We here at the Moms Meet & KIWI office love a good challenge. So when KIWI magazine decided to run Break Up with Sugar in the Spring issue, we went all in as a team to ditch our sugar dependency. Armed with The Sugar Detox Plan (also featured in the Spring issue) we piled into our conference room, skeptics and enthusiasts alike, to decide how this whole thing would go down. The book calls for a 12-week plan, but we decided to start with one week to see how it goes…baby steps.
Avoid added sugar for one week. Naturally occurring sugar found in fruits and vegetables are allowed but should be eaten in the earlier half of the day.
So why exactly did we do this?
While dropping sugar like the bad habit it is happens to be all the rage right now, we really saw it as a chance to take inventory of the food we eat and jumpstart healthier routines. The important part of this challenge is that to take part we had to avoid artificial or added sugar in our diets. This naturally brought us back to the basics of healthy eating of whole foods like lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.
Sugar is present in so much of the processed foods we eat, even if the food isn’t necessarily sweet. You can find it in many breads, pastas, salad dressings, yogurts, and granolas—you name it, sugar is probably hiding in there somewhere. This makes us plenty vulnerable to going over our suggested daily intake of sugar on a chronic basis. This may lead to many serious health issues like type 2 diabetes, cancer, and depression. It’s hard to quit this habit because eating sugar releases the happy hormones (serotonin and dopamine), thus training the brain to want to repeat these habits over and over again.
Let’s dig into the details as the Moms Meet team dishes on their sugar-free week.
Q1: Why did you participate?
“My main goal was to gain knowledge about the sugar in our food and how much we were unknowingly eating. I want to understand how my body will react if I cut down on my sugar intake. Since we mostly home cook our meals, they are low in sugar or have no sugar. On the other hand, I was eating a lot of sweet things including chocolates, cake, and our Indian sweets that have a lot of sugar in them.” – Jayshree K. (Graphic Designer)
“I participated because I’m currently working on making healthy changes in my life, which include losing weight. Before doing this challenge, I had spent more than a month on a low sugar diet, but I definitely didn’t cut it out completely.” – Alisha G. (Project Manager)
“I have been challenging myself to lead a healthier lifestyle by both eating healthy and working out. I was looking to get a good jumpstart/detox for myself. I also loved doing this challenge with a team. It’s great to have a buddy system when completing, what was for me, a difficult challenge. I’m unsure if I would have done this on my own so I would recommend getting a partner to join you if you embark on this challenge. For me, it helped having someone hold me accountable!” – Danielle J. (Sr. Marketing Manager)
Q2: What changes did you make during the challenge?
“The biggest change I made was to eat more in the morning and less at night. This made me feel great and I saw noticeable results. I noticed a huge difference in my craving levels (for sugar and carbs) when I ate larger meals in the beginning of the day. The only problem is, since I’m a vegetarian and I don’t have a lot of time in the morning, I would often eat oatmeal or eggs, which got boring. I also had lots of no-sugar snacks on me that week, which I think helped me stay strong, including fruit, organic peanut butter, edamame, and pistachios. I planned what I would eat for every meal ahead of time. I would typically wing my dinner plans prior to this challenge. I ate meals like brown rice with mushrooms and kale, vegetable and bean soup, and hummus and tortilla chips.” – Alisha G. (Project Manager)
“I normally just have a protein shake for breakfast, but my shakes contained sugar. For the week, I made breakfast every morning—3 eggs, over easy (almost grabbed the ketchup on day one, but saw that it has sugar). I prepped salads for lunch with romaine lettuce, grilled chicken, tomato, and red onion, and made my own dressing. I ended up preferring the dressing I made to the store-bought kind, so it’s something I’ll continue to make.” – Ryan F. (Project Manager)
“Oatmeal in the morning—I couldn’t use the great tasting, easy oatmeal that takes one minute in the microwave because it had sugar in it. Instead, I had to start eating regular oats which take a bit longer. Not a dramatic difference in time, but I cut my mornings tight already so the extra investment of time was difficult to adjust to.” – Shane P. (Web Developer)
Q3: What was the hardest part?
