16 September 2014

On a Mission to Reduce Sugar (and wall bouncing)

MISSION LOG STAR DATE 0914: Our mission to reduce sugar in the inmates' diet has been under way for twelve days. This is a delicate operation requiring tact, determination and NASA-quality earplugs (in the inevitable event of whining and complaining). Phase One of our enterprise is almost complete ("Mission Reduce-the-Crap"). Phase Two ("Mission Replace-the-Crap-with-Goodness" is being met with some resistance, but we will persevere in our quest for reduced sugar, hopefully leading to reduced chaos. 
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Hello earthlings and fellow sugar-reducers.
I was kind of blown away by the response to my Nigel Latta/Sugar Free story the other week - it would seem that a lot of you saw that show and had the same reaction that I did: A feeling of horror (at the amount of sugar in EVERYTHING) and a new determination to change things up and reduce the sugar.

I had so many messages from friends and readers who are passionate about healthy eating, as well as from those of you who are more like me (just horrified and anxious) and loads of people shared links to awesome sugar-free recipes; it was inspiring.

I did have to be careful not to be overwhelmed by all the information, and all the recommendations. My super-healthy friends (and those who had read the "I Ditched Sugar" website) recommended ditching ALL sugar, not replacing refined sugar with "better sugar" (e.g. honey). According to the website ALL sugar is bad. Get rid of it all.

But I know what I'm like.
I might lose the will to live if I eliminated ALL TREATS OVERNIGHT!
It has to be baby steps. Bit by bit. Layer upon layer. Phase by phase.

[In case you missed it the first time, here's my sugar-content graphic. Eek, right?]

Phase One is Reduce the Crap.
Instantly I stopped buying all the packeted stuff that gave me the heebie jeebies once I knew their sugar content. Goodbye Nutrigrain, Up'n'Go, and Uncle Toby's flavoured instant oats.
We're back to plain oats, Weetbix, rice bubbles and cornflakes for breakfast.
Knowing what my kids are like, I told them, "This is the last of the Nutrigrain/Up'n'go/flavoured oats; make the most of it cos when it's gone it's gone and I won't be buying any more."

See how I did that? My sugar-crazed brood would riot if I just ripped these things away. I gave them warning. Time to absorb the new regime. Time to savour that last bowl of sugar cereal, knowing it was goodbye.

Baby steps.
I know some of you braver souls would have tipped that evil Nutrigrain down the insinkerator as the sobbing natives looked on. You would have been able to stand your ground when the rioting started and pushed through to victory... but me (coward that I am) I choose a slower path with less resistance. We all get there in the end.

See I know my kids. They're a quirky bunch, emotional, volatile, stubborn. Sometimes parenting them requires all the delicate skill of a bomb defuser, and all the protective protocols of working on a nuclear reactor.
As I've mentioned briefly (so briefly you might have missed it) we have various spectrum issues complicating life round here, which leads me to believe that reducing the sugar can only help the level of emotional volatility. Energy and emotions often run high and reactions to small upsets can be truly nuclear.

I am so very curious to see whether having less sugar in the kids' diet will, in fact, lead to a calmer, less emotionally-volatile home. And oh boy, am I so very hopeful that it will.

So far, since we are doing things so slowly and the sugar is gradually reducing as the packaged crap runs out (never to be replaced) it's hard to know whether it's making a difference or not. Time will tell.

[Super healthy Oat & banana cookies with dark choc chips were rejected by my offspring]

Meantime, I am hard at work on...

Phase Two: Replace the Crap with Good Stuff.
This is where I have hit a few roadblocks, as I've tested recipes which held so much promise but were roundly rejected by most of the inhabitants.

I made the oat and banana cookies with high hopes (I'd added peanut butter and dark choc chips for flavour). They all made puking sounds and refused to touch them, apart from Dash, who put one in his lunch box (out of sympathy for my efforts, I think?). I might try tweaking that recipe, add some date honey for sweetness, try again. They are just too healthy (and EASY) to give up so easily.

I made my famous sugar free blueberry-honey muffins one morning before school. Yes you heard me. I got up early and BAKED. It was some kind of miracle, but it proved to be all for nowt. Two out of three muffins came back home, with complaints that "they were cold by the time it was morning tea". Well, DUH!
Dash though, he said, "Bake them for me mum! I love them!"
Bless. (He's been so receptive to this whole sugar-free thing which is amazing, given that he's always been such a fussy eater).

I made a loaf of Leonie's bread. Not in the breadmaker, by hand. It was easy to make, and it smelled amazing. I broke off a bit of the crust and it tasted divine. I had high hopes and thought "I could do this every day!"
But I took it out of the oven too soon. It was still doughy and gluggy in the middle. The kids tried it and made faces. "Your bread tastes funny mum," they said. I haven't tried making it again.

And then there were the cocoa & peanut butter cookies which looked so good, smelt so good baking... and then burnt on the bottom. The recipe DID say "keep a close eye on them cos they burn easily." Yep, they do. So When they'd cooled I scraped the burnt bottoms off and handed them round... "Yuck mum, they taste like peanut butter!" "They're not sweet enough, they need some sugar!" ("That's the whole point! I'm trying to reduce sugar!") "Well I like them, mum..."


["Date honey": a packet of dates + a cinnamon stick in a pot, cover with water and simmer
until liquid reduces then blend & keep in the fridge]

I will persevere, keep trying recipes, keep looking for healthier low sugar treats I can serve my family.
In the meantime we have made great strides on the lunchbox front in spite of my mixed results with the baking. I keep a box each of carrot sticks and celery sticks in water in the fridge, it can be easily accessed and grabbed as a snack. The level of fruit-eating has increased. They've started putting better ingredients in their sandwiches (ham, grated cheese, spinach).

As the crap options run out they're being forced to add healthier snack options, like crackers, popcorn, nuts. Smoothies are now made with plain yogurt and frozen fruit; plain cartons of unflavoured milk are replacing the sugary Up'n'Go and - get this - they have actually dished themselves up SPINACH SALAD at dinner time. And eaten (some of) it. Uh-May-ZING.

This morning as I checked their lunch boxes I felt a little glow of satisfaction. They are a world away from what was in them two weeks ago. We will get there. We are making lasting changes, bit by bit.
And if this Lazy Mother can do it so can you, my friend. So can you.

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