Thoughts on Our Sugar Fast

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Our family abstained from sugar for six weeks and lived to tell the tale.

Thoughts on Our Sugar Fast - Our family abstained from sugar for six weeks and lived to tell the tale.

Oh, I am so behind the times. Yesterday I cleared out my inbox. It wasn’t that full, about 80 messages, but some of them were 18 months old! There were emails that I was holding on to until I had a coherent thought to be able to respond. Wow.

Have I really been in a cloud for the last year and a half?!

No, but things do fall by the wayside, don’t they? Like my wrap up of our sugar fast back in April. I’m not sure where the last two months went, but they flew by me in a flurry. And I never told you how things went.

For those just tuning in, I took my family on an exciting journey of no processed sugar for six weeks. I blogged about it every day, sharing updates of what we ate and how we were feeling. It was a good run, but we were tired by the end.

Here’s the low-down, or is it downlow? See? So behind the times. I will try to be coherent but now it’s been two months! Oy!

How we survived our sugar fast.

1. We ate better than expected.

Despite some of the kids’ fears, our diet didn’t change a huge amount. We had a lot of the meals that we normally have, but with some substitutions. I was able to find “no-added sugar” substitutes for most things like tortillas and bread or made what I couldn’t buy, like mayonnaise or hamburger buns.

We did abstain from burgers and fries (ketchup!) during the duration of the fast or we ate them without ketchup. My kids aren’t super duper crazy about ketchup; my husband despises it. But, they missed it nonetheless.

I did a lot of baking — or had kids help with it. We ate a lot of granola and shredded wheat and many savory dishes. We went through bottles and jugs of maple syrup and honey which we used to sweeten plain yogurt or to top pancakes. I made lemonade with honey instead of sugar.

Thoughts on Our Sugar Fast - Our family abstained from sugar for six weeks and lived to tell the tale.

2. We ate at home more often.

Since there aren’t many restaurants that don’t add sweeteners to their foods, we ate at home a lot. This was good for us all around. I know that restaurant fare is not quicker, healthier, or tastier than homemade. It just isn’t. By the time you stand in line and order, you could make beans and rice at home. True story.

I’m trying to remember this when I’m tempted to take us out to eat. We’re better off eating at home!

3. We missed convenience foods and eating out.

That said, the fam got a little impatient with the challenge. Particularly, they missed eating out or being able to have whatever snack they wanted.

Chipotle is the only restaurant I found that doesn’t have sweeteners added to its foods. So, when we went out, that’s where we headed. Since Chipotle is $40 to $50 for our family, we didn’t do it often. On the flip side, I felt really good about the quality of food we had when we did go out. (Full disclosure: I think we cheated twice – once at Rubio’s and once at In-N-Out Burger.)

We did a road trip during the challenge and gave the kids a budget to spend on snacks at Trader Joe’s. They found items that were “legal” but it was hard to find the right things. And many of those things still weren’t what I’d call “healthy”.

Thoughts on Our Sugar Fast - Our family abstained from sugar for six weeks and lived to tell the tale.

4. We all learned to read labels.

Five of our six kids are old enough to read. Now, the five know how to read and analyze an ingredients list. That Trader Joe’s stop was eye-opening, even for FishPapa. Sugar and corn syrup, glucose, fructose — all these added sugars hang out in some crazy places. Overall it was a great lesson for my family about healthier eating.

5. I’m still torn about sugar.

Baking with maple syrup and honey instead of other sweeteners was fine, but it was expensive. I think that I would be more tempted to make the switch longterm if the prices of those items were cheaper. That said, I’m back to baking with sugar some of the time since it is cheaper and it gives a better texture to baked goods than honey or maple syrup. Brownies need sugar. But, we also don’t need to eat brownies that often. Ha!

Things taste sweeter now. Recipes that I once thought weren’t very sweet taste… well, very sweet! All the same, regular ice cream and other treats are back on the table. It’s a hard thing. We are a family who likes a bit of sweet to finish a meal.

Thoughts on Our Sugar Fast - Our family abstained from sugar for six weeks and lived to tell the tale.

Maple-Sweetened Chocolate Cupcakes

And in conclusion….

I wish that honey and maple syrup were cheaper. I wish that convenience foods in general had better ingredients. I wish that it wasn’t so hard! Eating healthfully would be a lot easier. Ha!

But I know that it is totally doable for our family to reduce our sugars a bit more and to focus on natural, whole foods. It takes work, though, and much planning to pull it off on a budget. So, that’s what we’ll be working toward.

How do YOU feel about sugar?

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Molly says

    I like sugar. I admit it. However, I keep hearing that diabetes runs in the family, and I need to cut it back. I’ll…. work on that.

  2. Susan Kay "Omi" says

    My daughter and I have been eating sugar/carb free for 2 months. It is extremely difficult unless you just stick to bland salads. However, the benefits have been so satisfying that we will continue to do so for a longer period of time. I am gluten intolerant – not to the point of celiac – but l struggle with joint pain, irregular systems, etc. So, we made a pact to rid ourselves of sugar and gluten for 6 months to see if we reaped enough benefits to make it a lifestyle change. I won’t report my daughter’s results – they are her’s to share; however, I have lost 20 lbs., my brain fog has cleared, no joint pains, and I’m feeling great!! So, regardless of her decision, I think mine is a lifestyle change, except for very special occasions. Thanks for your update!! I enjoy reading your blog and trying some of your recipes. Blessings!!

