Friday, January 20, 2017

Sugar-Free February: Planning and Prep

To everyone who is joining me for the Sugar-Free February challenge- welcome! We are 10 days away from February and this includes two weekends, which gives us all plenty of time to prepare. Diet is such a very personal thing, but I hope we can support each other in making whatever change, big or small, that we each choose to make.

Step 1: Prepare yourself mentally. Find a few minutes of quiet time and ask yourself-

What do I want to get out of this month-long challenge?

I want to reset my taste buds by cutting out added sugar for a month. I'm all about eating everything in moderation and not undertaking fad diets but the fact is that sugar is literally addictive, and sugar is literally everywhere, so I am trying this month of cutting back on it.

Step 2: Set the rules for yourself

These are mine:
  1. No foods with added sugar. This includes obvious foods like soda, cookies, candy, chocolate, cake, desserts, most baked goods and breakfast cereals. But it also includes other foods where sugar may be lurking- for instance, bread, pasta sauce and salad dressing. When reading ingredient lists, keep in mind that sugar is listed under many different names- for instance, there are 61 names for sugar listed in the right side-bar of this webpage.
  2. No artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners may have zero calories and zero carbs but their sweet taste leads to more cravings for sweet foods.
  3. Natural sugars found in vegetables, fruits and dairy are OK. 
Step 3: Prepare your kitchen

1. Get rid of the foods that you don't want to eat in February. Eat them up, give them away, throw them away, or wrap them in an opaque bag and hide them somewhere for the month.

2. Stock up on the foods that you do want to eat this month. Make a list of your go-to weeknight meals and stock up on the ingredients. Make a list of no-sugar-added snacks that you will want to eat. For your favorite pantry staples- which might be bread, pasta sauce, peanut butter or whatever- find good no-added-sugar brands.

Step 4: Start weaning yourself off sugar if you have to. I have a 2 cup a day chai habit, and I like it with milk and sugar. I have started to cut down on the amount of sugar I add- this week, I'm adding 1/4 tsp or nothing at all. This goes for any tea, coffee, soda or any other sugary drink that you might be in the habit of drinking.

Step 5: Think of some good distractions. Staying busy is a good way to ward off cravings. I have some big projects (home repairs, quilt show, a trip etc.) coming up in March and preparing for those will keep me busy, but I also plan to check out a few cozy books from the library.

Please use the comment section to share how you are preparing for sugar-free February! 

35 comments:

  1. Wonderful tips on preparation, Nupur!
    I too take two cups of chai a day. I use to take a teaspoon of sugar, but have cut down to half a spoon lately. Some of my friends have been taking no sugar at all for quite some time now. But I couldn't let go of it completely. :)
    I've started clearing off my fridge to get rid of salad dressings, syrups, and jams. I'm thinking of making home-made valentine cards for distraction. I'm sure we'll get some good ideas from your readers, so will keep checking. :)

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    1. Leena- No sugar chai doesn't taste as good to me, but again, it is a matter of habit, maybe it will be my new normal at the end of Feb, or I'll go back to adding a teensy bit :) A fun project for Feb is just the thing for those of us who look to snacks as a fun way to relax. We need a better way to relax!

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    2. Strangely enough a gradual cutting down process does get you to a place where you are happy with no sugar in your tea. I did it 20 years ago and have never looked back. I also take less milk in my tea now, again a very gradual process. I guess, like with everything in life, its a gradual adjustment.

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    3. Amber- So true- we humans can get habituated to just about anything, for better or worse. We can bend our habits to better serve us. I hope the month of sugarless chai makes it a new normal for me.

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  2. Hi Nupur, Happy New Year to you and your family... Glad I checked your blog after ages.. What a wonderful plan to cut sugar not by your self but by including your readers too and collectively motivating one another... I also had GD and for the last couple of years I have been trying to cut down on sugar . For most part it is fairly ok but birthdays and festive season is the real test to my resolve esp SM ... One look into food sites all my resolve will start weakening...

    I would love to be part of the challenge but may not follow strictly in the sense sure there will be no added sugar in beverages nor will I be making desserts but I won't fully cut off bread etc... May be cutting down my carbs a bit... Let me see how I fare and will let you know.. Best wishes for you and thanks for posting this challenge... Ditasmom

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    1. Ditasmom- Oh yes, birthday and celebrations are heavy on the sweets and carbs, it is no coincidence that I am starting this sugar-free month at the tail end of the holidays!

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  3. Hi Nupur, thanks for the tips. I dont really drink tea/coffee and am not really with a sweet tooth (apart from having a piece of chocolate or cookie occasionally). however, i want to be careful of hidden sugars in pasta sauces, bread, fruit yoghurt sold in supermarkets etc. I dont think I will completely cutoff on bread but will switch to healthier multi grain kind and try to make things at home as much as possible. I guess am going to rely more on fruits in case i have that sweet craving!
    Kejal

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    1. Kejal- thanks for playing along! I am not a big fruit eater but this month, I'll be turning to fruit when I need a sweet something.

