Are you thinking about quitting sugar?
Are you not sure how to go sugar free? It can seem like an impossible feat, but our family is here to tell you that it IS POSSIBLE. It can be done! We currently are 8 months into our family goal to be sugar free!
We want you to try it!
So, we are here to help motivate, inspire, and teach you all we have learned, step by step.
Everything I am about to tell you is exactly what has worked for OUR family and why we chose to ditch added and refined sugars. Meaning we agreed eating natural sugar was okay- like fruits, honey, grade a or b maple syrup, and stevia. Every family will be different or need to tweak things according to their priorities and goals. Take what you think is helpful and feel free to alter what you need for your family!
All the information you need is right here.
This is a HUGE 15-page blog post, but it is worth the read. I have had many inquiries about how to go sugar free, and what our family has done to be sugar free. I have answered these questions and shared our experience with numerous people thus far. People have shown interest and desire, which makes me so happy!
So, in a huge effort to be more efficient and have these answers readily available as people need them- I have written this blog post. It has enough detail in it, that it will be as if you had personally talked to me on the phone for an hour. So you can consider this a free personal training session to ditch the most toxic thing in your household- SUGAR.
Have questions, get answers, and learn about sugar
Is sugar really THAT unhealthy? Does it affect our behavior? Does it have control over us? Is it even possible to cut it out? Would we lose weight if we cut out sugar (for good or for bad)? Would it affect our energy levels? Could it unite us?
We researched all of these questions and felt pretty satisfied with the answers. But we also took another step and decided to put it to the test for a month, and let the results speak for themselves. (This was not an easy decision for my family to go sugar free for a month. I talk about that later…the process it actually took and what finally made them decide to commit.)
In those trial 30 days, we learned that:
-Sugar is addicting and we crave it, but we learned it IS possible to train ourselves not to eat it.
Example: There definitely is a detox phase. For our family, it was a week or two. Some of us were ornery, some of us got headaches. (Click here to read about sugar detoxing and what symptoms to expect the first couple weeks.) But we knew it wouldn’t last forever and that this was completely normal. So, we pushed through. Once we got through the detox phase it got easier, but we still were having to train our taste buds to like the “healthy foods.”
It took about 2.5 weeks for all our family members to start enjoying seltzer water instead of soda pop. Some didn’t like bananas but quickly learned that this was a treat to be had. It was fun to watch the kids try food they normally would have hated, like dates (!), but then realize they loved it now. Your taste buds WILL change.
Once you have detoxed and your taste buds start to enjoy the natural foods in life, you feel free. Seriously, it is the best feeling of EMPOWERMENT. Your body and mind don’t control YOU. YOU CONTROL THEM. Knowing that you changed something so hard and seeing and feeling the differences will lead to increased self-confidence. You will walk a little taller, speak a little louder, be able to refuse sugar easier, and not let your body dictate itself. Seeing this in myself is one thing, but seeing this in my kids was a game-changer.
-Sugar truly is unhealthy.
Sugar can lead to diabetes, obesity, diseases, immune problems, accelerated aging, tooth decay, degrade academic learning in children, increase stress levels, and prevent us from getting the vitamins and nutrients our body really needs. (Click here to read an article about it and please feel free to research more!)
Example: One of our sons was really struggling in school. He couldn’t focus and hated doing his school work. He always was talking in class and just having a hard time all around. When we cut out sugar for our 30 days trial month we were all surprised and pleased to see that he completely changed! In his class, the kids had a behavioral chart/calendar that they would color each day letting the parent know how well they behaved in class. My son was getting NOT the best colors for the first couple of months of school. Then, the month that we cut out sugar, all of his days were colored GREEN. That was the best. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. of the month.
His teacher had no idea that we cut out sugar but she contacted me and asked what had changed. When I let her know that we cut out sugar that whole time she was converted… as well as my entire family. Now, my other kids didn’t have that kind of effect. I couldn’t really tell that their behavior changed much. Everyone’s results will vary and be different from each other. This is very individualized, but rewarding to everyone all around.