  3. I think your conclusions sum up my thoughts on this topic. If it weren’t so expensive, I’d make the substitutions to honey and molasses, I wish processed foods had less added ingredients. Still, I’m determined to read the ingredients closer and take baby steps to healthier eating without added sugars. I won’t ever give it up completely because I like chocolate too much to do so! 🙂

  4. Erika Palmer says

    Something i do… reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe to the lowest tolerable amount…. saves money and sugar intake.

    • helen says

      Yes, I always do that. I’m making chocolate waffles for dinner tonight and actually last time I made them I completely forgot the sugar and they were still fine!

  5. Crystal says

    As I sit here hurting I’m reminded of why I need to cut out or at the very least greatly reduce my sugar intake. I have fibromyalgia and sugar makes inflammation in my system. I have know this for a while and was even sugar free once for 3 months. Need to get back to this so this may be the kick in the booty that I need to do it! Thanks.

    • My kids got so sick after we broke the sugar fast. I think there’s something there for sure.

  6. This is such a challenging topic! I don’t think anyone believes that sugar is necessary or healthy. Our family has gone on sugar fasts, as well. It is a challenge to live in this world of processed foods and abstain from sugar completely, especially when you don’t have health issues that demand it. We feel great being off of sugar, but it is difficult to eat with friends, travel, etc. Like all things, we have found that it is a matter of balance. Abstinence is difficult, but moderation is easier. I, too, wish that honey and maple syrup were less expensive. In an effort to stick to the budget, I use sugar most of the time, but I cut the amount in most recipes.

  7. Emily says

    This is so great to read about – such a practical perspective, thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Katie says

    Like some of the other ladies here, I usually cut back on added sugar until we don’t like it, then up it a little. I did a 10 day sugar fast right after yours and it was interesting, to say the least. I didn’t go hard-core on added sugars to processed foods, although I didn’t eat obviously sugared things such as granola bars at all. I stuck to things that were fresh or had only small amounts of added sugars. Another area I differed from you was I didn’t add any sugars or artificial sweeteners to anything I made, and didn’t drink diet sodas. I did discover tasty fruit-flavored carbonated water at Trader Joes that satisfied me. A few things I just made without sugar so see what it would taste like, but mostly I just didn’t eat make them until after the sugar fast. I think I’m mostly back to my old ways, but I’m still cutting back on sugar whenever I think it won’t matter–a good new habit.

    • I think the making homemade is a great replacement for the commercial sugary foods. For example, make homemade pudding instead of buying the box. It will taste better than the box and be a little more work so you’ll have to really want it. 🙂

  9. We’ve done the “no refined sugar” thing a few times too. And I totally hear ya on the price tag of maple syrup and honey. I think that’s the one thing that keeps granulated sugar in my pantry. But now, I cut the sugar in my baking way back and we try to use a non-GMO, unbleached sugar. I’ve found that you can really cut the sugar in lots of things, add a little more vanilla, and the texture and flavor really isn’t affected much.

    • It’s amazing to compare the white sugar with the unbleached. There’s so much more flavor in the latter! The aroma is wonderful, too.

  10. Heather H says

    have you tried an all natural sugar that isn’t honey or maple syrup? Items like stevia or sucanat, or maple sugar. When I did a sugar fast I used the scucanat which you can use equal parts to sugar, as well as honey and maple syrup. I have several family members who sell maple syrup. I can tell you that most you buy from the store is run through a machine that takes up to half the water out of the sap, but it also takes out about half the flavor. If you can find maple syrup that has only been boiled down and not run through that type of machine it has a LOT of flavor (BTW my BIL sells it). And I have also bought “pure” some maple syrup at the store which was only half syrup the other half was corn syrup!

    • I’ve done sucanat before. I chose not to do it for the challenge because I didn’t think it had as much nutrition or beneficial components as maple or honey. Most often I use demerara which is less processed than sucanat, I believe.

  11. Helen says

    Thanks for the summary! I’ve debated doing this but then we’d definitely spend more on honey and other sweeteners. It’s a tough choice. I do worry what excess sugar could do to my health long-term and I know it makes me crave MORE sugar when I eat some! I know I’ve read on some blog/diet advice that you can eat all the ‘junk food’ you want as long as you make it yourself. Because you’ll do it less often and use healthier ingredients (as healthy as treats can be…) and theoretically cut back.

  12. Grace says

    When I lived in America I followed a diet called “Sugar Busters”, I did not eat sugar in any form, and felt much better for it and lost 60 pounds. Unfortunately I had gained it back plus some due to some tragic losses, and depression, also an injury. I have since moved to Germany and have lost 75 pounds since being here, despite eating a little here or there from their “Backerei”. I found it very interesting how my taste buds had to adjust to their cakes, because there is so little sugar in. I am sure it is a fourth! Today I made my own “Paleo” Plum cake, and was so disappointed! It had so much natural sweetener in, that it made me extremely sick! Americans use way too much sugar! Even in the form of “Natural” Sugar….not good for a diabetic like me, or anyone. I see your Maple-Sweetened Chocolate Cupcakes recipe has very much sugar in it. I know it is natural, but it is way too much and very unhealthy. I have to train my taste buds to eat much less sugar. All the so called recipes I am finding for the “Paleo” diet have 75% more sugar than needed, which is not healthy in any form. I wanted to experiment with some of these treats, and now I think it is better for me to just stay away from them, as I have a great sensitivity to any form of sugar. Too much sugar in any form , is the number one cause for cancer. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this, and I hope it helps with future creative recipes.

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