: frozen bananas he runs through the Champion juicer), topped with strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar (but omitting the called-for sugar), whipped cream (ditto) and a fresh cherry on top. PS- no added sugar.
It looked pretty decadent, but I was petrified. What if it was awful? What if it tasted like cardboard? I took a bite. Hey- wow! Happily, the girls were exclaiming as they ate- the banana ice cream was the key- perfect and sweet all on it’s own, creamy like the best gelato… and the cream and strawberries made it just the right amount more colorful and complex. I sighed a HUGE sigh of relief… and I began to think we might just make it through this project after all.
January 10, 2011 § Leave a Comment
As expected: there are some bumps in the road on the way to no-sugar nirvana. Last night after reading my post my husband Steve took issue with the “fruit juice rationale” that I had so carefully worked out, and I got a little emotional. Maybe more than a little. (“You just don’t care about this project do you? Sniff!”) I was tired, cranky, sweet-deprived, and worst of all he had a good point. I couldn’t even have a piece of chocolate to console myself about how hard this all is. It doesn’t help when I remind myself that this is only day ten, with 355 more to go.
Have I mentioned this is hard? Like, “sugar-is-out-to-get-me-and-lurks-around-every-corner-waiting-to-pounce” hard? True confessions time: in addition to still trying to throw-out/give away/finish eating the sugar-ingredient-ed items in our pantry- Pepperidge Farm goldfish, Late July crackers, the now-infamous organic chicken broth, and so on- Steve and I have each faltered and had a bite (okay three) of desserts put in front of us at various events (Steve’s downfall: bread pudding, mine: homemade chocolate birthday-party cake). Okay, okay, I know it’s only been a week, but this “working out the parameters” period is killing me!
Nevertheless, so far we have managed to establish the following guidelines:
- No sugar. Which means no:white sugarbrown sugar
evaporated cane syrup
brown rice syrup
dextrose (check your french fries!)
artificial sweeteners of all stripes
and yes… fruit juice
- The exception: as a family we’ll pick one dessert to have every month which can contain sugar. If it is your birthday that month, you get to pick the dessert.
- Eve’s “fruit juice rationale” -ie: the idea that fruit juice is okay if there is actual fruit present- is to be used only in the event of a food-emergency. As in: “we need to eat dinner tonight and it’s either this or toast.” (see also: Murphy’s Law of Hats and Sausages.) Translation: no more Polaner All-Fruit jam, no more fruit gummis. Darn.
Next hurdle: our youngest daughter’s sixth birthday is this week, but her party is this weekend. It’s already been decided that we’ll have cupcakes at the kid party (she wants chocolate with strawberry icing)- but then, how do we have a family birthday party- for a six-year-old- without a dessert? That’s the $64,000 question.