The End of the Sugar Free Challenge

It’s been five days since I’ve completed the ten-day challenge. It’s been a great experience, and if you have it in you I would definitely recommend giving it a try! The first few days were the hardest. I craved any kind of sugar possible, be it ice cream, brownies, or juice. The first trip to the grocery store was also pretty challenging because looking at all the labels and finding enough food for a week was really time consuming, but it go easier! I still really missed chocolate, and I enjoyed being able to indulge now that I’m done, but the cravings were a lot less intense after the third day. When I went grocery shopping the second time around, I knew what I could and couldn’t eat, so I was in and out a lot faster. The first time is always the most challenging.

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The hardest part about the ten days was all the cooking. There really aren’t a lot of things that can be eaten immediately. Also, when I was starving the cravings were the worst. There were a few things I ate to keep me at least somewhat comfortable while I cooked. I really like cottage cheese on brown rice crackers or fruit with peanut butter. Before when I was hungry and cooked dinner, I’d munch on Little Debbie snacks and cookies and by the time it was done I wasn’t all that hungry anymore. Obviously, stuffing my face with a Pop Tart isn’t going to do much compared to a steaming bowl of whole wheat pasta.

The more I cooked the easier it got. It’s hard to get used to the kitchen. I burned a lot of stuff and when I first started it took me a long time to prepare a meal. I now can make a killer smoothie and even wash the blender in less than ten minutes. I’ve also gotten better at synchronizing my cooking, so the chicken is done when the noodles are done and everything is warm and nothing is burnt ;). Practice makes perfect, get cooking!

I’ve definitely noticed a change in the way I feel over the past week and a half. First off, I have way more energy and find it a lot easier to get homework done. Before I used to come home from class tired, and I told myself I could watch one episode of something on Netflix. I’d sit down on my couch, have a couple oreos and some milk and end up spending the rest of my night unable to motivate myself get up. Now I come home, less tired by the end of the day, I eat a healthy snack, and I’m able to get through my homework with ease. I feel better rested and overall I’m just in a better mood.

Not the best after school snack...

Not the best after school snack…

These past five days I’ve been off the challenge and allowed myself some sugar. This is what us Psychology majors call reversing back to baseline. Thursday I ate a whole bag of Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses with caramel and gave myself the worst stomachache ever. While watching a moving on Friday night, I had a couple mini cupcakes and a few spoonfuls of Nutella. During swim practice on Saturday morning I felt awful, and told my coach I was going to limit my sugar intake. On Sunday I allowed myself one little sugary snack, Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter spread on a waffle, and I felt unmotivated and lazy for the rest of the day. I have since decided to better limit myself to added sugar. I’m still eating jelly, because I have missed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches probably the most, but now that I’ve been off sugar for so long, it’s a whole lot easier to make healthier choices.

Like I said before, I highly recommend doing the ten-day challenge. The first three days are the hardest, but if you can get through them you will feel so much better! Even after five days of indulging, eating healthier is so much easier and I would pick fruit over chocolate (almost) every time. I’d like to think my journey has helped paved the way for you, and may make it a little easier. If you decided to take the challenge (DO IT!) feel free to email me, hableaw@uwec.edu, or message me through Student Health Service’s Facebook page. I’d love to help in any way I can! Stay healthy, Blugolds!

Day 10 – Food Log

We eat so much in a day and eat a large variety of foods. For the last day of the sugar free challenge, I’ll share with you everything I ate for the day to hopefully give you ideas for healthy snacks and meals.

Breakfast: I woke up at 7:20, had an apple with peanut butter before swim practice. After practice, I had to rush to class, so I had a handful of almonds to keep the tummy-grumbles away during lecture.

Lunch: I had a grilled cheese sandwich and cottage cheese with broccoli and cucumbers.

Snack: Before going to lift weights, I had a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and bananas. After lifting I had another apple with peanut butter (I told you I love peanut butter!).

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Dinner: I found this excellent recipe for bacon-wrapped pesto chicken on my new favorite website, Yummly. http://www.yummly.com/recipe/Bacon-Wrapped-Pesto-Chicken-AllRecipes-202883?columns=5&position=3%2F5. The other great thing about this website is you can change the serving size, so it tells you how to make just enough for you!

Dessert: I had a waffle sandwich. I took two, toasted whole wheat waffles and spread them with plain cream cheese and squished strawberries in the middle. I put it on the stove for a few minutes so the inside was warm.

