The Quick Run Down:
When we say, we are “Sugar Free” it is more accurate to say that we do not eat refined sugars and avoid fructose (apart from fruit)
The ONLY sweeteners we use are dextrose (glucose powder) and rice malt syrup and they are used mainly in baking, which we only have occasionally, I do make some of the healthier baking for the kids to have in their school lunches.
For anyone to say they are completely sugar free is almost impossible, as a lot of vegetables contain sugar and majority of our food is TURNED INTO Glucose by our bodies, Glucose is the energy of life. Every cell in every living organism uses glucose for energy.
We are not fanatics, we still enjoy a glass of wine when we feel like it and our children are not sent off to birthday parties or other people’s houses with a sugar free stash. But we are always looking to reduce any amount of sweetener we use in every recipe.
The Full Story
We have been “sugar free” for well over a year now, to say that it was easy would be a lie!
We are your typical family, Mum, Dad, two kids and a golden retriever dog.
I have always been interested in health and nutrition, (in my teen age years I considered studying to be a nutritionist or dietitian.) So I have always considered myself reasonably healthy, but I did love the sweet stuff.
My lovely Mum makes the most wonderful home baking, the days that we got home from school and Mum had baked, were some of the best!
I also have wonderful memories of helping Mum bake and licking the beaters or eating the uncooked biscuit dough.
When I started to drink tea or coffee, I ALWAYS had 2 teaspoons of sugar in every drink.
I have always tried to make sure my kids ate their fair share of fruits and vegetables, We saved the TREAT food for special occasions. We never had fizzy drink in the house and only brought the “healthy” cereals.
My daughter (aged 9) has always been a wonderful eater and happily eaten up small bowls of mashed up vegetable concoctions that I made her when she first started solids. Fast forward a few years and she is still the wonderful little food connoisseur and pretty much eats and enjoys any meal I create.
My son (aged 5) is a completely different kettle of fish altogether. Any new foods are viewed with suspicion and dislike, (even before he takes a mouthful). From the day he started solids, trying to feed him anything “healthy” resulted in something similar to a CIA undercover operation. If he could see any large pieces of vegetable, he would NOT eat any.
So my skills in disguise and subterfuge were developed and perfected. As a result I could happily put meals in front of him that he would happily eat, albeit with a large serving of tomato sauce as requested from said 5 year old!!
I was ecstatic that he was consuming numerous vegetables in one meal, that he would NEVER normally eat, but I did not like the fact that he was relying on the tomato sauce, as I knew it contained sugar, but reasoned that it was the lesser of two evils.
The children would have wonderful birthday parties with sweets, lollies, cake, juice anything that was FULL of sugar. Now that’s a kids party, all the yummy treat food they could EVER want on one table! Hey they only have birthdays once a year! (and friends parties & Christmas etc etc)
At some point my husband and I got into a bad habit, once the kids were tucked up in bed asleep, we would feel like something sweet. So our nightly ritual began, we would get a box of whatever chocolate we had in the cupboard and just have a few. Well a few, turned into a few more, and suddenly we were eating a box of chocolates most evenings.
We knew it was not that great for us, but hey, we were pretty healthy most of the time.
It really was a craving, we were not hungry, we just craved something sweet!! and because we knew it was in the cupboard, we had it!
People might think “WHATEVER” but we know, we had formed an addictive habit!
The Turning Point
We watched a few documentaries on TV and started to realise just how much sugar was in the supposed “healthy” foods we were choosing.
I brought a few ingredients with the idea to make my own breakfast cereal, I never did!! Instead I made sure I purchased any packaged food that had the words “less Sugar” and stopped letting our son cover his food in tomato sauce.
It wasn’t until our daughter did a study at school on how much sugar was in the everyday foods we all consume, that we got really became seriously committed to being sugar free . The whole class had to take in everyday items and the amount of sugar was calculated. We were shocked by just how much sugar was in things, that to my eyes, DO NOT even need sugar!! crackers, baby food, most sauces and condiments, the list is endless and quite frankly, SCARY.
I’m pretty sure that our extended families think we are a bit nuts!! It is, after all, just sugar, it’s been around for years and a bit of it now and again won’t hurt you! We beg to differ!
There is some pretty strong research into the rise in sugar related diseases costing counties billions of dollars every single year. Obesity,Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, tooth decay I have put some links to articles at the bottom of this post if you are interested.
So as you have read, I think we were pretty typical of most families, eating reasonably well, saving the sweet foods for treats or special occasions, but still feeling tired all the time, getting constant headaches and just generally feeling a bit foggy.
Beginning Our Sugar Free Life
So what did we do? My husband and I talked about becoming fructose free, we both had to be 100% committed for this to be successful, it takes genuine hard work and commitment for this to become a way of life and you definitely need the support of the other members of your house hold for this to really work.
We then proceeded to go through the entire contents of our fridge and pantry and got rid of any products that contained more than 4 grams of sugar per 100 grams (there are exceptions to this, which I have explained here)
Then it was off to the supermarket to find out exactly what we could eat! and let me tell you it was not a lot!!
We could only find one muesli and one other breakfast cereal that complied, this was in a WHOLE aisle of breakfast cereals!!! So in the trolley they went.
So aisle after aisle and label after label we made our way around the supermarket, with very little, apart from fresh vegetables in our trolley to show for our efforts. We were shocked, but had to laugh at how little we actually knew about what was in the foods that we thought were good for us.
That was the longest supermarket shop we had EVER done, and as the weeks went on we knew which products were good and which to avoid, so shopping became faster again. It is said, if you are trying to avoid the more unhealthy foods, to shop in the outside aisles and avoid the inside aisles, we have found this to be pretty spot on.
I’ve also found that I now have to make a lot of my own foods, to not only eat healthy, but still enjoy delicious meals. Being Sugar Free does not mean that you live your life mourning for the foods you used to enjoy. It is all about adapting, especially your taste buds!!
If you have looked at any of my baking recipes you will notice that I use Dextrose (glucose)and some people will still say that is still a sugar, and they would be correct. Glucose is what our entire body needs to function, Most foods we eat are broken down by our amazing bodies and turned into glucose.
So here is where it is a little confusing, Sugar is made up of 1 part fructose and 1 part glucose, we say we are sugar free, but we are avoiding fructose. Fructose confuses the body and it does not know what to do with it, so it generally goes straight to your liver where it begins to cause all sorts of problems.
Some of you might think, hold on Fructose is in fruit! are you saying we should not eat fruit?? Some sugar free fans would say, yes you should avoid fruit, we on the other hand, still feel that fruit, in its whole entire form (ie NOT JUICE & NOT DRIED) has many beneficial minerals, nutrients and fibre.
We still enjoy a wide range of delicious foods and we all feel healthier for our change in lifestyle. We don’t feel that we are missing out on anything and actually can taste the natural sweetness in foods that we could not before, which I personally think is great.
If you are interested in going sugar free or are sugar free already I’d love to hear from you.