I started the 14-Day No Sugar challenge yesterday and I’m already amazed at how much flavor I’m noticing in my foods today! I know that I’ve only just begun and most likely still in the “honeymoon” stage.
(I’m almost certain that I’ll soon be dealing with “detox” and/or withdrawals – so bring them on!!)
Don’t think I’m crazy or anything but it’s become quite apparent how bad this sugar epidemic is within our societies today. We are bombarded by commercials for sugar laden cereals, sodas, processed “snacks”, diet drinks and almost every product on the market. My kids know that I would never buy chocolate cereals because it is clearly NOT healthy….and most definitely, not a “meal”. Cereals (among all other packaged products) have been limited in our home and even then, I am choosy about which items I purchase in any given time. I know that during the summer months when we go camping, my family and I are on vacation and this is the time they can have whatever cereals and snacks they like because it’s our planned treat time. Binge fest, to say the least!
I have been on my own health and wellness journey for over 15 years now and it’s still shocking to me that I can fall into the traps that society and our culture “feeds” us too…just in a “healthier” manner. For example, although I don’t eat anything with white flour or white sugars, I know that even “whole wheat” can be misleading. It’s not just about reading labels any more (I took many nutrition courses in school and learned to read before I purchased – way before it was “cool”) but more about deciphering what the foods and ingredients even mean! The food industry has learned how to trick us into thinking we are choosing a “healthier” option by labeling “multi-grain” and “wheat” but these are typically made with refined grains, so you’re not getting the full nutritional benefit of the whole grain.
What about salads? Don’t assume that you are eating “healthy” by choosing to buy a packaged salad on the go. Prepared tuna salads, chicken salads, and shrimp salads are often loaded with hidden fats and calories due to their high mayonnaise and sugar content. While a lot depends on portion size and ingredients, an over-stuffed tuna sandwich can contain as many as 700 calories and 40 grams of fat. Not so “healthy” after all, is it?
When it comes to topping your salad, you’d think that the oil based dressings would be a safe option over the creamy blends, right? Check out the ingredient list on most bottled dressings, and you’ll often see three to eight lines of extras such as added sugars, coloring agents, flavor enhancers, thickeners, and additives. Your healthiest option is to whisk together your own healthy dressing with olive oils; vinegars; avocados; citrus and other options that you have more control over.
What about a quick snack when you’re on the go or after a sweat induced workout session at the gym? Think you’re safe to choose a “protein” or “energy” bar? Not so fast! These are simply “candy bars” in disguise, made to look healthy to the uneducated observer who is working hard to get healthy and isn’t quite up to speed on marketing tactics. Many energy bars are filled with high fructose corn syrup, added sugar, and artery-clogging saturated fat. Plus, some bars (particularly meal replacement varieties) contain more than 350 calories each―a bit more than “snack size” for most people. Rethink that bar and either bring your own nuts and fruits or you can also make your own healthier energy snack. Try this recipe: Healthier Energy Snacks (although the added honey and chocolate chips wouldn’t fit into my NO SUGAR theme this challenge; it’s def better than the alternatives)
Let’s also touch on the “gluten free” obsession at this moment. Not unlike the “no carb”; “low-fat”; “high protein/high carb” and other social and media hyped culture crazes, this can become misleading to the uneducated and create hype that has no hope for long term results. Many Americans think “gluten-free” (casually abbreviated GF) means a food is healthy.Unless you have a medical issue that requires gluten avoidance, this usually isn’t true. In fact, manufacturers often use less nutrient-dense flours and fat to replace the gluten in carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, crackers, and snacks. So, when you opt for these GF products, you’re spending more for no additional nutrients and sometimes a less healthy product.
Have you seen that this is now used on products that have NEVER contained gluten in the first place? This is such a lie to promote products through advertising and the new health fads but come on, gluten free ketchup? Yes, you’d be surprised what products are happily touting “gluten free” as if that magically makes it “healthy”; much like the “low fat” or “no fat” days of the 90’s. If you want to cut down on gluten, try replacing refined carb products with foods that are naturally gluten-free such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes instead.
