It's October and that means... Falling leaves, cozy sweaters, changing weather and SUGAR! October is when the Holiday sugar rush begins. And with Halloween it means lots and lots of candy. This is the time of year I have to brace myself to choose healthy options and say no to all the sugar and treats - because they just seem to be everywhere. We all know sugar in large quantities is unhealthy. I explain why here.
So... my challenge to you is one of the following through the end of October (or as long as you can!):
Option 1 - No Candy - This would include candy bars, candy corn, taffy, caramels, Skittles, etc. Anything that you would consider candy. You can make your own rules around what exactly you consider candy. You can still eat cookies, donuts, oreos, ice cream, etc.
What's the point of avoiding just candy then, you ask? Well, this time of year candy is readily available and in your face, so even just avoiding candy could decrease your sugar intake quite a bit. I'm not a candy fan, so this one is easy for me. I would much rather have a delicious chocolate chip cookie over a pack of M&M's.
Option 2 - No Packaged Sweets - This would include all the candy listed above as well as packaged cookies, store bought ice cream, store bought cakes, pastries, etc. You could still eat any treats that are made at home or at a friend's house.
Packaged/store bought treats usually contain a lot of processed and filler ingredients. Look at the back of a Granny B's Pink Sugar Cookie and you will find a list of about 40 ingredients - half of which you can't pronounce. By saying "no" to packaged treats you are avoiding a lot of bad-for-you ingredients. Treats that you or your friends make - even if they have white flour and white sugar - will most likely not include more than 10 ingredients and are a better choice.
Store Bought Granny B's Sugar Cookie: (they claim they use all natural ingredients... I don't think Yellow 5 is a natural ingredient... but that's just me.)
Sugar, Bleached Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Margarine (Palm Oil, Water, Soybean Oil, Salt, Whey Solids, Vegetable Mono & Diglycerides, Soy Lecithin, BHA & BHT (Protect Flavor), Vitamin A Palmitate And Vitamin D3, Natural & Artificial), Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Tbhq And Citric Acid (Protect Flavor), Eggs, Decorettes, (Sugar, Cornstarch, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed And/Or Soybean Oil, Soy Lecithin, Dextrin, Confectioner's Glaze, Yellow 5 & 6 Lake, Red 3 & 40 Lake, Blue 1 Lake, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Carnuba Wax), Water, Milk, Contains Less Than 2% of Each of The Following: Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Cornstarch, Monocalcium Phosphate), Salt, Cornstarch, Color (Yellow 6 Lake, Sorbitol), Artificial And Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Modified Food Starch, Cellulose Gum, Cellulose Gel, Modified Gum Acacia, Methylcellulose.
Homemade Sugar Cookie Ingredients:
White flour, butter, white sugar, eggs, vanilla, baking soda, salt, sour cream, powdered sugar, milk
White flour and white sugar are still highly processed and there are better options, which takes me to...
Option 3 - No Processed Sugars - This means you would only use whole or raw sugars to sweeten treats. I would also throw in avoiding white flour. White flour acts like a sugar when consumed - wheat or sprouted wheat flour (or a gluten-free flour) are a better options.
The whole and/or raw sugars that I will include (I am doing this option) are Maple Syrup (Grade B in the raw is the most pure, Grade A is good - just don't use Mrs. Butterworth's), Coconut Sugar and Raw Honey.
Why did I choose these? They are all whole foods - not processed or refined, you don't need a lot of it to sweeten your treat and Coconut Sugar is the sugar lowest on the Glycemic Index. That means it doesn't spike your blood sugar, which means it doesn't turn into fat as quickly. Read more about Coconut Sugar here. You can find it at a health food store in the bins or online. You could also include Agave Nectar (I don't really like the taste of it). Bananas and dates are good sweeteners too. I wouldn't include Sucanat or unrefined Dehydrated Cane Sugar on this list as it is higher on the Glycemic Index. I use coconut sugar where I used to use Sucanat and you don't need to use as much (3/4 C = 1 C). There may be other sugars you could add to this list - it's up to you what you want to include.
But sugar is sugar and by nature is addicting. If you eat fructose you naturally want more fructose. That's why the no sugar-ites opt for sweeteners of glucose or dextrose - there's no side affect of wanting more. I am still working on getting there. If you want to stop the addiction then I suggest you choose...
Option 4. No Sugar at all - fruit not included- Pretty basic - nothing with sugar in it or if you don't want to get super picky looking at all labels (ketchup, jam, sauces can have sugar in them) - then just do no sweets - not even sweetened by natural sugars.
I did an 8-week no-sugar challenge at the beginning of the year. That was a serious NO sugar challenge. I even did 3 weeks of no fruit. (Told you I could be a little crazy!) It was hard - read my experience here. And the results didn't really last. Because let's face it, I just have a sweet tooth! But I did gain more education of other options and I am making healthier long lasting choices now.
I did Option 3 last month and it gave me an opportunity to still have some treats and find new recipes, while at the same time choosing to pass on the other sugary items. It was a perfect balance. I have also realized that more than satisfying a sweet tooth the TEXTURE of foods can be just as important. I love biting into a crispy, chewy cookie. Even if it doesn't have sugar in it the texture does something for me. (Once I made a cookie with no sugar and unsweetened baker's chocolate. I don't think I'll make it again, but it did satisfy for a moment.)
Identifying what you love in a treat can help you choose those options rather than crashing for quick candy bar that really isn't satisfying. I find value in the quality and simplicity of the ingredients - and it's an extra plus that it's a treat.
You can do it! So, who's with me? Comment below and tell me which option you are choosing? I am doing Option 3 - - ready? GO!
To get you started - here are some recipes using the whole/raw sugars mentioned:
Gluten-Free Almond Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies (my favorite right now!)
Replace the sugars with 3/4 cup Coconut Sugar
No Bake Cookies
(Okay, disclaimer... I do eat Chocolate Chips sweetened with unrefined Dehydrated Cane Juice - it's hard to find them sweetened with the sugar mentioned in Option 3, but better than Corn Syrup!)
Just posted this in Fright Back Friday at the foodrenegade.com. Check out all the fun related posts there.