-Cutting out sugar can lead to weight loss.
The reason why is because you not only are cutting out sugar, you most likely are cutting out a lot of high calorie and carbohydrate foods. This, of course, will depend on exactly what sugars your family decides to cut out. Our family chose to cut out all added and refined sugars, not just obvious sugars like candy and desserts (but we will talk about this later).
Cutting out all added sugar means you are eating pretty dang clean. And by that I mean you are eating whole foods. You will find that a lot of processed foods have added sugars in them… like almost ALL of them. So cutting out processed foods WILL indeed lead to weight loss, and that can be good for some people! But sometimes you won’t want to lose weight…
Example: One of my sons is quite little for his age. He has always been in the 5th percentile for his age and weight. So when we decided to cut out sugar I was a little worried that he would lose weight that he could not afford to lose. So, I was very deliberate in making sure he eat HEALTHY HIGH CALORIC FOODS. Such as butter, avocados, nuts, protein drinks, oatmeal, rice, potatoes, and bread.
Now, some of these things may have the tiniest bit of sugar. Like bread for example. I have not found a bread that has 0g of sugar unless you make it homemade from honey. So our family decided that we would allow bread if it was 1g or less per slice. This is possible to find in the stores, but usually, there are only one or two brands that are like this. Bread is a staple in our house and I am thankful for it because I don’t want my kids to be skinny- I want them to be STRONG. I feel they need bread to do this. So, as I said… figure out what your family needs and adjust accordingly.
-If you lack energy, ditch the sugar, PERIOD.
While cutting out sugar did not affect my kids’ energy levels (they are always wild and crazy!), it did change mine. Realize though, that when detoxing sugar, a side effect can be fatigue (see the link above). This will go away but don’t be alarmed if you feel a lack of energy at first.
Example: I have an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s, and I have hypothyroidism. Cutting out sugar makes me a different person, completely. For me, cutting out sugar from my diet was the #1 most helpful thing I did to make me feel my very best. But I go a step further and try and cut out all sugars, even natural sugars like honey, maple syrup and fruit. This has given me my energy back and stopped painful bloating that I was experiencing even on a strict paleo and AIP diet. However, lots of people find a significant boost in their energy levels just by cutting out the added sugars.
It could give you your life back people! ENERGY!!! It’s not entirely true that sugar GIVES us energy… it can and will TAKE IT AWAY if we aren’t careful. We don’t want a sugar high that gives us spurts of energy and then we crash. We want ENDURANCE. Energy that LASTS.
-Overcoming such a challenging goal will strengthen and unite your family.
Hands down. It is hard to change your eating lifestyle when you do it alone. I did it alone for years. If you cut out sugar by yourself *YOU ARE AMAZING* but the struggle will be real. There will still be sugar in the house that you have to walk by and resist (unless you live alone, then it is very doable!). You will still be cooking and baking for family members that want and crave sugar. Having it all around you and seeing others indulge in it will be challenging, but still, it is possible- I will attest to that. BUT, if your whole family gets on board it not only will be easier it will unify your family.
Example: Our family became close-knit doing this challenge together, even for just the month experiment we did (and the year one we are doing now has fortified us!). We knew we would be held accountable to each other and that our success depended on each person in our family.
Our conversations became more in-depth as we talked about our sugar struggles and victories each day. We became more encouraging of one another and praised each other consistently. Another benefit is that we bonded together knowing that we all were doing something hard– something that people usually think is impossible.
We grew very proud of each other and created a trust between ourselves that we could depend on one another, even through the impossible. Knowing that we had each other’s backs, that we were all going through the same thing, strengthened our family immensely, and helped our family pride grow.
Getting Your Whole Family On Board
Listen, I get it. Giving up sugar is not going to be the popular vote. Why give up something you love and enjoy? This is where YOU come in, and how you go about presenting it to your family. There are a few different approaches I have discovered that may or may not work for your family. I’ll share them below, but first, let me give you the background on how this all went down with my family.
