If you had asked me 5+ years ago to partake in a challenge, especially a no added or refined sugar challenge, I would have flat out laughed in your face.
Actually? Scratch that. I would have been too preoccupied shoving ice-cream down my throat to even hear the question in the first place.
^ NO JOKE!
Refined sugars weren’t even on my radar up until a few weeks ago, after the lovely Kyuho & Sarah of 2hearts1seoul tackled the No Refined Sugar Challenge themselves. If you’ve read my last blog post, then you already know how much I love and are inspired by them. Naturally, I had to get in on this challenge too. What’s that saying again? Copying is the highest form of flattery? 😉
But in all honesty, at the time of their video, I was already searching for ways to become a better and cleaner eater. Taking this coincidence as a sign from the universe, I decided to dig through the internet for any and all info on added sugars. What foods contain them? What are their “hidden names”? How would this affect me on Weight Watchers?! It was like a regular game of “21 Questions.”
This Is What I Found:
To put it simply, added sugars are just that, added sugar. They aren’t natural. If I were to go pick some strawberries tomorrow at my local corner farm, would they be coated with white sugar or dripping with corn syrup? Negative. But a lot of frozen and packaged fruits are. That’s what this challenge is all about: avoiding all the added crap and refined sugars (sugar that is processed in a variety of different forms like powdered sugar, granulated sugar etc…) and consuming only sugars that occur naturally.
I don’t know about you, but to me, there’s something attractive about eating foods in their simplest, purest form, and I was smitten with the idea of making my body a lean, clean, refined sugar-free machine (#cleaneating, anyone?!). Once I dug up some dirt on added sugars (here, here & here) and learned why some people even consider them to be a poison, it was time to do some spring cleaning, pantry edition.
Playing Hide and Seek With Hidden Sugars:
It was alarming to discover just how many sugar ridden foods I, along with my fellow Americans, consume on a daily basis (for those curious, more than 60% of Americans consumed 105g+ of added sugars daily in 2016). Before I began this challenge, I really had to sit down and analyze my diet and what foods would have to be banned for the week.
There were the obvious ones like Dunkin’ coffees, ketchup & condiments (I really only eat ketchup), and almost any form of dessert, and then there were the foods that completely took me by surprise. For instance, the brand of dry roasted peanuts I usually eat contain sugar, as do the majority of “health food” crackers and snacks I purchase! And the icing on the cake? My fat-free half & half contained corn syrup. CORN SYRUP!
How to Find Them?
Sugar is like a level 99 thief in Skyrim– it’s lurking where you least expect it. Even the saltiest of foods I usually happily munch away on had some form of sugar listed as an ingredient. They key is being able to identify these sugars, as many of them are under aliases or “hidden names.” Uh, as if this challenge wasn’t already difficult enough! If you’re thinking of going added or refined sugar-free, or if you simply want to be more conscious of the ingredients you consume, I dare you to whip out a magnifying glass and search your food labels for the following names:
- barbados sugar
- barley malt
- barley malt syrup
- cane juice
- demerara sugar
And you know what? That’s not even a quarter of them! To see the full list of SIXTY-ONE different names for sugar, visit SugarScience. It’s crazy to think about how many of these sugars slip through the cracks, and if there’s one thing this challenge does, it brings awareness and teaches you the skills to locate them all!
Me VS. No Refined Sugar:
My 5-day no added or refined sugar challenge was a packed with trial and error, mixed with completely revamping how I manage my Weight Watchers SmartPoints. As you may or may not know, many artificial sweeteners are 0 SmartPoints on WW. Sugars, even unrefined ones, can be 4+ points. Ergo, this really changed my entire weekly dynamic. Check out the video below to get a peek at the qualifying meals I ate during this challenge, PLUS keep reading for some juicy results.
SO…I did allow myself a tiny bit of honey for oatmeal & tea at the beginning of the week. However, even that was short lived since honey was just too high in points for the level of sweetness I like. I guess you could say I started my week out “no refined” and ended it “no-added.” My meals during the 5-day challenge consisted of veggies, fruits, proteins, and 0 SmartPoint foods; all of which I was already consuming for Weight Watchers. The good news? If you’re a Weight Watchers member taking full advantage of eating 0 point foods and practicing healthy eating in general, odds are you’re already cutting out a TON of added sugars. The bad news is if healthy eating isn’t exactly your forte, expect to be riding the front row seat of a struggle bus.
Like most people who start a new challenge, I began my week strong and fierce and ready to tackle the world sugar-free. It was evident by the end, however, that dat life is clearly not for me. Fruits and other naturally sweet foods are so delicious and refreshing, but nothing can replace a few scoops of Enlightened ice-cream at the end of a long workday. In other words, I was missing my usual foods so, so much! It even got to the point that by Thursday I was 100% set on leaving work and going straight to Dunkin’ (shout out to my co-worker Justine for stopping me).
Throughout the 5 days, I also found myself snacking a lot more then usual. I don’t know if that was a result of restricting myself or a combo of other things going on in my life, but I became quite the manic muncher. Whatever the reason, all of the extra snacking unfortunately resulted in a weight gain for the week. Don’t be discouraged though– the vast majority of people who complete this challenge actually experience weight loss! I’m sure if I had been a little stricter with myself, I would have too.
All in all, it was a great challenge to take on and one I believe everyone should try out at least once in their lives. While I only ended up testing myself for 5 days, it’s recommended to push through at least 2 weeks to 1 month in order to break all sugar cravings and cleanse the body. Who knows, perhaps I’ll give this challenge another go in the future, longer and more prepared next time!
Have any of you taken on this challenge or are thinking of it? What efforts do you make to eat clean? Let me know 🙂
Wishing you a happy & healthy rest of your day,