Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Monday Mission: Wean Off the Sweeteners

February 13th, 2012 · 34 Comments · Monday Missions

pure michigan maple syrup (5) (475x356)

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to cut back on the amount of sweetener you add to your life. (Not the my-kid-is-so-cute sweet, but the caloric, satiate-the-sweet-tooth kind of sweet.)

Impact Ratings: healthpositive

Level of Commitment: Making Strides

You know how in college some groups of kids think it’s “cool” to drink as much beer as possible? Most folks take some time to “get used to” the bitter taste of beer, but because it’s “cool,” many train their tongues to first endure it, then tolerate it, then appreciate it and even enjoy it immensely.

Wouldn’t it be great if eating real, wholesome, traditional foods were viewed in the same light?

Don’t love the tang of sourdough bread at first? Keep trying; it’ll grow on you.

Not enjoying homemade chicken stock as much as the stuff laced with MSG to trick your tongue? Add real salt and keep using it; you’ll train your taste buds back to natural.

Addicted to sugary sweetness? Wean yourself down; you’ll get used to it.

At times, I’m utterly appalled at how much brown sugar my husband adds to his oatmeal or white sugar or honey into his homemade yogurt. I swear he tried to add a fourth cup to his steaming oats the other morning, and I practically karate chopped his hand. I didn’t, but I gasped and freaked the baby right out.

I’m thankful he usually has the option of stevia for the daily yogurt, since it’s a mostly natural option that saves him a lot of carbs and calories.

I wouldn’t have thought anything of it 4-5 years ago. I was right there with him.

I didn’t even realize how “weaned” from sugar I had gotten, or that I was really trying to do it, until this juxtaposition at breakfast.

I eat oatmeal regularly with zero sweetener, just virgin coconut oil, cinnamon, dried fruit and milk. If I add sweetener, it’s a minor squirt of maple syrup, and that is all. And I still enjoy breakfast.

I do put honey in my plain homemade yogurt with fruit, but not always. If I use cinnamon applesauce, I don’t need any sweetener at all. If I have a particularly mild batch of yogurt or just the right fruit involved, or I just need to skip the honey so my 3-year-old will not ask for it, I still enjoy my yogurt (sometimes enough to want to lick the bowl, for real).

I’ve worked myself from despising yogurt of all kinds seven years ago to enjoying plain yogurt without any sweetener.

You can do it too. Be one of the cool kids.

Sweetener Series

It’s ironic that I’m challenging you to cut out and cut down on all sweetener the very week I’m going to tackle that old Sweet, Sweet Summer series in honor of Valentine’s Day. The thing is, I don’t think everyone needs to cut out all sweeteners (although we’d be healthier for it). You gotta have some fun in your life, especially at the table.

There are some groups of people with certain immune deficiencies or bodily weaknesses who certainly should cut all sugar (diabetics come to mind). There are many people, myself included, who should go on a sugar detox from time to time to clean out and sort of “reset” the system.

I have given up sweet things for Lent for many years, and the first t year I started blogging, I gave up all white sugar. It was a revelation to me how many products I was still eating at the time that included sugar!

By the following year, I was making so many of my own foods that giving up white sugar was not nearly as hard. I could add honey or maple syrup to just about anything or skip it all together.

This year, as Lent approaches in a week and a half, I’m considering what sacrifices and prayers I’m going to offer to God. I’m discerning: Should I give up all sweeteners (except for some high quality dark chocolate to keep me sane) for 40 days? Would I make it? Would I drive my family nuts?

If you’re considering a total sugar elimination, or you’re ready to wean down bit by bit, here are some resources from my fellow bloggers:image

Cutting the white sugar in particular is very important for natural fertility; if that’s something you’re interested in, the Fertility Flower software will help you track your cycles and even remind you to get well nourished with a checklist of wholesome foods for fertility. (And no white sugar!)

If you’re still consuming a lot of white sugar, you may want to start weaning yourself simply by switching to more natural sweeteners. That’s why I’m finishing up the series; check out what we’ve covered already:

UPDATE: a great post on how sweet things, even natural/no calorie like stevia, impact our systems and why to wean down from Small Bites and Eating Rules.

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Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate with Well Grounded Life. Fertility Flower is a KS sponsor receiving their complementary mention for the month. See my full disclosure statement here.

