Smart Sugar Swaps? Not for me

I’m approaching the end of one month without any sugary snacks, cakes, candy — in short I’m eating nothing that I enjoy. This was a challenge from my wife as she realized we’d been going a bit overboard with such treats during our Covid quarantine.

I’m now four days from the end of the challenge. I’ve lost six pounds and am constantly hungry. So I was intrigued by this headline, 5 Smart Swaps to Make the Next Time You’re Craving Sugar.

Counting the hours until I can have one of these again.

Sadly, the swaps left me disappointed, and still craving sugar. Here they are (or you can click on this link to read the full story).

  • Sugar sweetened beverages: Instead of soda or sports drinks, make unsweetened fruit teas (hot or iced), sip sparkling water, or add fresh fruit or herbs to still or bubbly H20 for flavor.
  • Desserts and sweet snacks: Make fruit dessert, whether that’s combining dates with cocoa powder to make a truffle; dipping fresh berries in dark chocolate; making DIY ice cream with frozen bananas; grilling up fresh peaches or plums in summer; or enjoying cooked apples with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  • Sweetened coffee and tea: Add flavor by stirring in vanilla, cinnamon, coconut collagen, or cocoa powder.
  • Candy and sugary toppings (like syrup or jam): Use mashed fruit for syrup, DIY your own chia jam, or rely on unsweetened dried fruit like mango to satisfy your need for sweet.
  • Cereals and breakfast bars: Whip up a batch of overnight oats, make your own no-sugar granola, or prep grab-and-go options like protein pancakes so you always have something on hand.

That’s the best they have? I think I’ll wait for my sugar binge day February 1.

Two weeks into my no-sugar challenge — and five pounds lighter

As the year started, my wife challenged me to go for the entire month of January without any added sugar treats. I made it official by blogging about it here. Like a lot of people, we had been eating treats during the pandemic that we normally would not have in the house, such as candy galore from Chicago candy icon Fannie May, or cakes from a local bakery, Tag’s.

The bakery started delivering during the pandemic, even small orders. How could we pass that up? Not well, and you can probably tell that, after 18 days without sugar, I’m now hallucinating about chocolate cake.

The good news, I’ve lost five pounds in the past two weeks or so. The bad news — I’m hungry all the time as I was when I first completely changed my eating habits after a first stent was put in back in 2012.

What would a celebrity trainer say about Drake's Yodels?
Favorites like these haven’t touched my lips yet this year!!!

I also find I’m substituting starchy things — like bagels, English muffins and even whole wheat bread. I had pretty much cut those from my diet in recent years but had some in the freezer this month and so have turned to them.

I did buy some price-reduced after-Christmas candy, M&Ms and chocolate to be specific, which are sitting in our pantry waiting for Feb. 1.

This experiment has reminded me that if you eat healthy, I mean really healthy which means cutting most salt, fat and sugar from your diet, weight loss becomes simple.

You cannot eat enough plain veggies to gain large amounts of weight. Believe me, you should see my broccoli portions these days!

Here’s a January Challenge: No Sugar All Month

My wife presented me with a food challenge as 2020 was drawing to a close — could I go a month without eating foods high in sugar like candy, cake, frozen yogurt — basically all my favorites, and all foods I’d been eating more of last year to cope with the pandemic?

Yes, this blog has no sugar in its name, but I’ve written before that sugar is the toughest of the big three of poor nutrition — salt, fat and sugar — for me to give up. We normally load each other’s Christmas stocking with chocolates of all types.

This year, I asked we go easy, but there was still a lot, along with cookies and cakes. After having lost seven pounds because of illnesses last year, I gained back five pounds in the final month of the year because of sugary treats.

No candy bars for me in January. I’m already freaking out over it.

So I’m up for the challenge. I also have been spurred on by a recent decision by the federal government to ignore scientific guidelines for sugar consumption. Nutrition should not be a political issue but sadly it became one in the Trump years as he tried to undo everything the Obamas did, including their efforts to improve American eating habits.

“A report issued by a scientific advisory committee last summer had recommended that the guidelines encourage Americans to make drastic cuts in their consumption of sugars added to drinks and foods to 6 percent of daily calories, from the currently recommended 10 percent,” the New York Times reported in discussing newly released  Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The new guidelines do no such thing, however.

Continue reading “Here’s a January Challenge: No Sugar All Month”

Pandemic snacking: Try sugar-free chocolate pudding

A lot has been written about people gaining weight while they sit home in quarantine because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The so-called “Quarantine 15” likely resulted from people loading up on high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar snacks. It’s been difficult for me not to do the same, and I have had my mini-binges as stress levels rose to hideous heights.

All you need to make pudding at home.

But I have found one snack that has no sugar and minimal fat — sugar-free chocolate pudding. You can buy it in pre-made cups, but those became harder and harder to find in my area as the pandemic persisted, so I bought the box variety instead and made it myself.

Chocolate pudding comes in two varieties, instant which requires no cooking, and the old-fashioned regular kind which requires you to do some very simple cooking. You can use either low-fat or no-fat skim milk, thus controlling the bad-fat levels you eat in the pudding you make.

The instant kind just requires you combines the powdered pudding mix with milk and mix it for a few minutes. I use an electric mixer but you can do it by hand with a whisk or fork too. The traditional kind requires heating the milk in a small pot on your stovetop and adding the mix, combining them in the pot.