My family did NOT want to give up sugar- at least at first. It was too hard, yummy, and prevalent in everything they ate.
But one day it changed. It was my birthday month and they wanted to get me something special. But I had a plan in mind. (This is how the 30-day trial began!)
You see, I had been sugar free on and off for a few years. Like I mentioned before, I have Hashimoto’s and have been on my own health journey for years trying to figure out my body and health. I knew cutting out sugar helped me, but honestly, it was really hard to do it by myself. I successfully did it for months and months at a time but when a vacation, road trip, summer, or move happened- I, unfortunately, would crack and give in. I’d always start it back up again after I felt so sick, tired, and bloated. Well, I had begun again, but this year I asked for something different for my birthday.
Patience pays off.
My family asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told them that buying me something isn’t what I really wanted…what I really wanted was support. I expressed to them again how much harder it is for me to be sugar free because I see them eating it and it is in the house all the time.
Surprisingly, they all- husband included, agreed to do it for my whole birthday MONTH and see how it went. They quickly became a little excited at the endeavor to do something so crazy and were motivated. They also had been seeing the benefits that I was reaping… I was healthier, stronger, and more confident when I was off sugar. They also had seen what sugar DID TO ME and how it negatively impacted my life and way of living. That was very eye-opening to them this time around but it had taken TIME.
I didn’t push being sugar free on them and had to wait a year or two for them to get on board, but it was worth the wait. It is so much easier to say NO to sugar when it is NOT IN YOUR HOUSE AT ALL, and when you are faced with sugars outside the home every day.
If you know you would let your family down, you will think twice before ruining your goal. Kindly rejecting sugary foods from friends and extended family members will be easier saying, “My FAMILY made a goal to be sugar free for a year,” versus, “I made a goal to be sugar free for a year.”
YOU HAVE BACKUP.
You are in it together. Your family will hold you accountable and they depend on you to succeed. So, get your family on board if you can. If not, do it yourself, and hopefully, they will decide to jump on board later. IT IS WORTH IT.
After my 30-day birthday present, my family decided to try moderation with sugar. It worked for a couple more months. I continued being sugar free and cooking their meals sugar free. I didn’t really have it in the house at all, but at this point, I was super strong in saying no to sugars. It being in my house was no temptation at all- so I let things slide a little.
Fast forward a couple more YEARS and we got inspired again. We saw a family make the goal of no sugar for a year and they rewarded themselves with a family cruise. HOW FUN!! I knew my family was all about challenges, but a year? Would they do that?! I decided to just ask them.
Turns out the entire family thought it was a great idea. The reward of a cruise was super motivating.
Here are some suggestions to get your family on board:
-Try a 30-day sugar free challenge and see how it works for your family. This could help boost your family’s confidence that they could do it for longer, perhaps even a complete lifestyle change. It could also help you assess what ground rules to make in the long run or what exceptions would be good to make for your family.
–Be patient. You may have to do it yourself for a while and let your family decide on their own time and terms when they want to jump in. This will be difficult, but your example definitely will matter. If they are stubborn and refuse to give up sugar, your example could be the only turning point for them.
–Make it fun. Come up with a big reward at the end. Something they can look forward to and motivate them during the harder and more tempting times.
–Exceptions are okay. If you can only get them on board by making some exceptions, that is okay. Something is better than nothing. What terms would they like? Can you find a middle ground?
–Get fit together. My family was also motivated to go sugar free because they knew they could get abs and muscles out of it. We have always taught them that what they eat will determine how strong they look. What you eat in the kitchen matters! And fortunately for me, my kids love the look of muscle, so this definitely was a motivating factor for them. (Check out our family fitness challenge here to get inspired!)
–Ask them what would motivate them. Be open about it and understand why they wouldn’t want to be on board. Is it because they just CAN’T give up their certain drink or treat? Maybe you can find a good alternative for them and open up their minds to different possibilities. Sometimes it just takes being creative and doing your research to change minds.