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34 Comments so far ↓

  • Margaret

    I had not eaten anything with refined sugar in a couple of weeks before having a brownie at a church reception yesterday. The taste was almost sickeningly sweet. I guess our current financial problems are helping to break my love of baked goods!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Steph (The Cheapskate Cook) Reply:

    Isn’t it interesting how strange foods taste after taking a break from them?
    I like your positive outlook even though things might be frustrating right now!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Norm Deplume

    My husband and I have drastically reduced our sugar intake in the last 3 months, and it’s been a really good thing for us. I’m almost completely off white sugar altogether, no HFCS at all, and use honey, stevia and maple syrup sparingly. DH eats a little more sugar, in his morning oatmeal and lots more raisins than I eat, but his job is quite active and he needs the calories.

    The best part? We don’t have that weird sluggish sugar crash every afternoon like we used to. We didn’t realize that at first, until we’d fallen off the sugar wagon, and the tired 3PM showed up again. We’re low-sugar for good now.

    This will be tough in the upcoming rhubarb season, though. I love me some rhubarb pie– stevia just wouldn’t cut it in there, I don’t think.

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  • Mrs. Mac

    We’ve cut way back on sweeteners and rarely use white sugar .. absolutely no hfcs. I’ve gotten hubby away from soda by infusing filtered water with fruit and berries. Just put the water in a glass jar and add some sliced orange and a few frozen raspberries .. in a few hours the water turns a beautiful pink and has the essence of a summer day. Strain and pour.

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    Steph (The Cheapskate Cook) Reply:

    oh that sounds fantastic!

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  • marcella

    Making my own yogurt really helped me grow to love the plain variety. A while ago I was out of town and grabbed a fruit yogurt from the breakfast bar and simply could not eat it. It was so very sweet. It was hard to believe I used to like that.

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  • Mike Lieberman

    Do you use the powdered stevia or the liquid kind? I can’t get used to the powdered. Don’t like the aftertaste. Want to start growing my own and making my own liquid version.

    Have you heard of or used Lakanto?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Mike,
    My husband will use the powdered, but I agree – there’s definitely an aftertaste to it. (I do think Sweetleaf brand had no aftertaste, but I still prefer the liquid extract). I wrote more about it here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2011/09/22/a-sweet-sweet-summer-what-are-the-facts-on-stevia/ and here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2011/09/23/falling-from-a-sweet-sweet-summer-an-interview-with-jim-may-father-of-stevia/ and here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2011/09/29/how-to-use-stevia-liquid-or-powder/

    What’s Lakanto? :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mike Lieberman Reply:

    Thanks for those links. I am gonna start to grow and distill my own.

    Also bought kefir cultures (using your aff link) and working on that because of you.

    Appreciate all the great info!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Christina

    I love this idea! I’ve been working on it for the last six months or so. It is amazing how we get used to such sweet things, and equally amazing how we can stop liking them. Well, I still like them, but I can’t eat much because it is too sweet for me now.
    I had a funny conversation recently in which someone asked me what I replace sugar with. I replied that I’m not trying to replace it, I’m trying to reduce our desires for so much sweetness. I had a quiet chuckle at the look of shock I received for that statement:)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • charis

    i have refined sugar so rarely at this point (though i grew up on it) that usually if i have something with it in it the taste is way too sweet for me. even with the good sugars, i try to keep in mind moderation. i agree that we can retrain our tastebuds and learn to like things we weren’t used to before and stop craving things that we loved before (that we bad for us!). i remember when i stopped drinking soda (i was about 12 or so) and in not too terribly long it was disgusting to me – i can’t even handle carbonation because it has been 20 years since i last drank a soda! great challenge. i definitely still have things i am weaning off of – trying to curb my chocolate cravings by having small amounts of nicer dark chocolates that have less sugar than the milk chocolates. it is working. :)

    my recent post: the highest calling

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Christine Robinett

    Pretty much anybody with an auto-immune disorder, particularly Celiac/NCGS, Crohn’s, Colitis, IBS, Diverticulosis, should avoid refined sugars. Most auto-immune disorders stem from Gut Disbiosis and Leaky Gut Syndrome. There’s a diet system known as Specific Carbohydrate Diet and/or GAPS (gut and pychological syndrome???)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Christine Robinett

    I know I feel a lot better and have reversed a number of issues by getting refined sugars and carbs out of my diet, including all grass grains and legumes. Quinoa, Buckwheat and Amaranth (chenopod seeds, not grains) are OK for me but not everyone. I mostly bake with coconut and almond flours.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Peggy

    Katie, Lankanto is a blend of erythritol and Luo Han Guo. Erythritol is a sugar alcohol and Luo Han Guo is a fruit of a native plant that grows in China and Thailand. It’s a difficult plant to grow, and the fruit can have many flavors depending on its age. Proctor and Gamble has devised a processing method that controls the undesirable flavors, but it includes chemical solvents.

