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Monday, November 30, 2015

7 Sugar-free Breakfast Ideas: One for each day of the week!

Sugar is all over the average American's breakfast menu! Donuts! Chocolate Croissants! Scones! Pancakes with maple syrup! French toast! Sweetened yogurt! And MOST CERTAINLY in breakfast cereals! Sugar can be found in not just the assumed culprits of: Cocoa-puffs, Lucky Charms, Reese's Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, Trix, Fruit Loops, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and various other obviously sugary cereals... but also in Frosted Flakes, Kashi's GOLEAN Crunch, Cracklin Oat Bran, and other sneaky sugar-filled "healthy sounding" breakfast cereals!

But, worry not! I have a list of easy and quick low-sugar breakfasts for you to try!
  1. Literally the easiest sugar-free breakfast you can have is Grape Nuts. They do not contain any added sugar and can be eaten with dairy or dairy free milk. I, personally, grew up having heated up Grape Nuts, which I find delicious. When they are heated up, their rough texture becomes much more soft and easy to manage. Also, if you want some added flavor, chop up half a fruit to add to your bowl!
  2. Eggs, over easy, with greens. I often steam broccoli, snow peas, or kale. I usually add a small dab of butter or olive oil and salt the greens though so that they have more flavor. This makes for a quick and very hearty way to start your day.
  3. Fruit, coconut milk and chia pudding (no-sugar added, just a bit of vanilla extract), and a cup of tea with almond milk. This breakfast is also quick, and though it does involve some fructose, it is a reasonable amount and still has the benefit of fiber.
  4. Potato and leek country fries with an egg, toast, and fruit. (Beware though, that most store bought bread does contain added sugar and though it will need some advance preparation, homemade bread can be made without sugar and I assure you it will be well worth the work!)
  5. Eggs and Soldiers! This is a classic British breakfast that you rarely find in America. It is delicious and is traditionally a soft boiled egg in an egg cup, cut open, so that you can stick small strips of buttered toast in the soft egg yoke. To make it an even more sugar-free recipe, try Jamie Oliver's Eggs and Asparagus Soldiers
  6. Pesto scramble! I make homemade vegan pesto from this recipe so there is no dairy in the pesto. I mix it in with two eggs and a teaspoon of water. It makes for amazingly fluffy green scrambled eggs! Quick, easy, and flavorful!
  7. Savory pumpkin oatmeal! Yum! This is my favorite autumn/winter breakfast! Make half a single serving of plain oatmeal and cook it until it is halfway done. Then add in the same amount of pumpkin puree (unsweetened) to double the batch. Mix the combination together and finish cooking for the remaining time. Savory pumpkin oatmeal tastes great with a small drizzle of olive oil or some butter. I add salt and pepper, but you might find that weird! It is definitely a matter of taste!
Now, go forth and begin your Dessert-less (-ish) December! You've got this! 

10 Steps To Begin Your Sugar-Free (-ish) December!

If you, too, are planning on joining me in my Sugar-Free (-ish) Advent Calendar this December, but don't really know how to move forward, here are a few tips as well as a few great reads on the subject:

  1. First, enjoy this song about being Sugar Free by a K-Pop band called T-ara.
  2. Then gain a little more insight in to Why We Focus on Fructose (Even Though It Is Not In Our Name) by I Quit Sugar
  3. Now, start to begin the process of defining your sugar parameters by reading these 4 Tips To Become Sugar-Free.
  4. Now, look over your monthly calendar. What 1-5 days this month have celebrations and situations during which you think it would be hard to avoid sugar? Place a marker (whatever color you've chosen to represent your celebration days) in each of your advent pockets that align with the date of the celebration. Make sure to leave at least one-to-two marker(s) for any spontaneous celebrations that may come up.
  5. Then, create a clean eating grocery list. This list should include many vegetables, proteins, and supplies to make sugar free sauces or dressings. I highly recommend prioritizing how you're going to make sugar-free breakfasts as this is often the hardest meal to make, sugar-free. Over the coming weeks, I'll be suggesting various sugar-free breakfast ideas that you can try! 
  6. If you know that it will be hard to avoid sugars that are already in your house, place them all in a box to put in your pantry. Then label the box "CELEBRATIONS." This way, if you get the urge to pull them out or use them, you're making the intentional decision to consider this one of your 7 celebration days.
  7. Know that you WILL crave sugar. It will happen. During these times, either acknowledge the feeling and then let the feeling pass or allow yourself a small serving of your exception food. Often times when we are craving sugar, it is actually our body in want of protein. Try feeding yourself your protein of choice. If you're a dairy eater, this could be cheese. If you're an egg eater this could be a hard boiled or fried egg. If you're a vegetarian or vegan this could be a combination of a legume and a grain. Or if you're a meat eater, this may be a slice of (non-processed) meat.
  8. Then if you're feeling like you JUST HAVE TO HAVE SOMETHING WARM AND SWEET TO DRINK WHILE SITTING BY THE FIRE/ READING A BOOK ON YOUR SOFA WHILE IT GENTLY RAINS, go out and buy some fructose-free Rice Malt Syrup and make this amazing Anti-Inflammatory Hot Chocolate
  9. Make sure to assess how you feel each week. Do you notice that your skin is clearer? Are your joints feeling less inflamed? Has your Psoriasis cleared up? What small victories are you accomplishing by minimizing your sugar intake? Note these victories and write them down so that you may look at them again when you're feeling frustrated about minimizing your sugar intake (and about the fact that sugar seems to be in literally everything).
  10. If you are just having a hard time with removing sugar, message me. Lets be accountability buddies!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dessert-less December*

*Alright, you caught me. It is not an entirely dessert-less December. But, certainly a minimal dessert December.