Make Ground Rules Before Starting
This is a crucial step. Gather your family together, sit down, and TALK. You need to make your goal very clear and agree upon the rules, expectations, and exceptions to the rules. Make sure everyone gets a voice and that everyone agrees. If just one person disagrees- it will not work. Everyone needs to participate in this decision-making process and not feel like it is being forced upon them. That way when things get hard they remember that they wanted it and agreed on it.
Be precise and clear about your goal. Is it for one month? One year? Are you cutting out all processed and refined sugars or just the obvious sugars like dessert and candy? Will you allow natural sugars like honey, maple syrup, stevia, etc? Will there be a reward at the end? You may want to write it down and hang it up in your house for a reminder.
Make rules and discuss the consequences that everyone agrees on. Sometimes the rules and goals run together and can be the same thing. That’s okay, just make sure it is all clear to everyone. Also, consider the consequences of breaking the family goal. What will happen if someone eats sugar? What happens if someone quits completely? Make sure these questions are presented and answered, as well as any other questions they have.
In regards to “consequences”… my family is currently 8 months into our year challenge. There have only been a few times where our family members were tempted to eat sugar and only once that a child purposely ate it. This will totally differ from family to family so you will need to come up with your own decisions about consequences. I advise to be more lenient than strict and keep up the encouragement.
A couple of times when my kids have been tempted I remind them of the cruise, and even go online and show them cruise lines and fun vacations to get them pumped up again. I also take pictures of their abs for them to see, because sometimes they don’t see how much they have changed and progressed until I show them. Be positive and encouraging.
Let them make the decision, each time.
From the beginning, I told my kids that it was their decision and their INTEGRITY whether or not they ate sugar. I wasn’t going to force them and I wasn’t going to watch them like a hawk to make sure they stayed on track. It was better to teach them how it was to be done, and then it would be up to them.
I taught them how to read the labels of foods (I will address that below later) so that they could know if they were able to eat it or not. Even my children that can’t read can now look at a label and recognize the word “Sugar” and then recognize if it says 0 or not and immediately know if they could eat it. Pretty impressive! Still, my youngest ask, and even my older boys sometimes, “Does this have sugar in it?” I will reply it does and sometimes I will get the response, “So can I eat it?” I smile and respond back, “That’s up to you. But remember the cruise.” In all cases but ONE (in the past 8 months), they have decided not to eat the sugar.
The Fruit Snack Temptation
The ONE time that didn’t happen was when my 5-year-old son insisted he eat a fruit snack that had sugar in it. I reminded him that we wanted to go on the cruise but it was his choice… too late, he was entranced and ate one. I was going to just let him eat the whole thing and turn a blind eye this one time (because he is only 5!), but all the kids were watching.
So, I kindly asked him for the fruit snack and told him that I was going to throw it away. He said, “But you said it was my decision!” At that moment I decided to reply with, “Yes, I did. But I can see you are hungry and making a decision you could really regret, so I am going to take it away and make the decision for you this time.” He wasn’t happy, but he quickly got over it and we have never had that problem again.
Would I have really not let him go on the cruise if he ate the fruit snack? Honestly, I would have let him still go. He is 5 and doing an AWESOME job at this. I would have gone to him later that night in bed and talked to him about it and asked him what he was feeling. The next day would have been a clean slate.
Messing up happens.
It’s important to realize that messing up is bound to happen, even YOU may mess up. Don’t get down on yourself or them—just carry on and keep going—is what I suggest. There is no need for guilting yourself or others, in fact, I think that would make the opposite effect of what we are going for- UNITY. So forgive, try again, and keep carrying on.
If you have a family member that completely quits and has no desire to carry on- then that is your call to make what will happen. Would I let my child go on the cruise if they willingly completely gave up? Probably not. I’d send them to a grandparent’s house or have them stay with a friend. I could really only see that happening with an older child, teenager probably, that is totally defiant. If I couldn’t reach them and change their minds, then they would probably suffer the consequences….?