    I prefer my homegrown stevia, which I can harvest as I want during the growing season to use fresh or harvest and the end of the season and use dried leaves during the winter.

    I don’t like sweet things, so I rarely use any sweeteners at all. I wish it were the same for my family!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Linda

    I like this idea! I’ve got to do it.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Linda

    Oops, I meant to reply to Mrs Mac. I like her flavored water idea.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Anastasia @ eco-babyz

    My husband and I used to be big on sweets, especially him. He lived off of chocolate bars through adolescence and early adulthood! We slowly weaned ourselves over a couple of years. Now we can’t eat sweets, especially store bought, they are disgustingly sweet! Makes me want to gag. I bake a lot at home, we love baked goods, but most people who try them say how little sugar there is. We don’t put much in there, just a tad sweet.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sharon

    A little maple syrup on the morning oatmeal– yum!

    I have been leaning toward giving up white (and brown) sugar for Lent– with the exception of birthday cake. Or does anyone have a devil’s food cake recipe using honey? :)

    (My decided Lenten fast is to add a second vegetarian day to the week; I’ve been doing Fridays and will add Wednesdays.)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Linda

    I started cutting back on sugar last year for my hubby’s health. I either leave it out of a recipe (don’t need it in pancakes) or cut back on the amount called for. It’s usually fine. I got rid of refined sugar a long time ago.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Deborah Jennings

    I have cut down on my sugar intake some. I am slowly cutting it out. I do have the Stevia powder, in the name of Sweet One. No after taste to me. In fact, our doctor recommended it for my diabetic husband to use. It is pretty sweet as it is. I think sweeter than sugar at any rate. And love honey in anything! I do have a stock pile of sugar (13 lbs or more), but it will last us a really long time. I also am trying to cut down on my caffeine intake.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah H

    This one is really, really hard for me, especially while trying to change a diet with kids, hubby and relatives all very used to lots of refined sugar. I’m trying to get over my addiction (I crave sugar late at night when I’m beat from putting the kids to bed) and so far my solution to the munchies is to eat a few dried dates rather than a cookie or chocolate bar. I know that finding non-food ways to beat the stress would be best but dates are a superfood (right?) so I’ll call that good enough, for now. And I guess I’ve made strides because I never add sweetener to my plain yogurt , just fruit (I agree with the other commenters, who can eat the sugared stuff, blech), and usually add fruit to my oatmeal (dates or fresh blueberries are the best).

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sarah

    Wow! It’s like you read my mind! I was just telling my husband today that I was contemplating giving up white sugar for lent. Thanks for all the great resources! I think I will give it a try!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Christine Robinett

    I did some digging at 1 AM when I got a rather surprisingly bad gut ache after not eating much at all. The unsweetened apple sauce I thought was safe turns out to contain hidden corn in the form of Erythorbic Acid. It’s a stereoisomer of ascorbic acid made from corn/syrup.

    Erythritol is also synthesized from corn, which is terribly misleading when they claim it’s from Luo Han Quo. Unless the product is straight Luo Han Quo (like I used to get from iHerb) I’m sticking to palm sugar, maple syrup, honey, organic vegan cane sugar (if it’s not vegan it has animal bones in it, something about filtering out impurities).
    Obviously I won’t be eating that apple sauce ever again.

    [Reply to this comment]

    lizi Reply:

    wow….just goes to show how you can’t trust so many even lightly processed food.

    i was reading on the WAPF website the other day (just joined, finally!) that citric acid is often a source of MSG. citric acid is often found in things like apple sauce, or juice, even organic. maybe i was just living under a rock, but i was shocked to find out such an innocuous sounding additive “citric acid” could have MSG. you probably know this, but citric acid usually comes from CORN- not citrus as i so erroneously assumed! and in the process of freeing up the citric acid they also free up glatmic acid (MSG). BLEH!!
    my family, like many here, eats VERY little in the way of processed food. but last night in discussing Lent, my husband an decided that giving up all processed food- tortilla chips, breyer’s ice cream, organic ketchup, even mustard was what it would take. makes me realize how precious food is and how you just HAVE to know where it comes from or else you really don’t know for sure what’s in it. and it usually is what is cheaper, not what is more nourishing.
    Praise the Lord that He DOES provide an abundance of healthy, nourishing food for ALL of us!! we just need to embrace it, 100% :) often easier said than done, especially when faith is lacking. i pray for renewed faith this lent, and i am turning within, in prayer and meditation, to rediscover my communion with the Source that unites ALL. eating healthier will be a

    [Reply to this comment]

    lizi Reply:

    will be an additional blessing :)

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  • Christine Robinett

    I meant to add stevia. I use a variety of sweeteners BUT I don’t use much. I often cut recipes’ required sweetener in half and/or swap in some stevia (I’m using Now Foods powdered as I got a huge container a couple years ago and it works/tastes great) when it won’t compromise the taste or texture.

