Break the Sugar Habit Challenge: Sugar Check-in {Week 4}

Photo source: amylnorton on instagram

This is it. The final day.

It’s a little bittersweet.

I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

All kidding aside, this was kind of a hard week. Because the end is in sight, the temptation to “cheat” was actually quite strong. And by “cheat,” I mean snagging food we didn’t need, sugar or not. I did briefly think of a Dr. Pepper (I craved those for awhile during this pregnancy), but remembered very quickly that I would probably take one drink and declare it was too sweet.

Do you remember the Mr. Goodbar that fell on my head during Week 1? Well, he’s not looking so attractive right now. In fact, the thought of even a little chocolate is making me queasy. Anything with a lot of sweet is not sounding very appetizing right now. Which is weird, because I figured I would be ready for something by now. I guess it is a good thing Shane mentioned his new favorite drink: unsweet tea with lime.

Oh, wow, is it good, and it has just a touch of fruity-sweet goodness from the lime, that I have decided I prefer over sweet tea.

Other than the urge to give up before the finish line, this week was pretty mundane. We didn’t have a lot of places to go, so meals were earlier (i.e. on time) than what has been the norm for this month. It doesn’t take a lot to please the girls, so one night I whipped up sausage, biscuits, and homemade gravy. Our family was in comfort food heaven, let me tell you. I don’t think there has been one complaint about the meals we have eaten this month, so continuing in that aspect will not be too difficult.

Where do we go from here? I hit on that topic on Monday, but what about accountability come Saturday? Will you know if we return to our former eating habits?

As I mentioned, I don’t want this challenge to be a waste of our time. I would like to continue giving updates on how our family is faring with our new eating habits. My plan is to give another update at the end of July, and every few months afterward. My reasoning behind this is twofold: one, I do better with accountability of some kind. Two, I know many of you are in different places on this challenge. I want to continue to be able to discuss our progress and be a source of encouragement.

This month has been a crazy-good, eye-opening, life-changing time for our family, me especially. And while there are some things I really wish I had done differently, overall, I am pleased with the outcome of this challenge. I have learned new strengths and found new weaknesses that I need to work on. Our family has bonded in a way I could never have imagined. In fact, I think we have become even closer than we were before. Each one of us has grown in a new way, and for that, I am thankful.

Like I said in my Week 2 update:

This challenge really is teaching the girls to be proactive about their food and know what they are eating. If that’s what comes out of this I will be very pleased. The point of this challenge isn’t to deny them, but for them to see there is more to everything than meets the eye.

My girls know that I am going to do my best to serve them food that is good for them. Despite knowing that, they still question me from time to time. And I love that. Sometimes, they aren’t quite convinced about the sugar content of a particular item, and will “check it out” themselves. With that, I feel my main goal for this challenge was accomplished. The girls are actively involved in food purchase, preparation, and consumption, and are not afraid to ask questions. I really couldn’t ask for more!

How will you continue to break your sugar habit now that the challenge is over?

And if you are just now jumping on board, you can check out the other posts in this series, plus see how Mandi and her family are breaking their sugar habit.

Written by: Amy Norton
Amy is a youth pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom to three girls, ages 8, 6, and 3, and has a baby boy on the way. When she’s not writing at Kingdom First Mom, you can find her cooking, getting crunchier by the day, and trying to stay on top of the laundry. She enjoys writing about her homelife adventures at Amy Loves It.

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Life After the Break the Sugar Habit Challenge

Photo credit: heylovedesigns

We are entering our final week of the Break the Sugar Habit Challenge… so what will our eating habits look like this time next week?

Well, to be honest, we will be on vacation with my husband’s family, and we will be eating out a lot. My girls will quite possibly scarf down every treat offered them, and my husband and I will indulge in some Marble Slab ice cream.

To anyone observing us, it will look like watching out for sugar is the last thing on our minds… but is it?

