I'm committing to eating sugar-free (refined sugar-free, that is) in January. Want to join me?!!
Why am I doing this? I have a huge sweet tooth. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's I just can't resist all the pies, cake, cookies, candy and basically anything containing sugar! As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist I tell people that these foods can be part of a healthy diet - in moderation! But, I don't always practice what I preach! I've seen some other food bloggers post about Sugar-Free January and thought it would be a great way for me to "reboot" my eating back to a more balanced, cancer-preventive pattern.
What is refined sugar? Refined sugar comes from sugar cane (or sugar beets) which are processed to extract sugar. Examples of foods containing refined sugar are sweetened beverages (soft drinks, sugar-sweetened coffee and tea, fruit drink and alcoholic drinks), many snacks and sweets such as cookies, cake, brownies, donuts and pastries. Some processed foods that don't taste sweet also contain refined sugar such as crackers, spaghetti sauce and flavored yogurts.
What is natural sugar? Natural sugars are found in fruit as fructose, and in dairy, such as milk and cheese, as lactose.
What is the difference in refined sugar and natural sugar? We metabolize refined sugar differently than the natural sugar in fruit and milk. We digest and metabolize refined sugar quickly, which leads to an increase in blood glucose level and insulin release. Most foods containing natural sugar also contain fiber (fruit) which is digested slowly leading to a slower rise in glucose levels as well as adding bulk to the diet which helps in feelings of fullness and gastrointestinal function. Dairy products contain protein which is also digested more slowly than refined sugar. Not to mention, both fruit and dairy provide essential vitamins and minerals whereas refined sugar has no real nutritional value other than providing calories. Fruit also contains antioxidants. A diet high in antioxidants may actually help reduce the risk of cancer.
What is involved Sugar-Free January? Is this a diet? No! It is simply avoiding foods with refined sugar for the month of January. But it includes lots of healthy foods such as:
- Lean protein
- Healthy fats
Am I doing this long-term? No way! Again, that sweet tooth craves the occasional cookie, donut, and definitely ice cream! I just want to reboot, recharge and rejuvenate my love for the simple, natural taste of food. How will this change my diet? Aside from the obvious in avoiding sweets, the main affect it will have on me is changing my snack choices. Bye-bye granola bars, graham crackers, vanilla wafers and ice-cream (in January). What will I substitute for those snacks? Fruit (even dried fruit in moderation - although some have some added sugar, there is still nutritional value in dried cherries and cranberries; and dates - several recipes using dates as the sweetener coming up! Dates are naturally super-sweet without any added sugar!), nuts, unsweetened yogurt, and popcorn.
What if I don't want to do Sugar-Free January? No problem! All the recipes will be easy and healthy using whole foods, highlighting their natural sweetness and incorporating some "tricks" to provide a sweet taste without sugar! And of course all the foods will taste great!
For Sugar-Free January I'm going to post lots of recipes, nutrition information, meal and snack ideas! I'm excited and I hope you'll join me!