Considering we’re two weeks into my promise to go without sweeteners during Lent, I thought it was about time I give you guys an update on my challenge. To refresh your memory: I’ve been feeling pretty attached to sugar for a while now, and in recent months, my need for sugar has gotten to, what I consider to be, an unhealthy point. I figured now would be a great time to try to wipe my sugar-slate clean, go cold turkey and figure out how (and even, if) I can live my life without sweetening everything. I cut out sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, artificial sweeteners—basically anything I’d use with the sole purpose of sweetening food.
I have to admit, I’m absolutely dumfounded by how easy this whole thing has been. Of course, there have been a few moments where I really, really wanted something sweet (more specifically: a fudgy brownie), but overall, the sugar cravings have been really minuscule. Dare I say…I haven’t even missed sugar, really.
I think what’s making this such an easy transition for me is that I’ve allowed myself to have sweet foods, just not sweetened foods. Almost everyday, I’ve had a Medjool date for dessert after lunch. Nature’s candy! No added sweeteners, but definitely sweet enough to satisfy the craving for dessert. And I’ve been using banana, blueberries and other fruits to help up the sweetness of foods like yogurt, smoothies and cereal.
It’s amazing how sweet unsweetened foods taste when your tastebuds aren’t overloaded by manufactured sweetness. I can now taste sweetness is everything and anything! Before, if it didn’t have a full cup of brown sugar or honey in it, it probably wasn’t sweet enough for me. But now, I can taste how sweet grapefruit are and how sweet tomatoes are. In two weeks, I’ve managed to re-sensitize my sweet taste buds. That’s awesome!
The fact that we’ve been making our own maple syrup in our kitchen for the last two weeks and I haven’t tasted a single drop should give you an idea of how not tempted I am. I haven’t even licked it off my fingers. Nothing. Although, I hear it’s super delicious. And I can’t wait to have a big stack of pancakes on Easter morning! It’s actually probably a really good thing that I’m off sugar during sugaring season, because if not, I probably would have gained 15 pounds drinking syrup straight out of the bottle. I might have to go sugar-free every February just so you don’t find me huddled in the corner of the kitchen with a growler of syrup and a straw.
As great as this whole challenge has been going, I do have to fess up to one thing though. There is one area I’ve been fudging my no-sweetener rule—bread. We’ve been baking our own bread for years, and all of our tried-and-true recipes use a small amount of sugar to help activate the yeast (I’m talking one tablespoon of honey for a whole loaf). I did a little bit of research about baking yeast breads without the added sugar, and most folks say that, yes, you can do it, but it requires other additives (like special kind of yeast or vital wheat gluten). I’m not interested in buying special stuff just to make bread, so I decided that I was going to stick with our standard recipes and keep the small amount of added sweeteners. I’m okay with it because I feel like I’m still honoring the spirit of my challenge (not to sweeten something), but with bread, the actual chemistry of the baking needs the sugar to do its thang.
Other than the bread thing, I have been pretty strict with my consumption of sweeteners. Every now and again, I’ll realize that something I used had sugar in it (like the pizza sauce we used on our pizza this week), but I try not to get upset about because it’s a mistake to learn from—next time I’ll make my own pizza sauce sans the sugar! But I’ve definitely become an ingredient list hound. You’d be amazed at the foods that have added sugar in them. Salsa! Crackers! Cereal! Juice! Dried fruit! No wonder, as a whole, our society’s tastebuds are conditioned for over-sweet foods. How can they not be with it being present in everything? Whole, unprocessed foods, are where it’s at.
I’m so happy I’m doing this challenge for Lent. I think, if nothing else, it’s really taught me that my sugar addiction is almost entirely in this twisted little brain of mine and not a physical addiction (although, I know for some folks, it is). Once my brain got on board with the no-sugar thing, my body followed suit immediately and I’ve been successful. It’s amazing what the right mindset can do!
How is your lent promise going? Anyone else who gave up sugar having an easy go of it like I am?