Will we go back to mindlessly grabbing something to eat, or will we take pause and consider the choices we are making?

Sugar at Home

I know for our family at home, we will definitely be taking pause. The last month has not been a deprivation, but a major eye-opener. As I mentioned last week, we discovered something I had suspected for awhile, that sugar does yucky things to Reese. As the grocery-shopper for our family, I have complete control over what is put in our cart, and I plan to continue shopping like I have this last month: fresh fruits and vegetables, with minimum processed foods. I will also be a more vigilant label-reader (I just thought I read labels before this challenge! Boy was I wrong!). I want to know what is lurking in each and everything I purchase.

I will be taking my own advice, and choosing to serve my girls easy and tasty summertime snacks over half-price shakes at the Sonic. Does that mean I won’t take them for a treat? Of course not. If they actually liked the shakes, we would probably snag one. They prefer sno-cones, and I have promised to take them a time or two before summer is over. And while we have never visited the sno-cone stand more than 5 times in any summer, the girls will know this is a treat, rather than an expectation.

My kitchen and I have become BFF’s this last month, and my children have been awesome helpers. As you know, I struggled with having kids in the kitchen, but I sucked it up and took my own advice. To my happy surprise, the girls have really grown in their skills, and it won’t be long before I can turn my oldest loose in the kitchen. Each girl has found a particular task they truly enjoy, and have been very eager to assist me whenever I don my apron.

As far as sugar and sweeteners go, I will continue cooking with them, but carefully. Refined white sugar is no longer welcome in our home, and had been replaced long before this challenge. We do have organic sugar, which will be used sparingly. Our sweeteners of choice will be honey and turbinado sugar, although I will evaluate if there is even a need for sweetener at all. We will no longer rely on the expectation that sugar is needed. I will continue to search for sugar-free alternatives. I’m not even sure how much sugar we will be able to tolerate after not having it for so long!

Sugar Away From Home

As I said at the beginning of this post, the girls will probably go a little overboard with the treats come June 30, especially with us leaving for a vacation where I am not in charge of food. Some think we have deprived our children this last month, but that just isn’t the case. Sugar is a beast that is very hard to conquer, and I don’t expect them to be completely changed in only 25 days. Add in my mishaps, and it’s even less than that! BUT (yes, that is a big “but”), their eyes have been opened to things other than sugar-laden foods and their young minds have been fixated on consciously eating better. They continually question me, but no longer ask if the food I serve them is sugar-free; they’ve simply come to expect it.

There have been questions of, “Will we be able to eat ____________ again, after this challenge?” Some things I have answered with a yes, others with a no, and always with an explanation of why (or why not).

I have always wanted my girls to think for themselves, and to not just do something because someone else thinks they should. It is my responsibility to put good choices before them at home, because once they get outside of the home, my control over their choices is more limited. For example, I am attending a workshop in July, and they have requested that all food brought in be nut-free. I totally respect that, but it limits some of the snacks I had intended to bring. The snacks they have said will be provided are pop-tarts and goldfish… not snacks I want my children consuming twice a day for three days (especially if Reese eats those pop-tarts!). I don’t want to compromise what we have done this last month OR someone else’s food restrictions (especially one that can be as serious as nuts!), so I am on a mission to find sugar- AND nut-free snack alternatives.

As far as social situations, I hit on that a bit in the Week 3 Check-in.

Knowing what I know about how sugar effects our bodies, has led me to make several permanent changes in our family’s eating habits. And while I will, for the most part, allow them treats outside of the home, I won’t make them as readily available inside the home as they were before.

A treat should be just that – a treat. Something special. An indulgence.

For the most part, girls know what has sugar and what does not. I will not deny them treats in social situations (like the ice cream after the VBS program), but those treats will come with some limitations. They know they will not be allowed to go hog-wild with sugary snacks, just because we are not at home. Personally, I don’t plan to indulge in every treat offered, just because it is available. I definitely do not want to find myself back where I was before I started this challenge. I don’t want to be a slave to anything, and I feel like I was a slave to sugar. I know what too much sugar does to our bodies, and I do not want that for myself. (Wedding cake is an exception every time to this, just so ya know. Does that make me a slave to wedding cake???)