This is my production from two boxes of pudding mix.

One regular-sized box requires two cups of milk, a pint, so two boxes work with a quart. I found a larger size box as well that requires three cups of milk.

Once mixed, you pour it into whatever small serving bowls or glasses you want and then put it in the refrigerator to cool and thicken.

If you need some chocolate every day, this I a great way to get it. Enjoy!

13 food and beverage items not to keep in your frig

We’ve worked hard over the years to find condiments that aren’t overloaded with salt, sugar and fat. So we’ve found low-salt ketchup, low-salt salsa and even a low-salt teriyaki marinade. So I thought I’d be in good shape when I saw this post about the 13 Worst Foods in Your Fridge

I've found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.
I’ve found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.

Sure enough, regular ketchup is there, as are pickles (I’ve found low-salt pickles to substitute). I knew regular soda was loaded with sugar but tonic water surprised me, it made the list because of calories. Continue reading “13 food and beverage items not to keep in your frig”

20 healthy Easter sides? Check the salt and fat content first

Holidays are always difficult when you’re trying to minimize your salt, sugar and bad fat intake. Easter — traditionally a ham or lamb day — is no exception. We’ve posted about trying seafood instead, something we plan. But what about the side dishes? The Food Network recently ran this piece on 20 Healthy Easter Side Dishes which, of course, got my attention.

I regularly use pepper on grilled veggies such as these asparagus and zucchini.

But how healthy are they, really? The first, Provencal Potato Gratin, isn’t if you’re worried about sugar level since it starts with potatoes and also includes cheese, which is salty and fatty.

The steamed artichoke is good, if you leave off the melted butter shown. Try some lemon juice instead. Continue reading “20 healthy Easter sides? Check the salt and fat content first”

Worried about your blood sugar? Here are some helpful tips to help control it

While this blog is called No Salt, No Fat, No Sugar, most of my efforts go to controlling my salt intake because I’ve seen how salt directly impacts my blood pressure. But I recently came across this piece that is directed at those worried about their blood sugar levels and thought it worth sharing.

Cutting sugar, as found in treats like this, is extremely tough work, confirms a new study.

6 Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar With Breakfast has some tips that sounded obvious, like eating complex carbs. One tip that surprised me, though was to not exercise before breakfast. I routinely do that because I want to get the exercising done before I start my day. I’m also routinely hungrier after exercising. Continue reading “Worried about your blood sugar? Here are some helpful tips to help control it”

Here’s all you need to become an asparagus master chef

Asparagus has a variety of health benefits but can be intimidating to some to prepare and cook. If you’ve been in that group, fear not, this Food Network guide, How to Cook Asparagus, will turn you into an asparagus master chef who will soon be dazzling your friends with your asparagus prowess.

It gives you a basic rundown of how to prep asparagus for cooking, how to steam them and how to grill them.

I regularly use pepper on grilled veggies such as these asparagus and zucchini.

Once you’ve reviewed it all, move on to my recipe page to see how to make asparagus with balsamic tomatoes, or asparagus as part of a grilled veggie selection that will dazzle all your friends. The photo I’m using for this site shows asparagus cooking on my outdoor grill, one of my favorite ways to make them.

 

The latest diet fad — the 21 Day Meal Plan

My blanket advice about any diet plan that promises amazing results is to avoid it. Any “diet plan” will not help you long-term because it’s by nature a short-term fix for problems with how you eat.

I have opted to cut salt, fat and sugar from my daily food intake because those are thought to have negative impacts on my heart health. Heart disease has plagued me since my first stent in 2012. I’ve seen cutting salt impact my blood pressure in a positive way and so stick with that. The others, fat and sugar, have been much more difficult for me to give up because it’s difficult to see a direct correlation to my heart health.

So the 21 day meal plan intrigued me because it too looks at cutting salt and fat. It also talks about eating whole foods and eliminates eating out, more difficult goals to achieve. So I was interested in reading this Cooking Light article headlined: I Lived Through the Entire 21 Day Meal Plan—Here’s How It Went

The author, who calls herself an avowed foodie, had her problems with the meal plan, mostly because she missed the salt. Her thoughts on that just affirm how hooked most of us are on salt, chefs included. Even celeb TV chefs routinely talk about how salt “brings out flavor” in meats and other dishes. All it brings out is the salty flavor. Continue reading “The latest diet fad — the 21 Day Meal Plan”

Soda tax can cut consumption, new study finds

Soda makers for years have lived in fear of local soda taxes that would hurt their businesses. When one passed on Cook County, Ill. where I live, a massive lobbying effort was launched that successfully repealed it.

My Super Big Gulp days are over when it comes to diet soda, I given it up for water on the advice of nutritionists...who didn't mention arsenic in water could be a cause of my heart troubles.
Should sugar-sweetened beverages be taxed?

Advocates of such taxes have cast them as public health issues, but here it was cast simply as a way to raise needed tax dollars. The thinking was the health argument is a hard one to sell to consumers who don’t want to give up their soda.

When soda taxes are enacted, they do cut consumption. The latest study on the topic, looking at a soda tax enacted by Berkeley, California, in 2014 shows that once again.

Consumption there dropped by half in the three years following the law’s passage, found a study  done by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Continue reading “Soda tax can cut consumption, new study finds”

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