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Sugar Free: That’s Me!

Louisa and I in our matching swimsuits!

I love sweets.  I would have never, in my wildest dreams, imagined that I could stay off sugar for an entire year! Or that my 14 year old daughter would opt to do it for and with me. I know you’ve heard people say, “It’s easy to live without sugar” and I never believed them myself, but I am here to tell you:  it’s easy!  Truly. Honest.

Louisa and I just celebrated our “One Year Sugar Free” anniversary . . .  and no, we did not celebrate it by eating sugar! (Funny how everyone asks that question!)  We celebrated by going to a fancy restaurant together for lunch, eating wholesome and nutritious food, veggies included, and then shopping for a new blouse (which we decided to sew instead).  We had a great time just being together and had fun talking about how magnificent and impossible everyone thinks it is that we can manage to stay off sugar (when it really isn’t hard!)  Hee hee.

Like any other habit, it is those first few days and even a week or two that are challenging, as you break cravings and struggle to create a new routine.  I used to rely on sugar—ice cream and chocolate especially—to pick me up when I lagged mid-afternoon (or mid-morning, or before bed, or any old time), and as I get older, those lagging times are coming more frequently, to my chagrin.  Finding a way to get through low-energy times without sugar is necessary.

I have changed my habit to eating nuts instead. They give you the boost you need, are healthy, and are quick and easy. I think the quick-and-easy part is why many of us reach for sugar or junk food as a pick-me-up, rather than peeling a carrot or other wholesome food.  Nuts really are a wonderful substitute. I keep a little zip-lock snack bag in my purse, my church bag, my car, and on my counter-top, and when I feel energy wane, instead of grabbing a handful of chocolate chips (many moms’ energy main-stay), I just grab a few raw walnuts, or almonds, or pecans.  They taste yummy. A few make you feel better.  They are quick and easy!

(Note: raw nuts are full of good oils, which will go rancid within about 6 months  if you do not store them in the freezer.  Just leave out on the countertop as many nuts as you can eat in a week’s time.  Stash the rest in the freezer for ultimate freshness!)

A year is enough time to make you feel comfortable with a habit.  I don’t really mention that I am sugar free, and nobody seems to notice, even at a party or a restaurant. It’s just the way things are, and I don’t even feel tempted. I glance by the dessert just like I glance by a wine bottle. It’s not for me. If you are not self-conscious, nobody really notices.  Yes, I would like a big, fat chewy, chunky, fudgy brownie with nuts and chocolate chips and chocolate icing.  Yep. Sure thing.  I would love it . . . if I could remember what it tastes like! It’s been a long, long while. I can still smell for free.  And it does smell delicious.  But I know it is no good for me. I can’t go there. I can never go back.

What do I do when I want something sweet? I don’t ever consider eating sugar.  That is over for me.  So, I think of what I can do to enjoy the sweet taste.  Cherries and watermelon are supreme!  Oh peaches!  Plums. And blueberries. Oh, I love blueberries! I used to think of them as expensive and an extravagance. Now I think $2.50 for a little carton is a fine price.  Ice cream would cost more.  So I buy them and enjoy. I don’t bake with them.  I eat them fresh by hand.  Yum!

And I find ways to make food sweet with stevia, the only healthy sweetener I want to use besides raw fruit.  I have researched the sweeteners on the market, and that is the only one I really feel is safe.  Agave has been shown to be little better than high fructose corn syrup.  I like raw honey (not cooked), but it raises blood sugar levels, so I use it very sparingly, if at all.  The artificial sweeteners all scare me, with the negative research results that are coming into the news.  Splenda especially.  I think sugar might actually be less harmful than Splenda.  I don’t want to trade off one bad habit for another.

Louisa makes us milkshakes with stevia and they really hit the spot!  They keep me sugar-free. Since they are made of raw milk, fruit and stevia, they are nutritious and make being sugar-free something I can do without feeling too deprived.  You can also make stevia-sweetened chocolate milk, cheesecake, and fudge-sicles (chocolate stevia + milk in blender, then freeze in popsicle molds).  Apple crisp is a good recipe when you wish for a hearty dessert.

If you really just have to have a chocolate bar, you can get a maltitol-sweetened chocolate bar at Trader Joe’s or Walmart, called Simply Lite.  It is not a Symphony bar, gotta tell you that.  But, when desperate, it is chocolate and if you need a square of it to keep you on track, so be it.  I just want to keep away from the Splenda ones.

If you need a chocolate chip cookie, you can buy maltitol-sweetened chocolate chips made by Hershey’s.  These are pricey!  But they do make a chocolate chip cookie.  I use xylitol or some other healthy (and unfortunately expensive) sweetener in a regular cookie recipe (along with whole wheat flour and oatmeal to make it healthier), and add the chocolate chips and lots of nuts, and reserve this for a very occasional treat.

What to do about food-pushers? If you tell people you are sugar-free, some of them feel determined to get you to “just taste this new recipe I made . . . just one bite . . . I made it just for you” and others hold you to it: “you can’t eat this”.  I try to skip all this drama by just not mentioning it to anyone.  If someone makes a special dessert and is eager for me to try it, I look at it and make appropriate comments, “that looks so delicious, how did you make it?, etc.”   If they cut me a piece, I carry it around on it’s plate for awhile and then set it down.  People don’t always notice if you eat it. They just want to be appreciated, and if you express gratitude for their effort, they are happy.  It works to say, “I am full, just can’t eat another bite”.  Nobody seems to argue with that like they argue about diets, no-sugar, or other preferences.  The truth of it is, once you lose your self-consciousness about being sugar-free, it is no longer an issue.  Not worthy of mentioning. Who cares?

So, here we go on Year 2. It’s going to be easy.  We have already made it through a year of birthdays, Valentine’s Day, holidays, Christmas . . .  all sugar-free!  Why stop now?  We’re still experimenting with stevia, trying to create yummy desserts.  But it isn’t very important if we have dessert or not. Not like it used to be. Cravings long gone.  Thankfully!

Sugar Free! That’s me!

Read about how we went sugar-free:

Just starting our sugar-free journey

After 100 Days!

Recipe for Chocolate Strawberry Milkshake

“Fool” Dessert, Sugar-Free recipe

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