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  4. I have a couple strategies that I'm going to follow -
    1. I'm trying to ease into the challenge by lessening the sugar in my 'two cups of coffee in the am' routine already. Since I drink it with milk and sugar, I'm not entirely sure how this will pan out. As a backup, I'm going to try some new teas that are meant to be brewed and drunk as is.
    2. I'm going to try some new recipes. I know I find trying new recipes exciting, and as such think this approach will have me looking forward to something versus thinking of all that I will be missing.
    3. This may sound crazy, but I've gotten a small kadhai that I will use to make any sweet stuff (sheera etc.) for the kids. That way I will make just enough for them, and there will be no temptation for me to finish off the rest. I think this may just work since I really dislike throwing away good food.
    Sound like a plan? - Neha

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    1. Neha- I love your strategies. I am finding that phasing out sugar is working well- going from 1 tsp to 1/2 to 1/4 has been painless. Going to none is a bit...disappointing :) but I can live with it for a while.

      I too plan to look through my bulging pinterest boards and find some fun new recipes to try!!

      Love the idea of making tiny portions of sweets. Thanks for sharing these great tips!

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  5. Hi Nupur, I would like to join this challenge, could you please help or share a link to understand more on added sugar in store bought items since it's listed under different names

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    1. Trupti- There's a link up there already in my post- did you check it out? A web search for "hidden names of sugar" will provide lots of information!

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  6. Hi Nupur,

    I want to join in as well. Mainly for my husband since he has a massive sweet tooth and has a family history of diabetes.
    Are you planning on cutting out sugar out of Lila's foods too? I no longer keep candy in the house but do make granola at home with honey or maple syrup and the kids like an almond butter jelly sandwich in their lunchbox on Fridays. Not sure I will cut out sugar entirely from their foods.
    My husband's birthday is also in Feb and he looks forward to the one time in the year when I make his favorite Tres Leches cake. We might cheat on that one day.
    I need to start planning!

    -Anu

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    1. Anu- I'm not planning to change anything in Lila's diet. Like you mention with your kids, she eats some jam, maple syrup as part of meals, and if she gets candy at a birthday party or such, then she gets to keep and eat it. I try to teach her moderation and "making good choices" rather than banning certain foods (and hence making them irresistible) but it sure is hard in this sugar-saturated culture.

      A cheat day is just fine, especially if a special cake is involved :)

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  7. Hi Nupur, seems like in the US, Ezekiel bread (found in the frozen section of stores like Krogers or Trader Joes) is one of the few without added sugar. It tastes pretty decent:). Im attempting to go "no added sugar" for 6 days, with slightly more relaxed rules for one day of the weekend, when our 4 year old typically has birthday parties to attend. I will not eat cake and similar food, but if there is pizza for lunch, as there typically is, I will eat a slice. Ive been doing this the last two weeks, and now realize pizza has so much added sugar - your taste buds become sensitive to sugar when you do not consume it on a regular basis!

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    1. I like the Ezekiel bread (and Trader Joe's knock-off of it) a lot! That's our "usual bread", I love it with almond butter the most.

      I love your idea of going sugar-free the majority of the time. It is a great way to find balance between enjoying the usual family activities, and putting changes into place the rest of the time. How amazing that our taste buds are so adaptable!

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    2. More power to you Nupur! I ate all kinds of multigrain breads that had added preservatives etc to prevent spoilage and while Ezekiel is not as tasty as the others, it's very very eatable:)ALso, low fat cottage cheese has been very useful during snack cravings....I'm looking forward to your list of snacks as well as other readers!

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  8. The dilemma with this challenge, and I would like to get advice on this and similar such situations: Is it better to skip a small piece of cake and eat a piece of bagel or low sugar cereal bar instead (even if it has more calories and more carbs)? Thanks! Mina

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    1. Mina- I would say that it depends on what your goals are, and what habits you are trying to change! If you find cake irresistible when offered a piece and are trying to teach yourself that it is OK to skip desserts and eat something else instead, then do that. But if your goal is to stay within a certain carb or calorie limit for the day, then the cake would be fine, as an occasional treat. That's how I would think about it, anyway.

      For this challenge in particular, I would say cake is out. A cereal bar or small bagel would work if there are no added sugars (a challenge to find, I would say). Skip all of the above and eat some veggies and dip or a fruit and handful of nuts ;)

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  9. I have only been gone for a while and look, how many changes have happened! Congratulations on the baby and it is wonderful to hear about all the new adventures you have embarked upon. Such as this challenge. Okay, deep breath in...count me in for the challenge. Living as I do in Brot & Kase country now, it is going to be hard but it's only a month and February is a short one. One question though, what about dried fruit such as dates? I am eager to see how we all get on and report back to you with findings. I might even consider journalling it. Thank you for the idea, Nupur. I am going to see if there are other friends who can join this effort.