“Food shopping was difficult as I had to look at every label. It’s frustrating and eye-opening to see how much sugar is unnecessarily added to things.” – Victoria Z. (Events Manager)
“I have a total sweet tooth so the hardest part was turning down the occasional snack or dessert that I was used to having (which were obviously packed with sugar). I did cave once at a friend’s birthday dinner and had cookie cake. But I made it a small slice. Swear.” – Danielle J. (Sr. Marketing Manager)
“I eat a lot of sugar without trying to. I discovered that a lot of things I ate had sugar in them, and I never would have thought of them as sources of sugar before looking deeper with this experiment. Cooking dinner is hard without sugar. Cooking became a new challenge, as I tried to find recipes that did not contain sugar, but were also not complicated and actually tasted good.” – Shane P. (Web Developer)
Q4: What benefits did you see?
“The mid-afternoon energy slump completely disappeared, I definitely had more energy throughout the day, my skin looked clearer, I was less hungry than usual, and I felt less bloated!” – Victoria Z. (Events Manager)
“I had more energy and now I can actually say no to a very tempting cake.” – Jayshree K. (Graphic Designer)
“All of the bloat disappeared, even in my fingers (a part of my body that I had no idea could be bloated). My ring that’s usually snug on my finger was noticeably looser.” – Maureen B. (Sr. Editor)
Q5: What will you take away from this challenge?
“I learned that there is sugar in almost everything I eat. I think it made me more aware for when I one day become a parent. I don’t want my kids to have the same snacking habits I had as a child. I don’t think cutting sugar out of my diet completely is an option for me, but I’ve definitely cut back. I’m more aware and check the labels more often when grocery shopping. I’ve started making myself breakfast every morning. I also plan to continue to make my own salad dressings and cut down on the snacking throughout the day.” – Ryan F. (Project Manager)
“I learned that there is sugar in most of the products I had consistently been buying. After the challenge, I spent extra time in the grocery store looking at every single label of anything I put in my cart. I made the sugar content of each product a decision factor in whether I got the product. In the future, I personally won’t be eliminating sugar entirely but I will be monitoring/lowering my sugar intake.” – Danielle J. (Sr. Marketing Manager)
“I’m more conscious about reading the labels for sugar. I will try to avoid sugary stuff for my kids as well. I realized they were eating too much sugar in juices, candies, breads, and popsicles. I am now introducing more fruits to them.” – Jayshree K. (Graphic Designer)
To sum it all up
In general, we all wanted to become more aware of how much sugar we were actually consuming, get into a better routine, and let’s face it, shed some pounds. During this week we all became serious oversharers, listing off exactly what we ate for breakfast, lunch, snack time, and dinner. We shared tips, simple swaps, and that one jar of sugar-free peanut butter that kept making the rounds between desks. We learned that eating this way does not allow you to fly by the seat of your pants food-wise. It takes prep and planning, but once you are in the routine, like all things, it does get easier.
We all agreed that we felt less bloated and we all had a lot more energy. This was particularly heartening since it shows how quickly these healthy eating changes can make an overall difference. I think we’d all agree that this challenge was a success, as it was a step in the direction of mindful eating. The principles we learned through it all will stay with us as we continue to strive for better health.
Our go-to recipes
Ryan’s Simple & Fresh Salad Dressing ½ cup lemon juice, ½ cup EVOO, ½ teaspoon salt, 3 cloves of garlic, and pepper to taste.
Maureen’s Avo-mazing Toast Two slices Ezekiel sesame bread, half an avocado, chopped cherry tomatoes, goat cheese crumbles, salt and pepper to taste.
Victoria’s Mini Magic Egg Cups Eggs, a splash of milk, salt and pepper to taste, raw, chopped veggies, cooked, and chopped breakfast meat. Pour into muffin pan (16 eggs makes 18 egg cups), bake on 375° for 20-25 minutes (check at 20 minutes).
Our new food crushes
- Ezekiel 4:9 Bread
- Trader Joe’s Apocryphal Pita
- Ole Xtreme Wellness Tortilla Wraps
- Fresh ground peanut butter (available at local co-ops and select grocery stores like Whole Foods Market)
Make sure you read Break Up with Sugar in the Spring Issue of KIWI to learn more about how our brains get addicted to sugar. You’ll also find no-sugar added recipes, 7 simple steps to free yourself from sugar dependency, and simple sugar swaps to get you started.