Stop Eating Sugar: 4 Tips for Getting Started with Sugar-Free Parenting
Could you live for a year without sugar? What about you and your family? That’s exactly what Eve O. Schaub did and then wrote about in her new book, Year of No Sugar. Sound like torture to give up hazelnut flavored coffee creamer and Girl Scout cookies? Well, it’s even more than that–sugar lurks in breads, deli meats and so many other places. Check out this list–you’ll be sugar shocked. So Eve is here to help. She gives 4 Tips for Getting Started with Sugar-Free Parenting including grocery shopping lists and recipes. Read more about her successes and setbacks below:
KK: How did you get the idea to go sugar free? Why did you extend it to the whole family?
ES: I got the idea to do a Year of No Sugar after watching a YouTube video my husband happened upon. It was a 90-minute medical lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig entitled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”It’s not exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to go viral, but that’s just what happened: It’s been viewed over four million times to date.
After watching the video, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that sugar was hidden in plain sight everywhere we went. Once I had the idea to do a Year of No Sugar, it seemed natural for us to do the project together as a family. After all, I do most of the family cooking, and we eat most of our meals together. Additionally, I felt that while one person can do any old crazy thing, a whole family eating a particular way would represent something far more interesting and meaningful.
KK: What were the kids reactions when you told them?
ES: Ohhhhh, not good. We were driving home from a visit to my mother’s and as soon as my husband and I started explaining it they instantly knew that this was a terrible, awful, horrible idea. They immediately started wailing and gnashing their teeth: “What about Christmas? What about Halloween? What about Birthdays?” It wasn’t pretty.
KK: Did you go cold turkey or gradually reduce sugar?
ES: Our project began on January 1, pretty much cold turkey, which isn’t to say we didn’t make any mistakes. Immediately we began experiencing a very steep learning curve as to what was going to be involved in our Year of No Sugar, for example: We went to a pancake house for breakfast on New Year’s Day. Now, surely, I might have realized that simply avoiding the maple syrup container on the table wasn’t going to be enough (there’s sugar in the pancake and waffle batters, in the bacon, in the sausage) but at that time I really didn’t. It would take weeks before we got into a groove of understanding how to best ask questions in restaurants, how to efficiently read ingredients while grocery shopping, how to plan ahead for times when we’d be out and need to have some food on hand.
KK: I’m very interested in doing a version of this for my family of six. Do you have 3-5 tips for getting started? I don’t even know if I can do it!
ES: You can totally do it! I firmly believe that anyone who wants to avoid sugar can do it, even in our super sugar-saturated society. In many ways I think our culture’s addiction to sugar is as much an issue of convenience as it is of taste; Americans love convenience, and sugar is one of the ways the Big Food companies have been able to give it to us. Consequently, avoiding sugar is often simply a matter of becoming more aware of what’s really in our foods, and being willing to spend a little extra time searching for alternatives. That said, here are 4 Tips for Getting Started with Sugar-Free Parenting:
- Don’t drink sugar. This is our society’s biggest sugar-culprit, from soda and sports drinks to bottled teas and, yes, juice. Stick with water, milk, unsweetened coffee or tea. Wine contains a vanishingly small amount of fructose (the bad part of sugar), and is way preferable to alcoholic drinks mixed with syrups, juices or sodas.
- Read ingredients. Always. If I learned anything in our Year of No Sugar, it is never to assume I know what is in a product. You’ll be amazed the places you will find sugar once you start to look: crackers, bread, tortellini, chicken broth, peanut butter, salad dressing, cold cuts, baby formula. Even if you can’t imagine why sugar would be there, check.
- Know Sugar’s Aliases. Today there are so many bizarre laboratory-born ingredients that it’s tempting to give up trying to know what is in our food. On my website, you can check out my list of sugar’s popular aliases as well as the list of things that sound like they might be sugar but aren’t.
- Don’t make it a big deal. The last thing a kid wants to hear, or many adults either for that matter, is how good for them something is. Sugar in our culture is synonymous with fun, so saying something is sugar-free is tantamount to saying it is fun-free, not to mention probably taste-free. I find the best strategy is not to mention that the Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting you brought to the potluck has no added sugar and then watch as the entire thing disappears, down to the crumbs.
KK: What’s the challenging part of sticking with it?
ES: The most challenging part of our year caught me by surprise: It wasn’t the cravings or the temptation to cheat, it was the social isolation that comes with eating differently than everyone else around you. I never realized how heavily our culture relies on food to make things official, and in our culture food means sugar. From birthdays to funerals to fundraisers to the last day of school picnic: we often found ourselves existing in some inexpressible way apart from our friends, acquaintances and neighbors… celebrating next to them, rather than with them.
KK: What was good or bad about the year?
ES: Some of the results of our Year of No Sugar were easier to anticipate: It made us feel healthier, the kids missed fewer school days, and we all became expert sugar sleuths. Other things took us more by surprise – not to be indelicate, but we pooped more. Whereas I had once been a recipe-slave, following every instruction to the letter, I learned to enjoy improvising and experimenting. Also, our palates began to change, and we found ourselves disgusted by the taste of once-beloved treats.
For me, the down side of doing a Year of No Sugar was that once we stopped, I felt adrift: How do we go on? What are the rules now? Figuring out how to have some small amount of sugar in our lives without going overboard was yet another significant challenge.
KK: Are you glad you did it? Are you still on the no-sugar diet?
ES: Everyone in our family is glad we did our Year of No Sugar. The kids are proud of the fact that we accomplished something that plainly horrifies their classmates. By the same token, everyone is glad that the year is over and that we don’t have to be quite so strict as we were during that Year, for example, we now eat mayonnaise and ketchup with impunity.
We are now what I’d call “High Level Sugar Avoiders:” We eschew sugar in most things, make our own breads and sauces and cook as much as we can at home. It still makes me irate when a product contains sugar needlessly like crackers and salad dressing. As for dessert, we save it for special occasions, not more than once every week or two.Add a Comment