Lots of people preparing to begin a week of Sugar Freedom would purge their cabinets of candies and sweets left over from the holidays, padlock the freezer containing their partner's favorite rich ice cream, and stock up on tasteless wheat crackers.
I dare you to make this week of Sugar Freedom different.
It's assumed that we're hooked on all the things that are bad for us, that without a nebulous quality called "self control", we would all snack endlessly on chocolate wafers and sugar-infused commercial chips. Are you sure that's true? Does salsa really taste better when it has sugar in it? I'd have to say no.
For me, sugar freedom isn't about deprivation. It's about finding the foods that are delicious, fresh and good for you. When you first start to think about going sugar-free, you might want to throw out your packaged cereals if they contain sugar and white flour. You might also leave them there, as I did. I wanted to maintain what I knew of myself: that I am in control of what I eat, and I'm certainly not going to force my friends and family to conform to my changed eating habits. Whatever your method for approaching your week of sugar freedom, here are some tools to prepare you for this week.
1. Fermented Things: They'll be your best friend while you're transitioning to Sugar Freedom. It increases the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut, helping you to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat and therefore reducing sugar cravings, which are often just nutrient cravings in disguise. Sauerkraut is my favorite, and I eat it every day. You can make it yourself, or you can buy Bubbies brand. If you buy it, make sure you get it in the refrigerator section of the store. The unrefrigerated jars sitting on the shelves have been canned, killing the beneficial bacteria which is the whole point of sauerkraut anyway. You can also buy or make kimchi, which is similar to sauerkraut. You can add sauerkraut or kimchi to your diet by eating it as a side dish to your meals. I usually just snack on a small bowl on its own before dinner.
Other fermented things that will help out are miso (just make sure to add the miso after the water has stopped boiling; otherwise the boiling kills the beneficial bacteria) and kefir (I really love Nancy's brand). There are so many things you can ferment, and these just scratch the surface. If you want to find out more about fermented foods and beverages, check out Sandor Ellix Katz and his book, Wild Fermentation.
2. Non-Sugar Treats: It might sound far-fetched to you now, but many people who have quit sugar say they now enjoy sugarless treats more than what they used to eat before they quit. It's not a lie. Natural sweeteners generally have a less cloying, more subtle flavor than processed white sugar. There are tons of treats in which you can indulge that don't even have natural sugars in them. Here are some favorites:
- Good Earth Sweet & Spicy Herbal Tea: This is the beverage that makes my work day every day. It's a completely caffeine-free herbal tea that tastes incredibly sweet but contains no sugar. I've gotten several of my friends hooked on it for good reason. It's especially great if you have a late-night sugar craving but don't want to eat right before sleeping.
- Dried Fruits and Nuts: Raw cashews and almonds, dried figs, puckery raisins. Dried fruit is one of those simple pleasures. It's especially great if you eat it alongside some nuts or other fats like a great cheese to reduce the impact of the natural sugars.
- Dates: Yes, I know what you're thinking. Dates are fruits, Kylie. Gosh. But if most dried fruits are simple pleasures, then dates are lavish. I eat them on their own as special treats, but you can also use them in place of sweeteners in some recipes, such as homemade fruit and nut balls.
- Larabars: They come out of a package, and they're rather expensive, but they're just so good that I can't help but add them here. Larabars are delicious snack bars, each one made with a combination of nuts and fruit and generally only containing three ingredients. I'm pretty obsessed with the Key Lime Pie flavor.
3. Delicious, Healthy Fats While you've stopped eating sugar, that doesn't mean that your food life should stop being rich and deeply rewarding. Eating satisfying fats is a huge part of making the transition to sugar freedom possible. Any chef can tell you that fats make things yummy. And they satiate you. Some of my favorites are cultured butter (which you can make or buy), ghee, olive oil, and lard. There are also great artisanal cheeses which I could go on about for pages. Lately I've been particularly impressed with artisanal American cheeses, which I find to be way under-appreciated. I'm deeply passionate about most everything from Cowgirl Creamery, especially their Purple Haze, and Nancy's Hudson Valley Camembert.
4. Practice, Not Perfect: One of my favorite things that yoga teachers tell us in class is this: "It's called yoga practice, not yoga perfect." The whole point of yoga isn't doing the poses perfectly, but the act of trying. I think this is a beautiful way to approach not just yoga, but also life. It applies to sugar freedom, too. This isn't about never eating sugar again, or even about staying completely sugar-free throughout this week. This is about trying, experimenting and seeing how you feel and what comes up for you when sugar goes away. It's an exercise in life rather than a restrictive rule. So remember that this week: This is sugar freedom practice, not sugar freedom perfect.
How are you preparing for the rest of your week of Sugar Freedom? How's the first day going for you? Please share your tips and questions here. And if you're not yet on the list of participants, just leave a comment. We'll happily add you.