If you're like me, December is the hardest month to avoid sugar. Sugar is everywhere in December: in Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, warm spiced apple cider, pies, cakes, fudge, divinity, and candy canes. December is a month of celebrations and feast days. So, how do you even begin to avoid sugar?

For the past few months, I haven't been able to cut sugar out of my life as much as I would have liked (And thus haven't been great about posting here). I slid down the slippery slope of one small cookie here, one cup of hot cocoa there. I wasn't able to follow my once a week sugar rule of last spring. So, as the months creeped closer and closer to the HOLIDAY SEASON, I felt worried that I'd never get back on track with my reduction of sugar (and thus inflammation). 

Two books have really helped get me back on track: I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson and Year of No Sugar: A Memoir by Eve O. Schaub. In these two books, Wilson and Schaub share their process of detoxing from sugar and minimizing sugar intake. Additionally, I recommend watching this lecture by Dr. Lustig entitled Sugar: The Bitter Truth.

Through reading these books and watching Dr. Lustig's 90 minute lecture, I found a renewed sense of urgency in cutting out sugar but didn't know how to hold myself accountable through the holiday season. 

Because I have been overly excited for it to be Christmas this year, I started looking up holiday decoration inspirations early. One decoration that kept popping up was the Christmas Advent calendar. If you are not familiar with an Advent calendar, it is a 25 day calendar leading up to Christmas day. For each of those 25 days before christmas, the owner of the advent calendar is to open a window or package to receive a small treat (usually sugar). This gave me an idea. What if I made an opposite advent calendar? What if I gave myself a treat for every day that I didn't have sugar in the month of December? Instead of a small piece of candy each day, I'd get one small purple strip of paper for each day that I didn't eat sugar. At the end of the month, I'd get to count up how many purple strips were in the calendar and each strip would be valued at $1. At the end of the month I could buy myself a guilt free Holiday gift (but not a sweet one) with my advent money! 

I do not want to deprive myself of feast days and celebrations though, because that would not be sustainable. So, I am making an alteration to my spring time sugar reduction plan: instead of sugar being allowed once a week, I will allow a maximum of 7 (one week out of the month) days of sugar eating in December. (In future months if I follow this plan, this will be limited to 4-5 sugar days in a month. But, because it is the holiday season, I made an additional 2-3 day add on exception.) I have looked ahead at my month to see what days I know I'll be very tempted to consume sugar. For each of those days I have slipped one of  7 green celebration slips in to that day. A green slip does not mean I HAVE TO EAT SUGAR that day, but instead means that I'm prepared ahead of time to know that I have to avoid sugar on other days so as to be able to celebration that day if I want to. I am hoping that this calendar will hold me accountable because I put it in a very visible place in my studio apartment, where I can see it from my bed at night and where others would be able to see it if they were in my living room area during holiday festivities. I believe that this public and ongoing display will keep me honest with myself. 

In this whole process, it is very important for me that:
  1. I call my sugar eating days "Celebration Days" rather than "Cheat Days." The point is not to feel like I am cheating myself, but rather to feel like I am being reflective and thoughtful about when to celebrate and allow sugar in to my life.
  2. That I create 1-2 small exceptions. In Year of No Sugar: A Memoir, Schaub and her whole family follow a simple set of rules. One of those rules is that each member of their family is allowed 1 exception sweet that they can have regularly with the caveat that though it has sugar in it, the amount of sugar in that item is low. So, I am choosing chocolate that is 85% or more cocoa. I am also allowing a minimal amount of trace local honey because I add a small amount of it to my homemade almond butter.  Here are my exceptions: 

For the sake of avoiding community defensiveness, I'd like to state that I am trying to minimize my Sucrose and Fructose intake, not my Glucose or Dextrose intake. Glucose is pretty much our life force and extremely essential to everything we do. Dextrose is essentially Glucose so it is fine as well. Many people may think it sounds crazy to remove Fructose because we all think of fruit as Fructose and we think of fruit as being healthy. Fruit is fine. It is when Fructose is removed from it's fibrous encasings when it becomes more dangerous. Schaub explains:

"How Fructose Makes You Fat and Sick:
  1. All sugar contains fructose.
  2. Fructose does not satisfy hunger, so you eat more food than your body needs.
  3. Fructose may not be used by any of the cells in your body, except the liver.
  4. In processing fructose, the liver produces bad things: uric acid and fatty acids.
  5. Too much uric acid causes:
    1. Gout
    2. Hypertension
  6. Too many fatty acids cause:
    1. Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
    2. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)
    3. Insulin Resistance & Type 2 Diabetes
    4. Obesity
  7. The clustering of two or more of the four conditions above is called Metabolic Syndrome. Virtually unheard of only a few decades ago, one in five Americans suffers from it today.
  8. Additionally, circulating fatty acids have been proven to speed the growth of cancer cells.
  9. Consumption of fructose has risen 341% in the last century and continues to climb.
  10. So what do you call something that your body has no need for and that, when we take it in, creates toxic by-products in our bodies resulting in debilitation, disease, and untimely death? Well, doctors call that a poison."

So, as you can see, I'm starting to realize that my sugar intake is a bit of a problem. Now I am doing something about it. My plan is to make this my New Years resolution (one month early). One. Month. At. A. Time. I'll be sharing my progress here with all of you and would love to hear about others who are creating their own Sugar-Free Advent calendars! Please send me photos of your Sugar-Free advent calendars and we can work to make sure that our Holiday is still filled with joy  and celebration... without much sugar!