So do where we go from here? I’m open to going as sugar/sweetener-free as possible. Will we ever be 100 percent sugar-free? It is definitely an option we will continue to pursue. I didn’t take on this challenge for it to end up being a waste of our time, or even to prove a point. I did it for our family’s health and well-being. Before this challenge, I knew our family needed to give sugar a good kick in the rear, and Mandi asking me to hop on board was the incentive I needed to put it into action. I know I feel much better physically and mentally when I am careful about my sugar intake. I know that I no longer feel sluggish mid-afternoon, even being almost 27 weeks pregnant. My headaches have been pretty much nonexistent since the fourth of June, and I attribute that to my limited sugar intake. Why would I want to go back to how I felt before, when I feel better now? For me, it would make no sense.

Many of you have commented and I have had so much encouragement throughout this month. I appreciate all of the suggestions, alternatives, and stories you have shared. Those of us taking this challenge, whether blogging about it or not, have taken different approaches. And that’s okay. As I have said many times, this is what is working for our family. You have to decide what works for your family.

It’s still not too late to join us! Friday is our last “official” sugar/sweetener-free day, but if you keep going, that’s great!

Have you successfully kicked the sugar habit? How do you maintain your sugar-free lifestyle away from home?

And if you are just now jumping on board, you can check out the other posts in this series, plus see how Mandi and her family are breaking their sugar habit.

Written by: Amy Norton
Amy is a youth pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom to three girls, ages 8, 6, and 3, and has a baby boy on the way. When she’s not writing at Kingdom First Mom, you can find her cooking, getting crunchier by the day, and trying to stay on top of the laundry. She enjoys writing about her homelife adventures at Amy Loves It.

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Break the Sugar Habit Challenge: Sugar Check-in {Week 3}

Meleah making biscuits.

We have reached the end of Week 3 of the Break the Sugar Habit Challenge. We are almost to the finish line!

This week has been much better than last week, although my poor husband has had a hard time finding something edible while he is away. He told me on the phone last night that he had eaten everything in his healthy stash that morning, and was forced to choose between the “grill” and the cafeteria food that was provided. I reminded him that he needed to eat before he worried about the sugar challenge, but he said he would not have wanted to choose between either of those options, sugar challenge or not!

Meals

We have eaten fried eggs (at the girls’ request) several times, as well as, bacon, pancakes, sausage, and fruit for breakfast. Actually, we slept in a lot this week, so it was more like brunch.

I finally tried the strawberry syrup that Mandi mentioned in one of her posts, and oh my. It is To. Die. For. I may never eat regular syrup again!

Staci, a commenter, suggested shredded apples and walnuts as a topping for oatmeal or pancakes. That is on my list of syrup alternatives to try, as well. (Thanks, Staci!)

In that same comment thread, Jennifer mentioned a maple-agave mix found at Trader Joe’s that might interest those of you near one, and who have an aversion to straight maple syrup. (Thanks, Jennifer!)

As for meals, I haven’t cooked as much this week, with it being just the girls and me, but we have enjoyed homemade mac & cheese, biscuits, bacon/egg/cheese tortillas (I found a sugar-free brand!!!), chicken, hamburger patties, new potatoes with green beans, and more.

While making these meals, I thought of last June, when Shane was on a mission trip. I do not recall exactly how many times we ate out that week, but I’m guessing it was quite a lot. The ease of heading to the nearest drive-thru, rather than standing on my pregnancy-swollen ankles to cook, crossed my mind more than once. In fact, that mean little voice in the back of my head reminded me of it quite a few times! I managed to ignore it and instead, cook what the girls asked for, which happened to be healthy, sugar-free foods.

