Maintain a diet that’s free of added sugar—and sugar substitutes—for three weeks.
Jenna and Rich Breitstein of Potomac, Maryland, and their sons Jacob, 5, and Sam, 13 months
How sweet it isn’t:
Like many busy families, the Breitsteins had started relying on convenience foods so that they could eat on-the-go and get dinner on the table quickly. “The house was filled with processed food that was laden with sugar,” says Jenna. “I had gotten sloppy about reading labels and choosing healthy foods because it was always a mad dash to get through the grocery store with kids in the cart.” Jenna didn’t like the way they were eating, but she hadn’t yet found the motivation to make a real change. Her call to action came when she tried to phase out Jacob’s nightly ice cream dessert and he threw an epic tantrum. It was then that she and Rich realized that the family needed to kick-start a healthier way of living.
Jenna prepared the house by clearing cabinets of processed foods like crackers and cereal. She rid the freezer of their usual staples: frozen maple syrup waffles, store-bought premade meals, and, of course, ice cream. In turn, she stocked up on fresh produce, lean meats, plain Greek yogurt, and bakery-fresh bread that contains few ingredients and no sugar. “It was hard to find bread without sugar, but eventually I found Great Harvest Bread, which saved the day,” says Jenna. Preparing Jacob for the challenge required some creativity. “Jacob is really into superheroes, so we told him we could be a superhero family by being the healthiest family!” says Jenna. That got him on board.
Going back to basics:
Jenna had a fairly easy time control- ling the kids’ diets. For Jacob’s breakfast, he ate whole-grain toast with a drizzle of honey or Grape-Nuts with plain Greek yogurt mixed with Polaner All Fruit with Fiber (a naturally sweetened fruit spread). For lunch, she packed healthy fare like cheese sandwiches, fruit, hummus, and all-natural peanut butter. As for little Sam, he ate as healthy as it gets with a diet consisting of organic fruit and vegetable purees, breast milk, and baby oatmeal.
For Jenna and Rich the most significant changes were eating more home-cooked meals and doing away with a few treats. Jenna’s biggest craving was for a sweet drink. Similarly, Rich’s toughest adjustment was subbing water for diet soda. But it wasn’t all about sacrifice: everyone enjoyed Jenna’s cooking, which was nutritious and tasty.
No sugarcoating it:
As expected, Jacob did not give up his ice cream without a fight. “There was a lot of crying in the evenings that first week until we broke him of his ice cream habit,” says Jenna. Fortunately, Jenna discovered Yonanas Maker. “You simply feed frozen fruit through the top of the appliance and it comes out the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.” For Jenna, on the other hand, the hardest part was that much more of her time became devoted to food shopping and prep. But she powered through by reworking her schedule so that she often prepped during Sam’s naps, and included Jacob in the cooking when he was home.
Rising to the sugar-free challenge wasn’t as difficult as Jenna had expected. Her family had already been eating plenty of fruits and veggies, and she found that once there was no processed food around, they ate less overall, yet felt just as satisfied. “It was key for me to understand what my trigger foods were and to figure out substitutes for those,” says Jenna. She and Rich plan to keep up their new way of eating with only a few exceptions. “I will go back to my regular whole-grain cereal, but I’m going to continue to cook more cleanly and use fewer food shortcuts,” says Jenna.
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