Easy for me to say I suppose- I’m glad I’m not having to deal with that…. Good luck if you have to!!! And hopefully, your spouse will stay on board once they start…. If not, I’m not sure how to help you there…. I would try and find the middle ground and compromise. Maybe your ultimate goal is just too hard and you need to scale it back a little. Try re-assessing and see if you can alter the goal a little.
Exceptions to the Rules:
We have exceptions and that is okay. Just try and make them in the beginning to avoid confrontation, confusion, and arguments during your challenge. Some exceptions to the rules may be:
-Holidays: Can they eat sugar on holidays?
Our family loves Halloween and we have a family tradition to collect as much candy as we can to make gingerbread houses the following month or during Christmas. I didn’t want to sacrifice such a fun tradition and amazing memories, so we made an exception that on Halloween each child could eat 5 pieces of candy and then another 5 pieces when we made gingerbread houses. We all agreed that this would still make those holidays/traditions fun and exciting for our family. The other holidays, we could be sugar free.
-Birthdays: Their birthday, friend’s birthdays….what are you going to do?
Our family decided that on their birthdays that we could make sugar free cake, and get treats, cookies, etc at the store that are sugar free. Or, I’d home make it using natural sugars like honey.
Anyway, at the store, you can find even candy that is labeled, “Sugar Free.” I don’t believe this is healthy at all- in fact, I think it is worse than sugar! BUT, and a BIG but at this point, I care about the GOAL and not failing. I want my kids to still be able to enjoy their birthdays and feel special and excited. So for them to eat some “sugar free” foods on their birthday, it is fine with me.
However, we did commit that at friend’s birthday parties that they would kindly decline birthday cakes, cookies, and treats. And they have- with no complaints at all. They have admitted that they like being different and not eating sugar when their friends are. Being a good example of health to their friends makes up for the simple and short gratification that sugar can bring.
-School: What about school parties and treats?
For school, I let the teachers know either in an email or in-person that we made a family goal to be sugar free for a year. I told them that if there was a birthday treat in class or if she was giving out something that had sugar in it, to please give my child a sugar free cookie/gum/mint that I will buy and supply that she can keep in her drawer or closet. All of the teachers were very supportive and did just that.
My kids didn’t feel left out during school because they were still getting a treat for them, and as I said, they liked the attention it gave them at school when kids would ask why they weren’t eating the delicious doughnut or cake. It made them feel validated and proud that they were doing something kids normally don’t do! Again, another exception that I let my kids eat sugar free stuff for.
-Church: Do your kids’ church teachers hand out treats?
My kids tell their teachers that they are sugar free and kindly decline treats. No substitution is needed here in my family… they just go without, and that is okay. Except for one child of mine… his teacher LOVES to bring sugar treats for the kids she teaches. It is her way to show love for them… so much so that she wanted to get sugar free treats for him and go out of her way. She really wanted to do it. That was okay with me and now my son loves going to church-LOL. He will share his sugar free treats with his siblings too, so everyone is happy.
-Public Events: County fairs, school or church activities, work parties, potlucks… then what?
We go without. If it is an event that I am supposed to bring something, I make something healthy but yummy that we can eat. And depending on how long it has been since we have bought a sugar free treat, I may or may not allow that.
-Grandparents/Extended Family gatherings: Do your parents love to spoil your kids with sugary treats?
Hopefully, you have a family that will support your efforts. We happen to live far away from family so it isn’t much of an issue for us. However, when grandparents ARE here and want to do something special for them, I will allow sugar free store-bought treats again at this point. It makes the grandparents happy because they can still give them something they don’t get normally, and it makes the kids feel special. Otherwise, when we are at family gatherings we just say no thank you 🙂
-Eating Out: There is sugar in everything, so how do we eat out?
We don’t eat out very often (read about family finance here), but when we do we have decided to just focus on not eating the desserts and obvious sugary treats. I know the restaurants put sugar in their food, salad dressings, etc. That is okay when we eat out because it is unavoidable, but we do not order a dessert, or even eat the free mints.