Challenges

While this week has been easier, it has not been without challenges. On Sunday night, we had an ice cream social after our VBS program. The girls each got a {small} scoop of ice cream (I knew this was coming, and counted it in with the “VBS snacks”). When they asked for another scoop, their momma (who was dishing it out!) sweetly reminded them of the answer. Telling the girls no  – who, by the way, were fine with only one scoop and did not complain when I mentioned they had had enough sugar – wasn’t the issue.

My willpower was the issue!

I have two big weaknesses, and ice cream is one of them. (Wedding cake is the other, in case you were wondering). Since I don’t buy ice cream, and weddings don’t come around very often, avoiding both of these is pretty much, well… a piece of cake. Except this month, apparently. A few weeks ago, we attended a wedding, and I barely glanced at the cake. I knew if I looked at it very long I would begin drooling.

Okay, back to the ice cream. So I scooped and scooped like the good little girl I am, and I think that is the most tempted I have been to break the challenge on myself. I don’t really think I was craving sugar, but I definitely wanted some ice cream. Because it is so cold and creamy, ya know? I think I read the label on the ice cream I was scooping 100 times, just to remind myself of all of the bad stuff it contained (to make myself feel better!). In the end, I won. I didn’t eat ice cream, and I felt really good about it.

I may or may not have patted myself on the back after I got home.

Growing

The girls continue to learn a lot about sugar and why we are avoiding it. In fact, they could probably tell you everything in the grocery store that contains sugar; mainly because my Reesey names each item we come across and asks if it is sugary. She then proclaims, “Oh darn! Silly sugar!” after I tell her that it does, indeed, contain sugar. We tend to stick to the perimeter of the store, only veering to the center when we need coffee, laundry products, etc. While walking down an aisle to get coffee, Abby Grace looks around and says, “Why are we on this aisle? It’s nothing but sugar!” Ahem. Oh yes, our grocery shopping trips have been very interesting lately.

In fact, my in-laws got to experience that first-hand when we pulled into the grocery store at the very same time on Monday. They were lucky enough to have the help of Reese and Meleah as they did their shopping!

Speaking of in-laws, it helps when the grandparents are on board with their crazy kid’s ideas. Both of our parents have been nice enough not to pressure us to eat sugary foods, and have even gone out of their way to find sugar-free options.

And while our shopping trips have been interesting, they have also been very productive. The girls have decided that they really want to help me shop. Reese bags the produce, while Abby Grace pushes the cart (and bags some produce too.. we have to be fair, now). Meleah does her own thing, but contributes when she feels like it.

The End Game

What the next few weeks and months will entail, I do not know. I honestly think my girls will accept every treat offered them, at least in the beginning. It takes more than a month to change a way of thinking, even though I know I will not be able to completely return to my previous way of eating. Knowing what I know about how sugar effects our bodies (and one little member of our family in particular!), has led me to make several permanent changes in our family’s eating habits. And while I will, for the most part, allow them treats outside of the home, I won’t make them as readily available inside the home as they were before.

A treat should be just that – a treat. Something special. An indulgence.

You know… like wedding cake.

How have you done this week? Do you have any tips or tricks to share?

And if you are just now jumping on board, you can check out the other posts in this series, plus see how Mandi and her family are breaking their sugar habit.

Written by: Amy Norton
Amy is a youth pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom to three girls, ages 8, 6, and 3, and has a baby boy on the way. When she’s not writing at Kingdom First Mom, you can find her cooking, getting crunchier by the day, and trying to stay on top of the laundry. She enjoys writing about her homelife adventures at Amy Loves It.

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The Benefits of Eliminating Refined Sugar

Photo by: allboutgeorge

As we begin Week 3 of the Break the Sugar Habit Challenge, I am reflecting on the last two. I can honestly say that I have seen marked changes in at least one of my children with the elimination of refined sugar.

