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I Tried a No-Added-Sugar Challenge for a Month – And This Is What Happened
But given that I knew most restaurants use added sugar, oh, all the time, I knew I had to kick my takeout habit. So for the first time in my life, I started meal prepping.
I’ll just say this right now: If you hate cooking, the no-added-sugar challenge probably isn’t for you. But I found myself really looking forward to Sundays with my Instant Pot and my stand mixer. (Yes, I know how lame that sentence sounds to anyone who considers cooking a chore.)
It was awesome coming home to really delicious meals like beef-barley soup, coconut-curry chicken, or kale-sauce pasta. Suddenly, I didn’t have to waste any mental energy during the week figuring out what I was going to eat because I’d already decided on Sunday. Very quickly, I realized how many recipes I needed to prep in advance to feed my husband and myself on weeknights (two, so I had some variety but I could actually eat everything I made), as well as all of the other logistical details involved in meal planning.
On weekends, since we couldn’t eat out — something we typically love doing — I would make a special dinner, like homemade pizza. And sometimes I would invite friends over for the occasion (our social life did, admittedly, take a bit of a hit during this month).
I’ll definitely continue meal prepping, but now I can incorporate some lower-sugar recipes into the mix, too.
If you’re looking for no-added-sugar recipes, these were some of my favorites:
KEEPING A STASH OF WHITELISTED SNACKS SAVED MY LIFE
Okay, maybe that is a slight overstatement. But I had a rocky start in which I severely underestimated the amount of added-sugar-free food I should bring to work and intense hanger ensued.
I started to order my favorites in bulk and keep a stash at my office so that I would have them handy at all times.
Finding a few restaurants that are transparent about the ingredients they use was also key because it helped me determine a few go-to meals for those days when I wasn’t able to bring my lunch (if you have Sweetgreen or Mulberry & Vine in your area, 10/10 would recommend).
And when all else failed, I knew I could grab a banana and a plain Greek yogurt from the local convenience store.
I DIDN’T NOTICE A HUGE CHANGE IN MY ENERGY LEVELS
People asked me a lot if I “felt better” during my month with no added sugar. And the truth is that I had a cold for a couple of weeks during the experiment, so … no, not really. I didn’t notice any positive changes in my skin, either (and I was so hoping that this experiment would improve my complexion).
That said, I did feel more satiated by my homemade, no-added-sugar dinners than I did by the takeout I’d eaten previously — so I wasn’t as tempted to raid the pantry or the freezer afterward looking for something sweet to end the night with.
And when I went back to eating sugar, I did notice that I just felt ickier on days after I had really indulged. Almost like a low-level hangover.
Even though I didn’t, Lemond says others might notice more stable energy and blood sugar levels, among other benefits. It just depends on the person and what their diet looked like previously.
I DID, HOWEVER, LOSE 7 POUNDS
To be clear, I didn’t set out to lose any weight. Every time I was hungry, I ate something. I made that pizza I mentioned on three separate occasions (one time with stuffed crust!). I had a small piece of homemade bread with almost every lunch and dinner (I was giving up sugar, so I definitely couldn’t nix carbs, as well — I’m not a robot). And I still had “dessert” when I was craving something sweet (hence the aforementioned bowls of blueberries and yogurt).
When I weighed myself two weeks in, I had lost six pounds. And in the last two weeks, I lost another pound. A yoga teacher even told me I looked slimmer toward the end of the experiment. Lemond says weight loss often does occur when people cut out added sugars, but that it’s not a guarantee (again, it depends how much added sugar you were consuming before — and apparently the answer was a lot for me!). She adds that if you do lose weight, it’s likely to be around your midsection.
BUT WHAT ABOUT MY SUGAR CRAVINGS?
Toward the end of the month, things like coconut Larabars started tasting super-sweet to me, much more so than they had before. Even Justin’s peanut butter started to feel like an indulgence.
I’m happy to report that, post-experiment, I still don’t have the burning desire for sweets every single night that I did before. When it does strike, I often find myself reaching for fruit and feeling satisfied afterward (who am I?!). And when I eat something savory—like bread or soup—I can tell right away if it has added sugar because it tastes off to me.
Of course, I was curious to see whether ice cream would seem unbearably saccharine since I’d gone so long without it. But when I finally treated myself to a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough, it tasted … really good. What can I say? You can take the ice cream away from the girl, but…
From: Women’s Health