A Year of No Sugar: Post 20

February 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s hard to know whether I’m being a killjoy or not. I mean- of course I am. No sugar? Hel-lo? But my thought along the way has been that there are lots of ways to celebrate, to have fun, to mark milestones… we’re just removing one of them, right?

And yet. My mom put it best when she mentioned she had purchased Valentines for the girls with no candy. It was hard, she said, not only because sugar is everywhere, but because buying special celebratory treats with sugar in them is “a lot of the fun.” Taking the sugar out of Valentine’s Day for my mom might be akin to taking the roller coasters out of amusement parks for others: like, why would you do that? Isn’t that messing with the point of the whole thing?

Yes- but, in our culture at least, we don’t ride roller coasters for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Riding a roller coaster is, I even would venture to say, a “special” activity. Over time, and due to the ever-increasing cheapness of corn-based sugars in particular, food manufacturers have become expert at hiding sugar in virtually every ingredient in practically every meal. So what’s my problem? Here is my problem: sugar isn’t special anymore. We just think it is.

This is how one can go, for example, to a kid’s birthday party and have a meal consisting of pizza with sugar in the crust, sugar in the tomato sauce, and a big glass of sugar to drink, by which I mean fruit juice. By the time we get to the overt sugar of dessert, we often don’t realize how much sugar we’ve already had. Multiply this by three times a day…? Add in the fact that dessert in Brobdingnagian portions is available at practically every restaurant into which one ventures? “Death by Chocolate” may be right.

So last night my husband Steve and I enjoyed a much more successful date night than two weeks ago, managing to have a nice meal at a restaurant in a nearby town. When I asked the waitress if the nachos contained any sugar (hey- you didn’t think I was going to eat tofu and dirt, did you?) she immediately asked if I was avoiding carbs, or sugar in particular. “No sugar as an ingredient,” I clarified, impressed with her quickness on the topic; clearly she has dealt with many a client seeking to satisfy the requirements of one eating plan or another. I mentioned that I was particularly wondering about the corn chips or the salsa.

She assured me that there was no sugar in any aspect of the nacho appetizer. Despite her confidence, I had to wonder… really? I mean, how do you know? Are we counting all of sugar’s many aliases too? I mean, it’s been a month plus and I’m still learning new ones. It makes me think of the two girls in my older daughter’s class who are deathly allergic to nuts… if I end up unknowingly eating some dextrose or evaporated cane syrup in my meal, it isn’t going to kill me after all. It’s difficult to imagine how worrisome an ordinary thing like dinner at a restaurant must be for anyone with such serious ingredient concerns.

Food in our society has gotten sufficiently complicated that one feels the need to bring a magnifying glass and a wikipedia search engine to every list of ingredients one encounters, not to mention adding an extra hour to our day for deciphering. And who does that? It’s just too hard. Eat the darn thing- we say in surrender- it’s probably not going to kill you. It seems to me that today’s time-saving food products are like tax returns: the only people who know what’s in them anymore are the professionals.

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