Sugar—more than salt, cholesterol or even fat—is currently public enemy #1 for our health. The average American downs over 22 teaspoons a day, an overdose linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Inspired by recent research, including Dr. Robert Lustig’s Fat Chance and the bestselling Salt Sugar Fat, one American family set out to see what “kicking sugar addiction” looks like … for one whole year.
Scott and Eve Schaub and their children—Greta (11) and Ilsa (6)—spent 2011 eating no added sugar.
That means no: table sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose, maple syrup, honey, molasses, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice, or artificial sweeteners.
Once a month the family would have a special, agreed-upon dessert
Each member of the family could have one regular exception with a small amount of sugar (Steve’s was Diet Dr. Pepper; Eve’s was red wine)
If the kids were surrounded by a room full of kids all having the same dessert, the decision whether or not to have it is up to them (“the Birthday Party Rule”)
What They Found:
They got sick less: Greta and Ilsa’s school absences went from a combined total of over 20 to just 5 per year.
They pooped like clockwork: Eve noted a distinct ability to … “emit” more regularly.
They experienced “sugar hangover”: After four months, eating sweets caused Eve to feel dizzy and achy as her body processed the excess sugar.
The most surprising places to hide sugar included store-bought sauces, dressings, condiments, soup, and bread—all things that are easy and quick to make at home.
Schools were the worst offenders: In a typical week, 29 out of 20 items the school’s breakfast menu contained fructose (97 percent – the only item that didn’t was cream cheese). Candy is often involved in the classroom, like practicing math with M&Ms and Twizzlers.
Alternative sweeteners aren’t always healthier: Agave and fruit juice sound healthier, but they contain the same about of fructose as sugar (and sometimes more).
The hardest meal of the day was breakfast: Breads, bagels, juice, waffles, muffins and pastries all included sugar.
Bananas and dates are not good sugar substitutes: They just make things taste like bananas and dates!
Need a sugar substitute? Try dextrose. It’s almost pure glucose, without the negative effects of fructose, and can be bought in bulk online. Eve used it in baking, in reduced amounts than usually called for.
5 Ways the Schaubs Still Live Sugar-Free:
Make easy homemade versions of grocery staples that have stealthy sugar: salad dressings, mayonnaise, pasta sauce, pizza dough, and quick breads
Avoid fruit juice, soda or store-bought desserts.
Use dextrose for everyday baking and cooking (recipes available for no-sugar shortbread, easy tomato sauce, apricot snack bars)
Check ingredients list at grocery stores—if “filler” sugar is one of the first ingredients, it’s out.
Order simpler items at restaurants. If it has a lot of sauces, it’s probably hiding a heap of sugar.
Have a larger conversation about sugar with the whole family—especially at major sugar holidays like Halloween and Christmas