Spending the whole day eating sugar free is not that hard when you plan ahead. I made sure to eat something after swim practice and before class so I’d be able to focus on lecture. Knowing I would be hungry after weight lifting and planning ahead made it easier to avoid being starving and craving sugary snacks. Also, looking forward to a bacon-wrapped dinner made it easier to resist sugary snacks that would ruin my appetite.

Day 8 – Sugar Free Recipes

One of the biggest things in lowering the amount of sugar in your diet is cooking more. Before coming to college, my mom made almost all of my meals and my skills in the kitchen included pouring cereal, following the instructions on a mac and cheese box, and not burning grilled cheese about 60% of the time. The longer I’ve lived outside the dorms, the more I’ve learned to cook- and this past week especially it’s become really enjoyable! However, my repertoire of recipes is not that big, but I’ve learned a lot about how to find them!

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Pinterest is great, but the healthy recipes are surrounded by brownies, cookies, bars, lots and lots of desserts… I’ve been avoiding Pinterest lately. Two great websites I’ve come to really enjoy are Yummly and Foodgawker. When you create an account on Yummly, it asks you a few questions like what kind of food you like, food restrictions, and any food allergies you may have. You can even tell it that you’re looking for recipes for one! It then pulls from hundreds of websites and gives you recipes from all over the Internet. You can search for something in particular, like a smoothie or pasta, or you can browse what’s popular and in season. Once you start saving recipes, it will start recommending ones it thinks you’ll like. Foodgawker is essentially Pinterest, but only with food. No distractions of cute outfits you can’t afford- focus strictly on dinner!

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As far as breakfast recipes, I looked for things that could be made quickly and made in advanced, so you can wake up (maybe microwave a bit) and go. One is for a healthier imitation of an Egg McMuffin http://www.theyummylife.com/Egg_McMuffin another for oatmeal, sugar free muffins http://greenlitebites.com/2009/03/banana-oatmeal-cups-with-chocolate-chips/, just use blueberries instead of chocolate chips to skip the sugar.

For lunch, I’m typically reheating leftovers from dinner the night before. If I’m in class all day, I’ll bring a turkey sandwich, some carrot sticks, and an orange with me. I’ve learned that when I get really hungry I really crave unhealthy, sugary snacks, so I like to be prepared. If you have any great lunch recipes, please share!

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A great recipe for dinner I’ve made twice since I’ve started my sugar-free challenge is honey chicken stir-fry. Now I know honey counts as sugar, but it has been my little cheat the past ten days. It’s healthier than sugar for a variety of reasons. According to Ask Alice, a column written by the health department at Columbia, honey is not naturally processed, has added vitamins and minerals that aid in digestion, and may even have antioxidants that can improve your health. Honey is also denser and sweeter tasting than sugar, so people often use a lot less. When making this recipe, rather than cooking chicken in a fry pan, like the recipe suggests, I bake it in the oven, which keeps it really moist. Shoutout to my roommate Hannah for teaching me this awesome trick! Cover the chicken with soy sauce and put it in the oven for 7 minutes at 425, flip and cook for another 7 minutes and add it to the stir-fried vegetables. I also completely skipped the step with cornstarch, and it’s still delicious! http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/honey-chicken-stir-fry

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The final thing I want to share with you are recipes I’ve used to satisfying my sweet tooth. This smoothie tastes just like a sweet tart http://www.cooks.com/recipe/q24rn94t/strawberry-banana-smoothie.html. I use honey instead of sugar and use ¼ cup Greek yogurt and ½ cup milk. It’ll make a lot, so be sure to have a cup handy to save the leftovers! The other treat I really like is one of my own creation. I take a whole wheat tortilla and spread it with peanut butter and put sliced banana and strawberries on one half. I fold it over and cook it on the stove for about 2 minutes on each side so the inside gets melted and warm. I use a pizza cutter to cut it into three triangles and it’s ready to go!

I hope you found something you’d like to try, or at least find something delicious on Yummly or Foodgawker. If you have healthy recipes you’d like to share, please do! Have fun and happy cooking!

Day 6 – Sneaky Sugar

I’m sure it has been well established by now, but in case it’s not SUGAR IS IN EVERYTHING! The best way to guarantee you’re not over consuming is to cook as many meals as possible. I get it though; I’m a college student athlete, cooking takes time. Even if you’re not playing a sport, students at UWEC are really involved. It’s so much easier to wake up in the morning and eat a Pop Tart or have a quick bowl of Frosted Flakes and call it breakfast, but by doing that you’re not just doing your body a disservice by filling it with sugar (See Day 1), you’re also keeping yourself from reaching your full potential. We’re college students. We’re busy. We stay up until 2am cramming for tests. We have 8-hour days running from class, to work, to activities. We need to eat good food to fuel our bodies!