    I try to reserve honey, agave and organic molasses for more medicinal uses unless there’s a clear need for those flavors in the recipe.

    Rebuilding my CAM practice after a knee injury/surgery/medical crisis being permanently disabled but having no option but to work and having to cook everything is exhausting

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Alison

    This is timely for me. A few weeks ago I said enough is enough and cut the sugar. I am still allowing myself to eat a piece of bread here and there (homemade, insignificant amount of honey), but nothing that is designed to be sweet (no matter what the sweetener is). The first few days I roamed and roamed around the kitchen looking for snacks. Then I got wise and started having lots of nuts, fresh cut veggies and fruit front and center.

    It was hard when I made 3 batches of cookies last week for a church function and didn’t even get a little taste. I tried a new recipe and had to rely on my husband’s description (lacking) to know whether to keep the recipe… But I’m doing okay.

    I had stomach issues days 5-10, I’m not sure if it was related or not, but those have cleared up. My skin looks good. Energy? Eh, not so much, but maybe it will come.

    I’m off until after Easter, then I plan to allow myself one sweet treat per week. We’ll see. I’m a sugar junkie!

    [Reply to this comment]

    lizi Reply:

    you have a very strong will indeed. i am inspired! keep up the good work.
    you are probably on a good probiotic. i just started my family on one (we too are cutting out the sugar, in light of our holiday then birthdayS overindulging) okay two, and i highly recommend:
    sedona labs iflora and jarrow saccharinyces boulardi + MOS i got them on amazon for an amazing price and they are making a difference for sure.
    also we munch on yaetama chlorella tablets (100% chlorella) like nuts. i actually really like them, and i firmly believe these super greens or any greens really helps nourish your body and help kick the sugar habit. i got them on amazon in the 2 pack bottle of 600 tabs for $23- this is the best deal by far that i have found. this is a “supplement” – but i consider it a super food esp since we chew em up like nuts- that i will never be without. my one year old and 4 year old even LOVE them. i can tell a difference in my energy if i skip them. they also keep you regular , sorry if thats TMI.
    may the Lord bless you and your family with increased health on your journey to vitality!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Katie

    I don’t ever eat refined sugar, and it actually was pretty easy since I’ve been changing my diet because of gluten intolerance. My body tells me (with a headache) when I’ve eaten something I shouldn’t, and sometimes I even react to store-bought gluten free bread, so I just make everything (except the crackers I get from costco) at home. So I only use coconut sugar, maple syrup, or honey. I think I need to start cutting back on the amount of maple syrup I put in my oatmeal, although not as much as your husband, Katie, it’s definitely too much….

    [Reply to this comment]

  • lizi

    thats really interesting- thanks for sharing.

    i am trying to go more “paleo”, which means we eat much less grains (one serving or less per day)/beans and also sprouted/soared/soaked except for the occasional homemade birthday cake (or valentines brownies!)…
    i might try going grain free for lent, maybe with the exception of the chenopod seeds you mentioned. thanks for the inspiration!

    [Reply to this comment]

    lizi Reply:

    Ii was replying to christine robinette, mut have clicked the wrong reply button)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • lizi

    Katie- please keep these great topics coming,. and I am personally looking forward to your thought as Lent is approaching.
    My family and I are going to take up some changes this lent to bring us closer to God and our purpose on Earth, and I love to follow others in the same.

    PS my husband is just like yours- seems like no matter how much I say “I already added sorhum/ maple syruo to your oatmeal/pancakes”, he always adds MUCH more. SIGH!! hopefully this Lent we can reexamine that…. ;)

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Christine Robinett

    I’m gluten intolerant and allergic to grass grains. I must be grain and legume free to avaoid cross reactivity. Over the years I’ve also figured out eating meat, even free-range and organic, doesn’t digest well, causes GI upset and neuro-cognitive sluggishness. If I eat poultry, it has to be organic to avoid GMO andantibiotic reisdues. After I read a few weeks ago the USDA has authorized the poultry industry to do their own safety inspections without government oversight, I’m eating up what I’m got in the freezer and working back to vegetarianism. I have to bake, cook everything and schlep it withme wherever I go. It gets really old. I got the applesauce hoping I could have at least one convenience food. It’s going to the local food pantry along with every other item containing Erythobic Acid. This stuff is approved for fresh produce and salad bar use so be aware if you’re reactive to corn or avoiding GMO’s.

    [Reply to this comment]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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