Tag Archives: no sugar breakfast

A Year Of No Sugar: Post 50

I find myself writing things like “once again, we realize that sugar is in absolutely everything including your sneakers,” and “as I mentioned before, my kids are happily eating their carob chip cookies, and plotting their eventual revenge.”

I feel like I am, how shall I say this? Repeating myself. There are two reasons for this: one, because of the blog format, I can never be sure what the reader reading this sentence right now already knows, so I reiterate a bit to make sure they’re with me to a reasonable extent. The second reason is due to the very nature of eating. I mean, what else do we do as often as eating? Three times per day plus snacks… It’s really a wonder we get anything else done. When traveling it often seems to me as if, for the Europeans, work is just a brief respite between the real business of the day- coffee, lunch, and dinner.

I think often too, about the Little-House-on-the-Prairie days, when it was a full-time job just to get those three meals on the table, day after day after day… The stomach does not take a day off- and neither did Ma.

Which brings up the notion of monotony. In a diet which has added sugar entirely absent from it, variety equals morale; and we need morale or we risk mutiny on the bounty. Whereas in the past I’d relied upon the health food section of the cereal aisle to provide me with variety, nowadays I work a whole lot harder than that. Breakfast is the hardest meal in the no-sugar day as David Gillespie concurs in Sweet Poison. In fact, one of Gillespie’s five “rules” for living fructose-free is: “Be careful at breakfast.” Oooooo! Sounds like a good title for a new diabetic horror movie. SOOOO many breakfast foods are laden with an obscene amount of sugar that it’s no wonder we sometimes get confused: “Hey Mom, is this blueberry buckle for breakfast, or dessert?”

As if this weren’t bad enough, people delight in celebrating with “Sadie Hawkins”-style sugar too- sugar when you weren’t expecting it, such as having “breakfast for dinner”- pancakes with maple syrup- or “pie for breakfast”- which they do as an annual fundraiser in a nearby town. I’m all for fun and variety, but even before our Year of No Sugar began, the thought of having a nice piece of lemon meringue pie for breakfast makes me a little queasy.

But somehow, all this breakfast sugar isn’t supposed to count. No one thinks of having chocolate cake with ice cream for breakfast- ew!- but what is the difference between that and french toast with syrup or- if you’re at IHOP- chocolate chips and whipped cream?

So I work hard at breakfast. In the case of my youngest daughter- who is six and has been clinically diagnosed as “always hungry”- I’m actively competing with the school breakfast which features nifty things like Frosted Flakes and Goldfish Grahams with crystalline fructose (Better than just fructose! It’s like sugar heroin!) If I’m going to get her at least reasonably full before she encounters that sugar buffet, I’m going to have to be creative.

Therefore, whereas I used to sleepily throw three or four boxes on the table with some bowls, now I actively plan a loose breakfast rotation: soft boiled eggs and toast, yogurt with strawberries, oatmeal with bananas, toast with cheese and cantaloupe, bagels and cream cheese with slices of orange… occasionally I brew some peppermint tea, or my husband makes a frothy milk drink we call a “steamer,” (which we grew to love back when we used to make it with maple syrup.) This morning I sprang European “Ovaltine” on them (American Ovaltine has sugar in it) and the results were mixed: they loved it, but … the drink was so good it got them reminiscing about other delicious drinks they only distantly recall at this point: hot chocolate, hot apple cider, juice.

“I really miss having sugar,” Greta, our oldest, said with feeling, “It’s so hard.”

“Me too.” Ilsa agreed, lightly.

Then Greta had a thought which she hadn’t before.

“Hey- what will we do about Halloween? And Thanksgiving? And Christmas?” she was wide-eyed, preparing to panic.

Oh boy. “Well, we’ll have to be creative,” I began, “we’ll…”

“I love Halloween,” Ilsa broke in. Oh boy. Here we go, I thought, melt-down time. Where’s the Kleenex…?

“But,” Ilsa added, “what should I be? Should I be a monkey?”

And just like that, the conversation shifted and panic was averted. For now. I was amazed at Ilsa’s simple, unconscious reminder to me: sure, food is really, really important. But it isn’t everything.

A Year Of No Sugar: Post 49

The other morning I asked if my younger daughter would like some bananas on her oatmeal. It was the kind of question we ask that is a total formality, in the vein of “Would you like to have an after school snack?” or “Would you like to go on that roller coaster?”

But Ilsa stopped me in my tracks. “No.” she said.


I was pretty sure I had misunderstood, so I asked her again.

“No,” she repeated. “Sometimes I like to have it without.”


Oatmeal with Extras

Instead of asking her “who are you and what have you done with my six-year-old” I watched her eat an entire bowl of oatmeal with milk. Plain. And then, as if the forces of the universe hadn’t toyed with my sense of the proper order of things quite enough, my eleven year old came in and proceeded to do the very same thing.