There are a lot of things you might be eating that are packed with sugar and you don’t even know it. You might be eating things you think are healthy, but really aren’t. I hope you learn something about what isn’t going to help you get through your day and provide you with some healthier alternatives.

Yogurt

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Any yogurt that is fruit flavored is packed with sugar. If you’ve ever had a fruit, Greek yogurt, all the fruit is at the bottom in sugary, syrupy goo. A container of Strawberry Yoplait Light has 10g of sugar in it. You’re not eating fresh strawberries; you’re eating processed strawberries and sugar. An alternative: mix fresh fruit in plain yogurt. If you can’t stomach plain yogurt (that’s me) mix it in a smoothie. I put about a quarter cup of plain Greek yogurt in smoothies so I’m not just getting calcium, but protein too!

Peanut Butter

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Most peanut butters have added sugar. Two tablespoons of Skippy has 3g in it, and it’s the second ingredient listed. That might not seem like much, but if you’re like me and put peanut butter on everything it adds up by the end of the day. An alternative: look for natural peanut butter where the only ingredient is peanuts and maybe salt. It comes with a layer of oil on the top, which you mix when you open it. I really like Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter. It comes in a glass jar. It takes a bit to get used to the unsweetened taste, but now regular peanut butter tastes too sweet to me.

Cereal

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Cereal is notorious for tricking you into thinking it’s a great breakfast option. No matter what brand you buy, it’s not. It’s all sugar and processed grains. Have you noticed how if you have cereal for breakfast you’re starving by the middle of class? Because it’s sugar! Your body digests it really quickly and your hungry within an hour no matter the brand. Lucky Charms has 10g of sugar in it, Special K has 4g. They said in Fed Up, a bowl of Corn Flakes or a bowl of sugar are the same, you’re body is going to digest them the same way. Even the brands like Kashi that boast being a good source of protein, you’re better off eating something not processed. An alternative: have protein with breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day and you want to stay full. I like to start out with scrambled eggs, but if you don’t like eggs peanut butter (see above) on whole wheat toast is a great, fast option.

Orange Juice

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Orange juice, or any juice for that matter, is another sneaky breakfast item. An 8oz glass of Florida’s Natural has 22g of sugar. TWENTY TWO! Now there isn’t any added sugar, but it’s essentially a processed orange. You’re taking the fiber out, and your body is going to metabolize it just like a can of soda. A glass of orange juice is no different than a glass of soda with Vitamin C. An alternative: have a piece of fruit instead. Want something to drink with it? Have a glass of water.

Soda

Cans of Pepsi and Coke are set up for a photograph in New Yo

It may not fool you into thinking it’s healthy, but soda is awful for you. The doctors compare companies like Coke and Pepsi to big tobacco companies back in the day. Stop drinking it as a beverage throughout your day, even if it’s diet. The artificial sweeteners in diet soda are just as bad for you as regular sugar and they make your brain crave sugar even more. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cherry Coke, but I see it as a treat. Soda is liquid candy. An alternative: water. Drink water! Need caffeine? Try tea. I love green tea and black tea with pomegranate. You can get it with pretty much any fruit you want. Just boil some water and pour it over a tea bag. Even easier, put a mug of water in the microwave for two minutes and drop the tea bag in- voila! You can even sweeten it with a little honey, which feels amazing on a sore throat that is all too common this time of year.

Pasta Sauce

Look at that sneaky "Heart Smart" marketing.

Look at that sneaky “Heart Smart” marketing.

A very common meal for me is whole wheat pasta with some Prego on top. Did you know there’s added sugar in pasta sauce? In two cups of sauce there are 40g of sugar- FORTY! If you’re like me, you end up using half a can on one meal. That’s so much sugar! An alternative: homemade sauce is the best option, but like I said before, we’re college students and time is of the essence. I really like Nash Brother’s Trading Company Organic Pasta Sauce. If you look at the ingredient list you should recognize everything in there. It may be a bit pricier, but it’ll last longer and doesn’t spoil as quickly as the processed stuff does.

Granola Bars

"Only 50 Calories"

“Only 50 Calories”

This is a typical go-to, quick snack. A basic, chocolate chip, Chewy granola bar has 7g of sugar. Even a “healthier” fruit granola bar is packed with sugar. A Nutrigrain bar, with a fruit center, has 11g of sugar. Eating these will not do much to curb an appetite, and may result in a crash. An alternative: I’m always a fan of an apple and peanut butter. The natural sugar in the apple is going to give you some energy fast, and the protein in the peanut butter is going to keep you full.