My husband and I joined (presumably) thousands of New York Times readers who went cold turkey on sugar this January, after reading David Leonhardt’s column. I’ve never been a fan of sugar, as anyone following this blog knows, but I’ve never avoided it completely. My typical sugar (which includes honey and real maple syrup) intake includes a teaspoon of maple syrup in plain yogurt or plain Old Fashioned oats for breakfast, less than a gram a day from some products, like Trader Joe’s dill spiced popcorn or some Asian sauces, and some dark chocolate. Prior to January, my dark chocolate chips intake was getting a little higher than I would prefer. Still, though, I was never binging on sugar.
Given that I don’t eat much sugar, I didn’t expect much from a month of abstinence. Here’s how the month went, some of it surprising:
- I ate a lot less. This was the most surprising part of the experiment. Once I stopped eating sweets, I was significantly less hungry. I think the craving for sugar, even when I didn’t eat much of it, was making me eat more throughout the day–more fruit, more snacks and more at meals. I was noticeably less hungry this January.
- Stopping cold turkey wasn’t hard. This is probably most people’s biggest challenge. For me, though, having a little sugar makes me want more. I can eat two handfuls of chocolate chips or none. There’s not much in between. Once I determined to eat none, giving it all up wasn’t hard. By day 2, I wasn’t missing it.
- Ripe bananas made breakfast no big deal. No sugar meant no granola because there’s honey in my recipe. My alternative is oatmeal, and eating it plain is just gross. Enter the mashed banana. By day 3 I didn’t miss the maple syrup.
- I always want my coffee sweetened. I gave up stevia this month too, in an attempt to rid my taste buds of a craving for sweets, but I never got over the boring coffee. I always added milk and sometimes added vanilla or almond extract and still, by day 30, I wanted the stevia back.
- I’m sticking to this plan. See number 1. Why would I mess with that?!
Now, in case I’ve convinced you to try this month without sugar, here are some suggestions:
- Decrease processed food in your diet first. Sugar is in pretty much everything processed, so if you eat a lot of processed foods, you’ll have to redo your entire pantry: bread, sauces, snacks, cereal and more. Maybe spend a month minimizing your processed foods before you take on sugar.
- Identify some foods you can eat. Pita, TJ’s tomato sauce, Trisket crackers, Larabars and Grape Nuts are some examples of processed foods without sugar. Stock up.
- Do it with a friend. When your friends or family join you in any food challenge, it’s a lot more manageable.