Sugar: What I Learned and What I Believe Part 1

When I was first told to avoid added sugar, especially the heavily processed sweeteners, there were 2 main thoughts that ran through my head, “NO CUPCAKES!” and “How am I really suppose to follow that? I do not have control over ingredients in food.” It was challenging to process the rest of what my doctor was telling me after that, luckily she gave me quite a bit of reading material and I was able to email her with questions. Of course, I became stunned even further when I learned all the different names for sugar that you can find on ingredients lists… O_O

So much needed to change for me to obtain a higher quality life and I was determined to make it happen. I had definitely developed a heavy sweet tooth since the first year of graduate school, but to be honest I always had a sweet tooth. I loved cake and I still love cake. I had become a frequent customer of gourmet cupcake shops and everyone close to me knew I was obsessed with cupcakes. I receive cards and gifts with a cupcake themes to them for every occasion. Why cupcakes? I find that they are the perfect serving size with the potential for the most delightful balance between cake and frosting. 🙂


I digress, I had already been trying to cut back on sweets at the time I visited the doctor since more family members were being diagnosed with diabetes recently. However, I had developed this strange routine of not eating ice cream, candy or baked goods for 7 days and then ALL THE TREATS in one day. Not the best method. I was itching for something sweet after every meal still and avoided social gatherings because of the desserts. I felt like I had an addiction, but I had always believe that it was more something in your life or lack of education that caused you to eat poorly. Not that those do not play a role.

In the process of reading each ingredient label and finally coming to terms with letting go of foods I had come to depend on, I noticed there are people with strong opinions about sugar. Not just the processed sugars added to food, but even a piece of fruit. Out of curiosity, I followed these point of views and began to question why is sugar in everything?

Then, I watched That Sugar Film and I began to question even more. Why are governments so entangled with our food suppliers? Why are there so many words for sugar with the same source or even when it is the exact same product? Why do foods with honey in the title have cane sugar higher on their ingredient lists? Why do they modify maple syrup with other sweeteners? Why do so many savory, salty products have added sugars in their ingredients? Why would folks want sweetened nut milk if they had been drinking unsweetened dairy milk? I feared that food corporations had the worst for us in mind just to make money. Do they know what their products are doing to people? Do they really add sugar to keep people coming back for more? Not to mention, it has been proven that artificial sweeteners, thought to help you lose weight, actually increase your appetite. It was a lot to take in.

I needed to focus on what my body needed though because a change starts with you. You have the power to change the demand for foods you require to be happy and healthy. I  was amazed when I first requested certain produce, types of meat and other whole foods at my local grocery. They actually listened and brought in some things I requested! 🙂 It restored some faith in the system for me. By the way, I see nothing wrong with the sugars that naturally exist in produce and other whole foods.

In the end, I believe the large food producers and most of our government officials do not have our interests in mind. They are in this to make money. Taste is important to them, but nutrition clearly is not. I feel like we need to take actions into our own hands whether by making our own food again, informal nutrition education, demand higher quality products at our grocery stores or more accessible nutrition labels on all food. Additionally, it may seem like certain foods are the devil if you have digestive issues, but keep in mind that it is not an issue for everyone and it could more be the misuse of the product by our food suppliers that makes it villainous.

Thanksgiving: The Start of the Holiday Meals

Last year, I panicked when I thought about the Thanksgiving (TG) meal and how much pain I would be in after not being able to say no to things that cause me issues. I thought about all the sugar my family puts in food. The salad alone has a full cup of sugar in the recipe for the dressing, which is not left on the side. If I ate only the foods without sugar added, that would leave the mashed potatoes, gravy and turkey. My mouth is sad at the idea of not enjoying everything I love, while my colon shivers at the thought of all the processed food consumption.

I ended up not being able to join my family for TG last year and made everything from scratch using ingredients friendly to my gut. My partner agreed, it was delicious. Plus, it did not put me out of commission 🙂 When we were planning our TG for two, we did not make every dish that is normally at TG and we did not miss those items because we realized we do not actually like them. Saved time, money and calories!


Its crazy to me to think I grabbed a lot of food over the years that did not bring me joy. Why eat something that is not worth the space in your tummy!? Instead of the stuffing and limp, sugar-loaded salad I could have had MORE TURKEY! Turkey is my favorite part of the TG meal. 🙂 I no longer feel stressed about holiday food anymore, since coming to this realization. Why did I let food stress me out? Food is meant to be enjoyed and nourish you.

