It’s funny, but the more I want to define “sugar-free,” the more elusive the concept becomes. It reminds me of the time in college when my roommate and I went to the local co-op. We were both delighted to find local milk in returnable glass bottles, but when the time came to buy more milk, she said, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just get milk at the regular store and pour it into the glass bottle?” Turns out, while I had been enamored of the environmentally-responsible aspect of using a returnable glass bottle, she had been enjoying the fact that the glass bottle was pretty. Lesson learned: the end does not necessarily define the means.
So it is with “sugar-free”: a term which may seem self-explanatory, but it’s definition may all depend on how you got there. You may be surprised to learn that often “sugar-free” does not, in fact, actually indicate an item or recipe that is free-of-sugar.
Let me give you a for-instance. A few days ago I started looking for recipes that might aid our family in our year without sugar- in particular recipes which might have a dessert-y feel to them. However, when you google “no sugar dessert recipes” you get everything from recipes containing agave, molasses, honey, or apple juice to recipes calling for your favorite “sugar substitute,” (Splenda, Sweet N’ Low, etc.) to those which call for “only” a tablespoon of sugar. So defining “sugar-free” is going to depend a lot on your reason for avoiding sugar in the first place. Are you avoiding sugar due to: diabetes? Trying to lose weight? Just generally trying to be more healthy?
As it turns out, our society is so sugar-saturated that the majority of “no-sugar” recipes I found… have sugar in them, or at least artificial sweeteners. Here’s an idea: how about including no sweeteners at all? But I’m being intentionally naïve, because the whole point of plastering the words “no-sugar” on a product/recipe is code for “but it’s still sweet– amazing!!”
Similarly, we all know when we peruse the aisles of the supermarket not to pick up the items labeled “sugar-free” unless we like consuming chemicals which cause a high percentage of laboratory rats to become amnesiac lepers with terrible foot odor. In restaurants, for maximum clarity, instead of asking for “sugar-free” anything, I say this: “I’m not eating sugar. I was wondering if the pickled beef tongue has any form of sugar as an ingredient?” which is about as clear as I can be.
On a related note, it finally occurred to me today to do a search to see if a project such as ours had been done before. And, like so many things involving sugar, the answer is a resounding yes, but no. I admit I trembled a bit when, after googling “year of no sugar” an entire page came up of seemingly similar bloggers who had gotten there before me- years before in some cases. But then I looked closer and was pleased to see that there are some very key differences.
For one thing, every no-sugar blog I found excluded only “man-made” or refined sugars such as white sugar, artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup. One blog entitled “my years without sugar” (myyearwithout.blogspot.com) lists 100% fruit juice, molasses and pure maple syrup as some of her favorite natural sweeteners. Another at healthylifestyleforu.com described savoring oatmeal raisin cookies containing honey and molasses.
For another thing, every blogger I found was going it alone- no baby, children or husbands on board. In our case, it’s our whole family, all four of us, which does indeed give me nightmares that I am torturing our children and giving them future eating complexes and therapy fodder, thanks for asking. But it seemed pretty much useless to me to do anything otherwise- we are a family, we eat as a family. If we can’t do this together- and if we can still remains to be seen- then that’s a more valuable insight to me than anything I could ever do successfully all by myself.
So I have to say, the fact that our project is forging, perhaps, some new ground makes me feel pretty good. Alone. But good.
1 thought on “A Year of No Sugar: Post 16”
Hi Eve, Thanks for another thought-provoking post! I think you might like to hang with my mother-in-law, who keeps a straight-line Korean kitchen. The only sweetener in sight is some unopened maple syrup (from us) and some white sugar in packets for guests to use in coffee. No dairy in sight either. Perhaps it’s their step-aerobics classes and swimming, but I can’t help but think this diet helps keep both in-laws extraordinarily healthy! They aren’t abstinent sugarers, but it’s just not part of their daily diet.