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    1. Ammani- Thank you :) So you are living in Germany now- cool!! Bread and cheese is fine as long as they are sugar free- lol. Yes, Feb is a short month- no coincidence that I picked this month for the challenge ;)

      Dried fruit are concentrated in sugar but in my mind, they are excellent when making the transition from a sugary food to a very low/no sugar one. Eg. I'll be using a date or a small amount of raisins if I need to sweeten oatmeal.

      I'm so glad you are joining the challenge! If we get excited about it and do it together, there's a greater chance of success.

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    2. Ja! Actually, it's more Kase and Kuchen country. Fingers crossed, I'll resist all the Kuchen that this country is hellbent on inflicting my way.

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  10. Ok, I'm ready,
    Well. almost. Giving up sweet chai is a big hurdle. I tried it for 2 weeks, it. is. just.too. unbearable. It just made me so miserable. I hope I can manage.

    I'm so ready to go low carb. Snacks are my weak point. I love me some chivda, chaha- biscuit combo.another weakness is bread. Love it. So I will try sprouted grain bread or Ezekiel bread.

    Do you have a list sugar free snacks you can suggest?

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    1. Manasi- You will manage- we're more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for!! Did you switch to unsweet chai all of a sudden or did you phase it out? I'm finding it easier to phase out little by little.

      Sprouted grain bread is good stuff- I like it with acovado, or with nut butter.

      I'll definitely list out some sugar free snacks- and hopefully discover some new ones this month.

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    2. I did a sudden switch. But here's my problem, I am ok not eating sweets and going low carb, it's just that morning cup of chai that needs to be good ( read: with 1 tsp jaggery powder), then my day is perfect :(

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    3. In that case that morning cup's added sugar could be the one exception that keeps you happy and satisfied with the rest of the day's choices. Do what works for you! :)

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    4. Here's what I observed in ge last 10 days that almost quit sugar. If, I have my cup of tea in the morning with a little bit of jaggery, it makes my day. I do not crave anymore, though I have sugary snacks for my son, I have lost the desire to pop something in my mouth ( and I love sweets). The other day I made banana muffins for him and he gave he a small bite, I found it way too sweet and when he wasn't looking, I spat it out ( gross but true). So I definitely see the good side of quitting sugar, but maybe that 1/2 tsp jaggery might be my exception. February, here I come!

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    5. Manasi- now THAT is a win right there- the fact that you're losing the desire for sugar and not having to fight cravings all the time (which we all know is a losing battle). Good for you, girl! Something similar happened with me and kitkats, which used to be my favorite candy. I managed to cadge a kitkat from Lila's pinata loot, and barely managed a bite before I spit it out. Too sweet and awful. Our taste buds do change, and quicker than we think- yay!

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    6. That's very true. My husband has been off sugar for more than a year now, and he cannot handle a typical dessert any more. Way too sweet for his taste buds.

      Btw, Larabars are fabulous snacks. They contain only dried fruit and nuts (most of them), zero added sugar.

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  11. I am joining the challenge on 6th once I return from India.

    - No food with added sugars - cakes, cookies, store-bought bread (my husband is on a bread baking challenge and has banned store-bought bread in any case), cereal
    - The one exception may be the tiny tilgul ladus - all homemade - no more than 1 day
    - Milk, fruit, veggies, brown rice are all ok

    Thats my list for now.

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    1. Vishakha- sounds like a great list! Enjoy the rest of your trip :)

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  12. Thanks for the heads up, Nupur. I have convinced my husband to join and a friend has verbally agreed (will text her in the morning to remind her of it). A dietician friend said that my body will thank me for it. It had better do. Where I think I might struggle is on the Saturdays when we go skiing and we ski nearly all day on every Saturdays in Jan, Feb and the first Saturday in March. My energy level drops and I find myself reaching for an energy bar as a pick me up. I remember reading a recipe for a homemade bar on OHT...will look it up. Happy sugar-freeing to you too (if there's such a thing). All respect given you are a new mum too. Thank you, Nupur!

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    1. Okay, I shared this with my school friends watsapp group and four of them have joined in. Have linked to the blog post too. Auf geht's!

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    2. Oh wow- a full day of skiing- I don't know, I think that earns you whatever type of snack you wish for :) What a fun and active lifestyle!

      The homemade energy bar type treats are at the end of this post (they are delish, promise): http://onehotstove.blogspot.com/2016/07/must-see-tv-and-datetreats.html

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  13. Nupur, very good initiative. To continue to be off sugar post February, you can substitute sugar with jaggery. As you are a Maharashtra, you might be used to jaggery :-) for your kids, acquired taste may be. I used to see jaggery in Patel stores in Chicago. . Main problem with sugar is processing adds lot more chemicals , which kind of sail under radar.

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