This brings me back to the thought that I had a few months ago when we began our Year of No Sugar, namely, that contrary to our assumptions, perhaps children may have an easier time with the omission of sugar in their foods, since they haven’t had as many years to get addicted as us tall people.

However, if that isn’t sufficient evidence, I hereby present exhibit B: the popsicle experiment. Both kids have been mentioning that not having ice cream this summer is going to be one of the hardest parts of the project. Therefore, when I saw some plastic make-your-own-popsicle molds I jumped at the chance to replicate an ice-cream-ish-experience in our own no-sugar universe.

Our oldest, Greta, was especially excited and asked to make them… repeatedly. Folks, this child has the determination of a jack hammer. After a few days of not making popsicles I, in desperation, ran out and bought the ingredient we had been lacking: yogurt. We raced home and mixed up a batch of banana yogurt popsicles that were- hooray!- frozen by dinner.

You know where I’m going with this: they love them. The kit makes six popsicles, so we were set for a satisfying “dessert” for the next three nights. Next time around I tried to be a bit more creative, adding in fresh strawberries so they turned pink in the blender, (turning anything pink is always a good move in a house with two girls) and then adding some frozen berries to float randomly about like little prizes. Again- super big hit. Huge.

But here’s the kicker: the other night I tried one and- don’t tell the kids, but- I’m not as impressed as they are. They’re good, but… very icy. Like sucking on a milk icicle. And not… forgive me… sweet enough. Gasp!

So there you have it. I have officially become fussier than my kids. Which is a relief, because at least for the moment I can relax that I’m not ruining their lives… in this way. Of course, I plan to continue my groundbreaking popsicle research in the interest of making zingier cold treats, but basically that’s for my benefit. The kids are perfectly happy. Go figure.

A Year of No Sugar: Post 35

“Children today are increasingly dependent on junk food, fast food, and microwave meals, and they are disconnected from growing, preparing, and appreciating food. The family meal, once an important social ritual, is now endangered.”

-Juliet B. Schor, Born to Buy

Getting our two kids on board for a year of no sugar hasn’t been exactly easy. Several months ago we were all driving somewhere when Steve and I first proposed the idea to the girls. They both promptly burst into tears.

“Well, that went well,” Steve said to me over the hysterics coming from the backseat.

Which is why I’m so delighted that our older daughter Greta has become somewhat more favorably inclined toward the No Sugar Project since we began on January first. Part of this has to do with her mercurial personality (“I love it!! I hate it!! What are we talking about!?!”), and part of it has to do with my attempt to give her more of an personal investment in the whole idea. She’s interested in writing, since it’s something her mom seems to do an awful lot, so when I proposed she keep a journal of her thoughts about our No-Sugar year her face lit up; I began to see a glimmer of hope for a perhaps-not-too-totally-awful year after all.

Since then she’s made three journal entries, which impresses me endlessly- totally unbiased parent that I am- and she’s given me permission to share some of the highlights with you.

“Today we ofishily started the ‘NO! Eat sugar Project.’” she writes in her first entry. “I’m so worryed about this. I know my firends already think I’m kind of weird… you need to know my family eats really healthy and so my friends think thats some what crazy. I mean. We don’t eat dorieados nor at fast food Places. Like for instance. I’ve never been to mcDonals & I’ve also never been to sub way”

The second entry is slightly less subtle: “I hate this project! I hate it! It’s know fair. Mom is taking all the sweets in the house and giving them away… And she’s giving away the caramel popcorn that Grandpa just gave us a week or two ago. I DON’T THINK IT’S FAIR!!”

My family is kind of weird: check. My parents are totally unfair: check. So far I think we’re doing fine in our preparation for the teenage years.

Then one night, as I was making dinner she asked me “Mom? What’s that word when you can’t figure out how you feel about something? Like when you feel more than one way about it?”


“Yes- ambivalent.”

Later on I realized she was writing another journal entry which began like this: “I feel more and more ambivalent about this project every day… I mean me and my family can only eat 4 kinds of cereal now.”

Be honest with me: does that scream “future therapy candidate” to you? Probably not… but that doesn’t mean I don’t obsess about possible future ramifications of our No Sugar Year for our children: who are the participants in this endeavor without a veto vote. Yesterday someone told me the project would be something “she’ll laugh about” when she’s twenty-five… which is a nice way to think about it: at worst, fodder for future stories about what her crazy-ass mom decided to do when she was ten. That I’m okay with. As my Mom used to say, “Tell your friends it’s my fault. I don’t mind. Blame it on me.” What a mom thing to say, to feel. I recall being endlessly impressed by her willingness to be uncool, to be the fall-guy for me. It isn’t until you get to be a mom that you realize there are so many things way worse than being weird, or uncool.

I must admit, however, that the end of Greta’s last journal entry is my favorite part, giving me a few hopeful glimmers to hold onto for now as we continue on our year-long journey: “We had pancakes this morning and boy were they good!! Even if we can’t put on maple surup.”