No ice cream, no soda, no store-bought pasta sauces, no chocolate, no chips, no scones, no cheesecake, no cookies, and almost no processed food of any kind (because when you look at the labels, there’s added sugar in almost everything). That’s what it’s like to not eat added sugars. For 67 days, I have been sticking to this rule. Here are the challenges I’ve been facing so far.
On August 2nd, 2018 I set out (completely terrified of what was to come) on a journey of 30 days without added sugars. You can read about my start of this experiment in my last post “Sugar addict? Me too, until recently”. Since then, I have continued this experiment every single day, currently at 67 days and counting.
It has not been easy, although it is getting easier by the day! This post highlights the challenges I have been facing.
Big meals versus small snacks
I’ve been cooking for a while, so I knew – thankfully – how to make my own meals instead of getting take out all the time. This was really a blessing since processed foods contain a lot of hidden sugars and I don’t know how I would have managed if I had to learn how to cook during this experiment, too.
So, the biggest question I struggled with was not what am I going to cook but – what am I going to snack on?
As a solution to this question, I took inspiration from my recent stay in Florence, Italy. In Florence, I stayed at accommodation for scholars where we were served 3 meals a day at the canteen. Both the lunch and the dinner consisted of primi piatti (starter), secondi piatti (main course), and a big platter of fruit for dessert. This was a lot of food compared to how I’d normally eat, and I could hardly eat more in between.
Being back home, I set out to eat big, healthy, abundant portions just like that – curbing my need for snacks altogether. Starters, main dishes and a side salad with every meal, whenever possible. Plus, a whole bunch of fruits of a dessert (even at lunchtime).
Without sugar to snack on, I knew I had to make my meals count – and supply me with energy throughout the day. On most of the days of the no added sugar experiment, my meals were bountiful, vegetable-rich, and home cooked. Maybe they were even of better quality than when I thought I could skimp on meals because I could use snacking as a pick me up.
How have I been dealing with lack of time?
Turns out, it’s complicated to get good, healthy, cheap meals – without added sugars – on the go.
What was I going to eat on days that I am busy and on the run?
This has been a struggle. In the meanwhile, I found good options. Sushi is my frequent, not so cheap, go to option. As is this awesome place that does soups. Places like these are life savers!
But, there’s no sugar coating it – I’ve been hungry once or twice because I hadn’t had time to cook and – refusing to break my no added sugar experiment – couldn’t buy anything I saw around.
How do I manage walking past temptations at the supermarket?
The best way to describe me during walking through a supermarket during this experiment is like a horse with blinders. I completely ignore everything I don’t need. Sometimes I’ll literally put my hands up as blinders when passing the chocolate aisle. This has been really helpful! (and when you know you are doing something great for your health, you don’t care if you look ridiculous!).
The simple truth is that considering that I am on this no sugar challenge, I don’t need to know which chocolate bar is on offer, or what the great new flavour of Ritter Sport is this time, because I am not going to buy it/eat it anyway. Why would I tempt myself?
On the bright side, this measure also makes my trips to the supermarket super short and efficient. It goes like this: get in, grab the veggies, snatch the legumes & get out.
No strolling to the chips aisle, browsing down candy lane or anything else like that.
What about eating sugar in social situations? (Birthdays & other celebrations)
A couple of weeks ago, my parents in law baked apples as a dessert for our meal. They didn’t know about my no-sugar challenge at the time. Yum, I thought, a dessert with only fruit! After a couple of bites, I thought I’d double check with them whether there was sugar in the apples and indeed – there was.
Oops. I sinned.
However, this was the only exception. Because for the rest, being aware of how much-hidden sugar there is everything, I have been saying “No, thank you” left and right when offered birthday cakes and other treats. Even if it was a “healthy alternative”.
The beautiful thing is, when I explain I’m doing a no added sugars experiment, everyone seems to be very understanding. It’s a very different thing to saying you’re on a diet or watching your weight. These types of reasons to refuse a treat usually result in someone saying “oh, come on, you can have it!” or “oh, don’t be silly, have just one piece!”. But with sugar, there seems to be a general awareness of its bad effects and downsides. So much so, that everyone I spoke to about it has been supportive.
How long will I continue the no added sugars challenge?
It took 28 days for the constant & daily sugar cravings to stop. On day 30, I reached my initial goal of 30 days without added sugars and I could stop the experiment. Except, I felt as if then I’d still probably continue eating sugar within a matter of days.
Alternatively, I could continue the experiment for longer to try to change my sugar habit for good. I decided to continue, opting for 90 days as a solid period of time in which to change a habit, and I am still going strong! Wish me luck,
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