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source: mandiehman on Instagram

Real Life & Long-Term Changes {Break the Sugar Habit Challenge}

break the sugar habit challenge
source: mandiehman on Instagram

We’re down to the last week of the Break the Sugar Habit Challenge, and I’m starting to think about what life will look like moving forward: Was this challenge just a “fun” distraction for a month that seemed like a cool and trendy thing to do, or will it have a lasting impact on our food choices and the food culture in our home?

My hope is that it’s the latter, and I was encouraged to read Amy’s thoughts this morning on life after the challenge as well.

Here’s how I see the effects of this experiment playing out in the months and years to come:

More Intentionality

As I said at the beginning of the challenge, my goal was never to completely eliminate all refined sugar, once and for all, from our diet:

To be clear, my goal is not to eliminate refined sugar completely and forever. I want to be able to enjoy Wegman’s Ultimate White Cake or the amazing desserts in my friend Shaina’s new cookbook, Dessert in Jars. But I want our sugar consumption to be intentional and not just because we can’t resist a craving or because it’s found in everything from our bread and crackers to spaghetti sauce and salad dressing.

The past three weeks have convinced me that that would be almost impossible for our family to live this way permanently. Not only do I refuse to allow our food choices to get in the way of our relationships with other people, but avoiding sugar entirely basically means never eating out, never eating food prepared by other people, and never enjoying any convenience food. And while our bodies may be a little bit healthier for it, I’m not sure the loss of quality of life is worth that extreme!

That said, this challenge has done a couple things for us: It’s convinced me that I do have the willpower to resist sugary treats, even when I’m tired, stressed or PMSing. It’s given us a new understanding of how much sugar we’re actually consuming on a regular basis, from sugary foods and hidden sources. And it’s helped us discover delicious alternatives for many of those things rather than just feeling like we have to deprive ourselves if we want to reduce the amount of sugar in our diet.

break the sugar habit challenge

Permanent Changes

Some of the changes we’ve made will likely be permanent. I don’t foresee buying regular breakfast cereal very often moving forward. Not only is it expensive, but there’s not really any excuse for the amount of refined sugar found in most of them. And frankly, with this easy granola recipe from Amy at The Finer Things of Life in my repertoire, I don’t even think anybody’s going to miss their breakfast cereal all that much!

Our snacking has changed this month with the addition of healthy, delicious snacks that we all enjoy and can feel good about eating. Not just fresh fruit and veggies, which are always a winner, but yummy treats like the laraballs from Healthy Snacks to Go and these cheese crackers from Heavenly Homemakers as well. I don’t plan to buy packaged snacks for our home on a regular basis moving forward, although some of the healthier options — like Clif Kids Zbars and Annie’s Homegrown Crackers — will still be on our standby list for vacations and weeks when we’re on the go!

We’ve also identified brands and products with less (or no!) sugar, and we’ll be sticking to those — Polaner’s Fruit Spread, Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter, etc. — when we buy those products.

More Homemade Pantry Staples

We’ve also gotten into the habit of making many of our pantry staples at home from scratch, which gives us more control over the amount of sugar those call for. And in many cases, we’ve learned to enjoy things like biscuits, spaghetti sauce and salsa without any sugar, even though the store-bought varieties often contain it.

I’ll even continue to make chocolate syrup at home. Although we won’t be able to eliminate the sugar from that one, I can choose natural, unrefined sweeteners and higher quality ingredients so that even our treats are healthier.

Using Natural Sweeteners

Which brings me to my last point. This week I’ll be investigating natural sweeteners, trying to find the best balance between cost and nutrition, to understand how to eliminate refined sugar from most of our recipes.

I’m still at the beginning of that process, so I can’t say for sure what that will look like just yet, but be sure to check back on Wednesday, when I’ll be sharing my research and conclusions!

How will your family move forward following the Break the Sugar Habit Challenge? What was your biggest takeaway from this month?