Many folks stress about the impact enjoying holiday food will have on your body. According to WebMD, Americans typically gain a few pounds from holiday eating and retain at least a pound of that after returning to their normal diet. Before I began a workout routine, I would gain about 10 lbs between TG and the time I returned to college after winter break… It was mostly from eating too much and treating everyday over the break as if it were a holiday. I have since changed that habit.

Last year, I enjoyed all the foods I love on TG day and then continued to enjoy the leftovers broken up into multiple meals. I would heat up a serving of the Quinoa, Leek and Cherry Stuffing and top it with a poached egg for breakfast. Then have a turkey, cranberry sauce and brie sandwich for lunch or dinner with some spinach added. I tried to enjoy something that was not leftovers for at least one meal so that I was getting in something light for at least one of my meals. 🙂


So I say, Cheers and enjoy your holiday! That is what it is meant for, but remember to return to your normal habits after your festivities. Hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Planning Out My Meals

Meal planning is key to staying within a budget and preventing food waste. In a Google doc, I keep a list of my fresh, refrigerated and pantry items with their expiration dates so that I know what I have and can plan to use items up before they go bad. This works quite well for me, especially since I am regularly traveling. Once a week I take about 30 min of my time to set up an agenda for the week.

First, I think about what I am in the mood for. This allows me to deal with any strong cravings I may have and for the enjoyment of my meals. Typically, in the winter I tend to crave warm foods, while in the Summer I want a lot of raw and fresh produce. I am currently transitioning to cooking things such as hearty soups, toasted sandwiches and roasted veggie bowls.

Second, I think about how I could use what I have in a recipe that meets what I am in the yearning for. I always try to use what I already own to save money and help use up food before it expires. If a recipe asks for rice, but I have quinoa and farro, I will just sub what I have for the rice.

Third, I make a list of what I do not already have to make my meals for the week. I shop once a week so that my ingredients are as fresh as possible and I try to make sure I do not shop hungry or in a rush to ensure I walk out with ONLY the items on my list.


Let me give you a for instance. A few weeks ago, I made a soup out of the onion, carrots, celery, potatoes, and squash I already had leftover from the previous week. I bought some fresh kale and lentils to add some extra nutrition. I really wanted a warm, filling soup for supper and I was still craving that. So the following week I planned to make 2 soups. A loaded baked potato soup to finish off the potatoes and a cheddar I had and black bean pumpkin soup to finish off the pumpkin I had in the fridge before it began to mold. I already had canned black beans from Costco. The only ingredients I needed to purchase to make these 2 soups were diced tomatoes and an onion. I have a budget of $40 per week for groceries and the one week I only spent a few dollars!

What about Breakfast? Well I have oat bran already plus ingredients I can mix into it, such as milk, nuts, frozen berries, raisins, apples and for a savory oatmeal I have eggs, natto and tamari. 🙂 I have really fallen in love with savory oatmeal 🙂

I get asked this a lot by my coworkers, “Don’t you get bored with your food?” I do not get bored of my meals as long as they taste amazing, which I have complete control of by making my own food. 🙂 You could also try to prepare two different entires per meal per week if you are concerned with getting bored. That way you may alternate between the two each day.


Do you meal plan? What are your strategies and priorities?

Gratitude Practice

With Thanksgiving approaching I like to focus on what I am grateful for in life. It is a good time start a gratitude practice, meaning something you do regularly to reflect on where you are bless in life. Last year, I started a journal where at the end of each day I jotted down at least 3 things I appreciated about my life and that current day. It helped me go to bed on a positive note and I found myself disconnecting before bed to make the time to write detailed entries. Occasionally, I rushed or felt drained, but the practice of doing this usually helped turn that feeling around.


This year I feel like I need this more than ever due to stressful events. So I am going to write a letter to someone I love and appreciate every week or maybe everyday… the frequency I am trying to figure out, but I feel like every week gives me the time to write something truly thoughtful. I will likely type out my letters to refine what I want to say, but then hand write the letter to send. I have plenty of stationary from college when I wrote a lot of letters. Plus, it is exciting to get real mail!

Through all the negative things I know I am so fortunate to have those who support and love me. Even when I am physically alone, they connect with me regularly and when I am lucky to see them in person they fill my cup with joy. Some of these people I am so blessed that they helped guide me from the dark places I found myself in during my adolescence that I hardly know how to thank them as much as I feel they deserve to be, which is why I try to be the best person I can be to show them I do not take what they did for me for granted.

Do you have or plan to do a gratitude practice? What do you do? Comment below!