It’s fitting that I’m writing this with a bowl of Blueberry Crisp and Vanilla Cream by my side. That image is pretty indicative of how the first two weeks of No Sugar September has gone – good with, ironically enough, lots of sweets.
Tim and I have now had no refined sugar, no fake sugars, and no white flour for 16 days. I’d like to offer some suggestions and reflections for anyone interested in going sugar free (and for those who are just curious about how we’re doing at the half-way point).
I’d like to kick this off with Tim’s reflections on No Sugar September thus far, since he wasn’t the one who was originally inspired to go sugar free.
We’re two weeks in, and other than realizing that we’ve been cheating the whole time with Costco’s “pure” vanilla extract, it’s going great! It’s encouraging for me to know that, while I’m not counting calories like I have done in the past, what I’m eating is healthy. Emily is doing a fantastic job cooking, baking, and thinking creatively about how to utilize natural food products. And I’m impressed with how I feel. I don’t have a big of crash at the end of the day, and I’m regular for the first time in a while!
Two things: 1. Leave it to the hubs to mention poop in his reflection. But, bowel health was going to be on my benefits list, so there ya have it. 2. I did discover that vanilla extract has sugar in it. I’m trying not to let it bother my perfectionist spirit. I would like to try making it myself next time around. (Vodka + Vanilla Bean = Vanilla Extract)
This is what I would say if we were chatting at a coffee shop over honey sweetened lattes…
Some Benefits of No Sugar September:
- Simplified pantry. I’m sure there’s financial merit to stockpiling food when it’s on sale, but having too much food around stresses me out. I feel like I’m going to waste it and the “what to eat” options are overwhelming. I don’t have random prepackaged food cluttering my shelves when I’ve limited my diet and make most things by hand.
- Intensity and nuance of flavors: The natural sweetness of food, like vegetables, is enhanced when it isn’t competing with refined sugar.
- Less guilt: I feel GOOD about everything that goes into my mouth.
- Cooking creativity: I love to cook and bake and I worried that No Sugar September would stifle my ability to experiment in the kitchen. It’s done the exact opposite. I’ve loved the challenge of finding new recipes and adapting our favorites to fit NSS.
- Stable energy levels: Tim and I both drink half-caf coffee every morning, but we don’t crash mid afternoon.
- Less cravings: I’m still kind of an emotional eater, but I haven’t experienced the intense must-have-junk-food-now type cravings this month.
- Grocery shopping with purpose: Grocery shopping is more intentional. I’m not tempted to make impulse buys because I have a meal plan and my shopping cart always looks healthy and colorful.
Other things of note about No Sugar September:
- I lost almost three pounds during the first week and then gained a bit back during the second (probably the mass amounts of Peanut Butter Coconut Fudge, Pumpkin Cookies, and Blueberry Crisp I consumed). Tim is down a pound and a half. We were locked out of our garage so I couldn’t get waist measurements before we started. I feel less bloaty, if that counts for anything.
- I thought we would spend less on food. We haven’t. Partially because we traveled at the beginning of the month and partially because I haven’t mastered the art of shopping grocery store sales.
- A crockpot is indispensable. Between batches of apple butter, yogurt (I’ll be writing a post about the method that has worked best for me), black bean soup, pumpkin spice lattes, and balsamic chicken, I feel like I’ve used my crockpot every day. In fact, my six year old Target cheapy started leaking last week in the middle of a batch of apple butter and I almost had a panic attack. I replaced it the next day with another Target cheapy.
- Menu planning is a must. The no sugar life is becoming more intuitive, but at first it makes you feel clumsy and awkward around food. I scoured Pinterest and cookbooks to find dinner ideas and then wrote them on index cards with ingredients listed on the back. To create my month of meals, I just laid out all my cards and arranged them with variety in mind (a lot of sweet potatoes and quinoa). I use the cards to make my grocery shopping list, to get a preview of what’s coming up next, and to give Tim a heads up about what’s for dinner. The meal plan has been flexible (like when we really just want pancakes or waffles for dinner) and I doubt we will get through all the cards this month, but I felt more confident knowing what we could eat.
- Staples are an important first step. Before I tackled menu planning, I tackled the foods we ate everyday: bread, granola, yogurt, peanut butter, jam. I pulled out the bread machine and have been making Honey Whole Wheat. We seem to eat less bread now that there are always delicious dinner leftovers for lunch. I tried a couple granola recipes, one better than the other, and then created my own version that I love. I’ve been making my own peanut butter (peanuts + coconut oil + honey) and am using a Honey Plum jam I made that I’m not wild about.
Final thoughts on No Sugar September:
- Food is a major part of community. The hardest thing about No Sugar September is navigating social situations while adhering to NSS food boundaries. There have been events like our church picnic where it wasn’t a big deal to eat a burger with no bun and some fruit, but I will always choose community over a no sugar diet. I can bring something NSS approved or invite people over instead of going out, however, I don’t want to make people feel obligated to provide a certain type of food or miss out on connecting with someone over FroYo.
- No Sugar September was a lot of work in the beginning. It does get easier as you get into a rhythm and find NSS approved staples that you like. For us, it’s worth it and we plan to heed No Sugar September guidelines for the majority of our food decisions in the future without being restrictive if we want to enjoy a meal out or just need a good old fashioned chocolate chip cookie in all it’s white flour, brown sugar, chocolatey glory.
I love talking about this, so if you have any questions, please jump in to the comments or email me (email@example.com). I keep updating the No Sugar September Resources and will be sharing all the nitty gritties about our menu/food at the end of the month!