Look at every product you have in your home and toss out the foods that are filled with additives, preservatives, chemicals and anything you can’t pronounce. When in doubt, stick to whole foods and foods that are closest to the earth (plants and animals for example). One of my favorite sayings is, “If it came from a plant then it’s good for you but if it’s made in a plant then not so much” (maybe I ad libbed it a bit but you get the gist of it!) 😉
Obviously, there are items that would be great choices that are processed to a point. Think all natural and healthy options that are only made with healthy ingredients. I love peanut butter but I know that it doesn’t grow from the ground in the jar! 🙂 I check the ingredients and only choose the products that simply say “peanuts”. If you choose the popular brand name peanut butters, you better re-read what they have added to create that sugary substance you have come to know and love as a “healthy” option. Not so much. Check out your ingredients for ketchup, pasta sauce, yogurts, granola bars, cereals, juices, sports drinks (please…these are sugar drinks), instant oatmeal (think it’s healthy cuz it’s oats?) and the list goes on. Never assume what you are choosing is healthy because you’ve heard it was healthy…read the label and the ingredients.
What about protein powders? I am amazed at the amount of crap that is added to these powders that we tout as “healthy” and “optimal” for post-workout fuel. Read your labels!! I was under the impression for years that the “Quest” bars and products were better for us.
Until I read the ingredients. HOLY COW! I found sucralose and immediately stopped purchasing this “crack” substance that my kids had been craving. They know now that I will only purchase the products that I know and trust have nothing cheap added in to fill in. I’m going to blow your mind a bit more on this topic of protein powders and what most companies add in order to make it “cheaper” than another product (you get what you freaking pay for!) – in the coming few weeks but let’s start with aspartame and sucralose (common diet product sweeteners):
Aspartame and Sucralose – Sucralose is sometimes sold under the name of Splenda, and both are sweeteners that contain no calories (that could be a potential reason for the inclusion – adding taste without changing the calorie composition for concerned macro trackers) and are sweeter than sugar. A recent study found a link between sucralose and leukemia in mice, and prompted the center to change its safety rating of sucralose from “Safe” to “Avoid.” Regarding Aspartame, a study published in 2007 found that long-term exposure to low doses of aspartame increased cancer in rats. If that doesn’t make you cringe, then I’m not sure we have common goals. 😉
Think you are left with the option of eating NOTHING or just ignoring these facts? Not so fast! Education is power so get out and educate yourself on the foods you are eating and why you are drawn to these foods. When cravings emerge, that is not a true signal for hunger and should be treated much like a drug addiction. Start with the NO SUGAR Challenge and then work your way towards feeding your body (and your family) the best nature has to offer. I know we live in a processed based culture but you can find healthy options that won’t harm your long term health efforts and stop creating the diet craze that is only lining the diet industry’s pockets over time and stripping our health and wellness in the long run.
So here’s a list of all of my foods for day #1:
1/2 cup whole grain oats cooked in water, 1 red container Fage Greek 2% yogurt and 1 Tbls. all natural peanut butter.
Coffee with 1 Tbsp 1/2 & 1/2
Shakeology made with 1 cup water and 1 cup ice
Green onions, bellpeppers and zucchini sauteed in 1 tsp olive oil and scrambled with 2 eggs. Topped with 1 tomato and all natural salsa.
Pink-Lady apple, diced up and topped with 1 Tbls peanut butter (one addiction at a time! lol)
What I noticed: at 3pm, I started to crave sugary snacks…anything will do in this time for me such as, fruits and healthy sweeteners but it’s still a craving, nonetheless. I dealt with it with some water and focus on my goals for this challenge. It subsided within 20 minutes
2 hard-boiled eggs, cheese and tomatoes (strange combo but it helped me feed my body and move on)
Quinoa salad: I made my own by cooking quinoa and adding cilantro, black beans (no added anything), green onions, sliced up “garden grown” tomatoes, olive oil, lime, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper.
I ate this atop a bed of field greens and sprinkled a little olive oil over the top. (my dressings although “healthier” than most were filled with some ingredients that I didn’t understand so I opted not to use them)
time of the day that I enjoy a “sweet” treat:
I chose to have one more apple (total of 2 fruits today which is a big improvement for me) with another Tbls of PB (I know, this will be my next challenge!) ; Greek yogurt mixed with oats (no added stevia today).
I noticed my yogurt snack was so much more flavorful tonight. I realized I usually just taste the “sweetness” of the stevia but today there was the creamy sourness of the natural yogurt with the texture of the oats.
Onto day #2!!!
Want more info? Sign up here: 14 DAY NO SUGAR CHALLENGE