I know this sounds really crazy, but I went the whole month of February without eating any added sugar. (I even made these Peppermint Patties without tasting them—don’t worry, my whole family ate them and said they were delicious.) For 28 days, I ate only sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables. Why would I ever do such a thing? Many people go on elimination diets that cut out one food item or another. I don’t believe in this way of eating, but I don’t like to fully dismiss something until I try it. I also wanted to know how it feels to diet… and believe me, it was difficult!
Here’s what I learned:
- Going on any type of “diet” requires thinking about and reading the labels of every food item that you put in your mouth.
- Sugar has many names, which makes it difficult to pick out on a food label. Some of sugar’s aliases are high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, sucrose, honey, raw sugar, malt syrup, rice syrup, xylose, molasses, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, cane sugar, crystalline fructose, barley malt, beet sugar, and caramel.
- Sugar hides in many processed food products, such as bread, sriracha, pretzel crisps, and most crackers. Once again, read the food label!
- It’s nearly impossible to know what’s in food that you don’t cook. An elimination diet is very hard to follow when eating take-out or restaurant meals.
- Overall, I think I ended up eating a healthier diet in the month of February than I normally do. This challenge forced me to always look for the healthiest option and plan ahead with no sugar added snacks. I compiled a list of things I ate for anyone who wants to decrease the sugar in their life.
1) Raisins. Grapes that are dried naturally by the sun become raisins. The result is an intensely sweet snack with no sugar added.
2) Fruit. Obviously fruit doesn’t contain any added sugar. It’s natures candy.
3) Nuts. Nuts are high in protein, the omegas, and healthy fats, but they are also high in calories. Try to keep the serving to about a handful. Mix peanuts and raisins for peanut butter and jelly taste!
5) Wasa crackers. Wasa crackers are delicious and made with very few ingredients.
6) Sweet potato chips and homemade French onion dip. Shameless recipe plug!
7) Popcorn. I buy a bag of kernels from Trader Joes and make it myself on the stove top. Just add a drop of butter and salt and enjoy!
8) Some dried fruits. Some dried fruits are just dried and packaged. Others are dried, covered in sugar and then packaged. READ THE LABEL. (Do you get it yet?)
9) Natural Peanut Butter. Natural peanut butter contains only ground peanuts and salt.
10) Plain Greek yogurt. I know Greek yogurt by itself can be really tart, but try adding some chopped apples, cinnamon, and raisins. This is my go-to make-ahead breakfast—just put in a Tupperware and grab it on your way out the door in the morning!
12) Avocados. Yes, avocados are technically a fruit, but I love them so much that they get their own place on the list. Cut one up and eat with no sugar added crackers.
13) Cheese. Although it’s high in fat, cheese does not contain any added sugar. The 100 calorie organic cheese sticks are a great portable snack.
15) Sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are one of those vegetables that are just naturally sweet. To make a quick baked sweet potato, wash, poke holes in it with a knife, and microwave for 5-6 minutes (turn it over halfway through).
Do you have any no sugar added snacks to add to the list? Have you ever tried an elimination diet?