Hi, my name is Melissa and I'm addicted to sugar. There, I finally said it. As long as I can remember, I've struggled to resist the temptation of anything sweet. As a child, my sister and I would beg my mother in the cereal aisle of the grocery store to buy us a box of sugary sweet cereals like Fruity Pebbles or Frosted Flakes...but no luck!! The only way we could get that kind of stuff in the house is if we smuggled it in. We were, however, able to successfully negotiate the purchase of a box of Golden Grahams, but only on special occasions. Corn Flakes, Special K and Total were the only breakfast choices before heading off to school...yuck. But, when my parents weren't looking, I realized that dumping a few tablespoons (yes TABLESPOONS) of the sweet stuff could transform a bowl of boring Corn Flakes into something magical. Every morning, my goal was to have a little milky, sugar puddle waiting for me at the bottom of my cereal bowl....mmmm, heaven! It's 30 years later and I'm still battling the sugar monster. No, I'm not heaping tablespoons of sugar on my cereal in the morning, but occasionally, I do go overboard. Usually around the holidays my sugar intake is literally out of control...I feel like I just can't get enough. Last Christmas Eve, I had 2 1/2 cupcakes (they were not mini-cupcakes, BTW) AND egg nog AND I nibbled on a few other dessert selections. These sugar overdoses leave me feeling sluggish, bloated, and very thirsty. But, instead of stepping away from the table and drinking a few glasses of water, what do I do?? Eat more sugar! Come on now! It doesn't make sense but it happens every time. If you didn't know already, consuming sugar just makes you want to consume more sugar. I never really wanted to believe it until I conducted a little experiment last week. On my last day in Columbus at The Arnold, I enjoyed an incredible breakfast at Northstar Cafe...3 fluffy ricotta pancakes with maple syrup...by far one of the best breakfasts I've ever had! I told myself that after this indulgence, I would immediately get back on track. Of course, that didn't happen. I engulfed a banana walnut muffin (I NEVER eat muffins) at the airport, followed by a candybar on the plane and then I bought a $3 "whole grain" cookie at the airport when I landed in Philly. Really, Melissa...$3 for a darn cookie? Once I arrived home, I put the brakes on the sugar fest and prepared a nice clean meal of baked fish and steamed veggies and I adequately hydrated with several glasses of water. Fortunately, I was able to avoid the sugar coma that usually follows such a binge.
So how can my sugar saga help you? Well, you need to be aware that sugar is everywhere!! If you're eating a lot of packaged, processed foods, you're consuming way more sugar than you think. For example, I had a few Sun Chips the other day and I noticed a slightly sweet taste, I flipped the bag over to read the ingredients and, BAM! Sugar is listed as the 6th ingredient. Now, why do these "healthy" chips contain sugar??? Quite simply, the product tastes better...it leaves you wanting more, so you go and buy more of the product. Chances are that your favorite "low-fat", "reduced-fat", or "100-calorie" snacks have excess sugar in them. Don't be fooled by the "healthy" words (aka advertising) on the front of the package...always read the ingredients!
But if I'm avoiding packaged sweet treats and store-bought baked goods, how does a sugar fiend like me get my fix, especially when I'm in competition mode? There are plenty of healthy options:
- Dark chocolate: I find that I don't crave sugar after a small bite of 72% cocoa...a whole bar lasts me about 3 weeks!
- Fruit: berries, apples and bananas are my faves...plus they're packed with all kinds of vitamins and minerals.
- Raw red bell peppers: I know that not everyone will like this, but red peppers can be very sweet; I like them with some hummus or drizzled with a healthy oil, like avocado or walnut oil
Moderation is key! It's ok to have a small sweet treat from time to time. But once you start having sugar at every meal, you're potentially setting yourself up for disaster. I'm so fascinated by this topic that I've been researching sweeteners...real and artificial. So stay tuned for a very informative post on all things sugar...sweet!