In the Christmas period, unhealthy eating is near unavoidable. Lots of rich dinners and sugary treats. It feels good at the time but it definitely can’t be a regular thing. Towards the end of last year, my husband and I worked out that we were gradually eating more and more sugar, and Christmas certainly did not help. So, we decided that the first week of this year would be sugar free.
Before starting our sugar free week, we decided on a few simple rules:
1. We were allowed to eat natural sugars found in fruit and dairy
2. We were allowed to eat wholegrain carbs
But apart from that, no sugar – no white bread, no chocolate, no sweet drinks and basically no pre-packaged food. We knew that the only way we could survive this was to be very organised. We drew up our meal plan so we knew exactly what we were going to eat and we made sure we had all the ingredients necessary. How well this idea worked, you can read about that later. We also put all our Christmas chocolates and biscuits up on the highest cupboard shelf. With our fridge stocked full of fresh produce, it was time for our sugar free week to begin.
Day 1 – Sunday 1st Jan
Yay! It’s the new year, we’re feeling motivated and fresh. For breakfast we have an egg in a wholemeal wrap. We go to church in the morning and we debate whether to stay for morning tea. Church morning teas are known to be very healthy for the soul but rather unhealthy for the body. We come into the hall, and we see the ladies bringing out some scones with jam. Suddenly, this sugar free week seems a little hard. On the table, there’s also some thick slices of white bread. I know that breaks our rules but it was really the healthiest thing on that table. We thought, it might be okay to just have a little bit, and it’s leftover communion bread so it can’t be that bad! I eat a few bites, before I decide I really shouldn’t. Our lunch and dinner are a bit better, couscous salad and san choy bau.
Day 2 – Monday 2nd Jan
Today we travel up to visit Mum and Dad. Mum’s generally sugar free anyway, so it wasn’t a problem for her to provide a sugar free meal – chicken and salad with wholegrain wraps. It was a lovely day seeing my parents, but on the way home we started to get really, really tired. Thankfully, someone else was driving! This may have been due to sugar withdrawals or it may have been tiredness leftover from New Years Eve, it’s hard to tell. We have croquettes with polenta and tomato for dinner, really delicious but the croquettes are so salty they might cancel out the sugar-free. At my church, we have services on every evening in the first week of the year, and I like to go along to at least one. After the service though, we come into the hall and see plates piled with Tongan donuts, delicious, deep-fried balls of sugary goodness. Definitely off-limits. We were literally surrounded by temptation. And the ladies who cooked them were gently encouraging us too eat. I told people that we were fasting this week, probably easier for them to understand than going sugar-free. I’m pleased to say, we resisted the tempation and didn’t eat any donuts. I hope they get brought out again soon, though.
Day 3 – Tuesday 3rd Jan
This is the day we start to notice the sugar withdrawals. The hunger is increasing and my emotions in particular are more volatile. It could have to do, though, with the fact that I’m stressing out a bit over having to work the next day. For breakfast, we have a chickpea, egg and tomato bake – I love this and I’d eat it even after our sugar-free week. For lunch, we have brown rice sushi and for dinner we have a Thai beef salad. We’re going well with keeping our two rules, but one thing I start to notice is – we’re having hardly any fresh veges. Our fridge is full of celery, carrots and lettuce but our meals seem to be dominated by whole-grain carbs. Hmm…maybe not as sugar-free as we could be but technically we’re keeping the rules.
Day 4 – Wednesday, 4th Jan
My first day back at work, and it was a big one – 10 hours of looking after kids, without a proper lunch break. That’s usually not too bad because they provide food for the staff and the kids to snack on through the day. Problem is, pretty much all of it has sugar. I brought a salad with me, and I manage to eat that in the five minutes it takes to microwave a kid’s lunch. I keep my snacking to the fruit bowl provided, and forgo the chips and biscuits. The good thing is, I didn’t really feel like eating the chips and biscuits, but maybe some two minute noodles would have been nice. For my husband, who hasn’t yet returned to work, he says this was the easiest day yet. We discovered an easy sugar-free breakfast – corn puffs – and my husband made an amazing cauliflower and polenta dinner.
Day 5 – Thursday, 5th Jan
I have a day off from work today, so it’s much easier to keep my eating sugar-free. We have corn puffs with milk for breakfast and Greek-inspired wraps for lunch, with feta, cos lettuce, olives and dried herbs. The best thing about this week is we’re discovering healthy and delicious meals we could keep using even once we stop being sugar-free. By day 5, the minor withdrawals we had at the beginning have gone and we both seem to be feeling at peace with being sugar-free. Could be, though, because we’re still having lots of wholegrain carbs and fruit. To go competely sugar-free would be so incredibly difficult.
Day 6 – Friday, 6th Jan
We’re coming to the home stretch now, and we’re finding less and less that we feel like eating something sweet. I’m reminded today of how a sugar-free diet can affect your social life. We had plans to meet with some friends for morning tea, but they asked us if we could do lunch instead. Going out to a restaurant for lunch would give us very few sugar-free options, so we have to suggest afternoon tea instead. Tea with a little bit of milk and no sugar, just how I like it anyway. As we wanted something small to eat too, we end up sharing a salad – which I think may have had a dressing containing sugar, but I’m going to let that one go as an unintentional accident. We had a chilli basil chicken stirfry for dinner, finally something full of veges.
Day 7 – Saturday, 7th Jan
Our last sugar-free day! By this time, we’re feeling pretty used to a sugar-free diet and we decide that we want to try a low sugar diet from now on – which would have the same basic rules as the sugar-free but with a bit more flexibility, especially when we’re out of the house. Tonight we have a Tongan cuisine night planned (I may have to post about cuisine nights at a later time), and the entree and main will be easy to keep sugar free. Dessert, though, we agree can have some sugar since we are so close to the end of the week anyway. We make a pineapple pie with custard and tinned pineapple and a little sugar in the crust. It tastes good but the striking thing is, it tastes almost too sweet! After a week of sugar-free eating, your tastebuds do become more sensitive to sweetness. I hope this continues and we’ll feel satisfied with natural sugars and wholegrain carbs.
What have we learned from this week? Sugar-free eating is possible, at home. Once you go out into the real world, for church, for work or just meeting up with friends, it gets more complicated. But I also learned that we really don’t need food with added sugar, and that sugar free foods like fresh veges and herbs can be packed with flavour. And by the way, the chocolate and biscuits are still up on that top shelf.