When I posted about my 10-year anniversary abstaining from sweets (Sunday, Oct. 9), a reader asked some questions. I thought others might be interested the my responses, so I hope she doesn't mind that I am using a separate post to answer her questions.
Q: Do you refrain just from sweets, or from sugar in other products like catsup and spaghetti sauce?
A: When I initially began my sugarholic recovery, I stopped eating sweets such as candy bars, pastries, sodas, and obvious treats. As for other products, I carefully read the labels and if the sweetener was one of the first four ingredients, I didn't eat it. If it was fifth or beyond on the list of the ingredients, then I went ahead and ate it. I had a difficult time finding catsup that was low in sugar, but finally found one that was satisfactory to me (however, I can no longer find that brand). Currently, because of "My Healthy Eating Challenge" I try to avoid all foods that have added sweeteners since I try to eat natural, fresh foods and very little packaged or processed foods. (It's hard to find packaged foods that don't have sweetener added!) I watch labels and purchase tomato sauce and tomato paste that does not contain sweetener. Hunts used to make a spaghetti sauce that did not contain added sugars, but I can no longer find it so I make my own sauce.
By the way... I learned once again how important it is to read labels. I attended a meeting last night where someone brought gluten-free pretzels. I tried a few, and they were delicious. Then I read the label. You guessed it... sugar was added. I never suspected to look because typically pretzels are a safe bet!
Q: Do you end up having to do a lot of cooking to avoid added sugars?
A: I do make a lot of things from scratch, but I find quick and easy recipes, including recipes for the crockpot. A few recipes I enjoy are listed on the Recipe Page of this blog.
Earlier in the year I posted a blog entry giving examples of what I eat for various meals. You can check it out on this link: Sample Meal Ideas
Q: Do you use natural sweets like maple syrup and evaporated cane juice, all-fruit jam, and stevia?
A: Because I am addicted to "sweet" I use very little sweetener in anything; however, when I do need something sweetened I use pure maple syrup (100% maple syrup), pure honey, or molasses. I mostly use fruit for sweetening, either fresh fruit or canned fruit (canned in its own juice). For instance I make muffins using recipes that call for very little sweetener (about 2 tablespoons of honey or molasses for the entire batch), and have added fruit, such as mashed bananas, to help "sweeten" them.
I sometimes use all-fruit jam, but I carefully read the labels because many of the so-called all fruit jams use fruit syrup rather than fruit juice. I avoid the ones with fruit syrup.
I don't use stevia, and someone suggested I try agave, but after reading various studies about agave, I avoid that too.
Once sugar was out of my system, I found natural foods to taste delicious. I don't feel the need or desire to sweeten most foods. As an example, I use plain yogurt, add chunks of fruit and some broken walnuts, and to me that tastes delicious. If someone used to eating sugar tasted my yogurt treat, it would not taste good to them because their taste buds are used to sweet.
Q: Do you use artificial sweeteners?
A: No. Artificial sweeteners are just as they are labeled: artificial. I try to get my foods in a natural form. But my main reason for avoiding artificial sweeteners is because they are still addicting to me, and make me crave sweets. Plus they do unhealthy things to my body such as give me headaches, and make my heart race. To read more about the reasons I avoid fake sugars, check out my blog post titled Avoiding Artificial Sweeteners.
I know it might seem difficult or overwhelming or maybe even boring to give up sweets, but it is one of the best things I've ever done. If I could go back in time and change only one thing in my life, I would go back to my childhood and send the sugars packing.