During Week 1, we did really well. As far as I know, we consumed very little refined sugar (Annie’s ketchup has organic sugar, but I’m pretty sure it is still somewhat refined)… until Friday. At soccer camp, they had cake. I had no idea they would be serving cake, so I gave the girls a choice. You can guess what they chose.

I was unprepared as to how the sugar in this cake would effect my middle daughter. I knew sugar contributed to some of the behavioral problems we have had with her, but I was truly shocked at just how much it contributed. She went wild. And I don’t mean excited-to-be-at-soccer-camp wild, I’m talking non-stop-talking, maniac-giggling, crazy-acting, could-not-control-herself wild. Even Abby was remarking about how wild she was acting.

Shane asked me if Reese had acted this way at all this week, and the answer was no. She had been more than pleasant with very few behavioral issues. Week 2 saw a difference, as well, with more behavioral problems than Week 1, but nothing like that Friday night after soccer camp. She consumed sugary snacks at VBS (with my permission), and I also gave them fast food one day at lunch. I have a better plan for this week, and I am hoping my early conclusions of how sugar effects her will still ring true by the end of it. If we can nip some of those issues in the bud by limiting our sugar intake, I’m all for it!

Short-term benefits

I think one of the short-term benefits of eliminating sugar is finding out if sugar “bothers” you. Like the scenario I told about Reese, we can pretty much say that sugar effects her behavior, and that limiting her intake is a good idea. I know people who have removed sugar from their diets to find that some of their health problems have virtually disappeared. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, but the possibility that sugar effects you in an obviously negative way can definitely be worth looking into.

When you limit your sugar, you automatically end up eliminating a lot of processed foods. You end up cooking more real food, and relying on fresh veggies and healthy fats to satisfy the need for “comfort” food. Tossing processed foods has been a goal of mine for a long time, and we have reduced our consumption of those by even more these last few weeks.

As with all short-term benefits, they are, well, short-term unless we continue on with them. My husband recently started running, and ran a 5K at the beginning of this month. If he had only “practiced” running a few times and then attempted a 5K, his time would not have been what it was. He also might not have made it to the finish line at all! To keep those short-term benefits going, we have to keep after it and turn them into long-term benefits.

Long-term benefits

Since it has only been two weeks of no refined sugar, I cannot boast of any true long-term benefits. I can tell you that overall, I feel great and that some complexion issues I was having are completely gone (I realize that could be pregnancy-related, but either way, it is a benefit!).

If we completely removed refined sugar from our diets, I am certain we would be in much better health. The reality of eliminating it is a bit daunting, however, but is doable. Too much sugar in our bodies leads to many health problems that I believe could be lessened if we reduced our sugar consumption.

I am not trying to vilify one food, but the effect of sugar on our bodies does more damage than I think we all realize. And because it is in everything, it is amazingly hard to avoid completely. I have probably run this in the ground, but knowing what is in our food is so important. Just like everything else, I believe in making informed choices. I’ve mentioned before that I am a control freak, and believe that we should be intentional in what we say, do, and yes, even eat.

Does removing sugar from your diet eliminate all health problems? No, it doesn’t. And while I am sure we will not be able to completely, 100 percent eliminate all sugar all of the time, we will continue to be vigilant, read labels, and to limit it. Living where we do, our options are beyond abundant. I feel like this is what works for our family, and as always, I encourage you to do what works for yours.

Do you have any long-term benefits of reducing/eliminating refined sugar to share?

And if you are just now jumping on board, you can check out the other posts in this series, plus see how Mandi and her family are breaking their sugar habit.

Written by: Amy Norton
Amy is a youth pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom to three girls, ages 8, 6, and 3, and has a baby boy on the way. When she’s not writing at Kingdom First Mom, you can find her cooking, getting crunchier by the day, and trying to stay on top of the laundry. She enjoys writing about her homelife adventures at Amy Loves It.

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