If we are at Costco buying food and everyone is starving- we are getting a pizza to eat. Not the churro or ice cream, but the pizza and hot dogs. I suggest that you try and limit how often you go out to eat, but realize that sometimes it is just necessary, and sometimes it is a fun activity to do. Just be smart and intentional!
-Young Children: Do they even understand?
Our little girl was just 3 years old when we started our year-long goal. She was at an age where she didn’t understand what sugar was or why we couldn’t get it. To her, if we told her she couldn’t eat a cupcake it was just because we were being mean. We explained this to our older kids, even our 5-year-old could understand. We all agreed to make an exception for her. She was allowed to eat any sugar. Period. We still would give her encouragement to not eat it, but if she didn’t understand, then oh well!
I took my 3 younger kids to a birthday party where each child was offered a cupcake to celebrate. My 5 and 7-year-old said no thank you, but my 3-year-old girl? She looked up at me and said, “Does that have sugar in it? (She is 3, but after hearing her siblings say that so much she was starting to connect the dots a little.) I told her that it did, in fact, have sugar in it. I let her think about it and then she told me that she wanted to eat it and I said that was fine. She devoured it and LOVED it. My boys were super good sports and just watched her laughing. No joke, they laughed at her and didn’t freak out. How? The cruise reward. It has REALLY helped them not suffer.
Anyway, she ate the cupcake. She ate sugar here and there when it was offered to her. She changed one day though. It was her 4th birthday coming up and we were planning it the week before. I was asking her what kind of cake she wanted and she asked if she could have a sugar free cake. I smiled and said yes. Was she understanding or just parroting her brothers?
I took her to the store and showed her there was indeed a cake box we could buy that was sugar free. She was excited. Then she wanted marsh mellows. “Can I have sugar free marsh mellows, too!?” Crap. There is no such thing! But, Amazon didn’t fail me and there indeed were sugar free marsh mellows…the price was outrageous, but I felt this was a worthy cause.
(Her sugar free cake we bought from the store)
(Sugar free marshmellows making the girl happy!)
Patience and Time win again!
I was proud of her for wanting to get her birthday treats sugar free. When she opened up her gift of sugar free marsh mellows she was like a kid in a candy store, literally. So happy. And from there on out she has given up all sugar. Something clicked finally. I don’t know if it was AGE (she had just turned 4), TIME, CONDITIONING, or what—but she decided for herself to join the family challenge. She has now been completely sugar free for 4 months and hasn’t caved once. (Except one time where I lied to her. I will tell that story later.)
Okay! So that may seem like a lot of exceptions, and a lot of nonhealthy “sugar free” treats still, but in the grand scheme of things- it isn’t- and you may even want to add more. This was what our family decided would make this possible for us, and it has worked. Feel free to do what your family needs to do and what you think will work best for your family!
STEP 4- Read Labels & Throw Out The Sugar
You need to learn how to read the food labels. There are TWO labels you need to look at. The first is the nutrition facts. Go straight to SUGAR and if it says 0g you are GOOD. If it says 26g you need to see what kind of sugar it is. Right below sugar, it will say added sugars. If added sugars are 0g you are good- that means the 26g of sugar is natural, like fruit, and that is okay (but not if you are cutting out even the natural sugars, then you want both numbers to be 0g).
Next, look at the listed ingredients below the nutrition label. It will say “Ingredients:” and list them. If it says sugar, then you are out of luck. Sometimes it will say stevia, and that may be okay for you (it is okay for my family). Chocolate will have parenthesis that says (sugar) and that means that the chocolate has some sugar in it. You need to decide if that is okay or not. My family tries to keep our chocolate intake to dark chocolate- like 80% or higher. The darker the chocolate the less sugar it has, meaning it is healthier.
Also, decide here if you will allow fruit juices. We have a juicer and juiced a lot in the beginning, it was a delicious treat and fun family activity. We don’t buy juice to drink or things that have juice in them a lot (it is usually a treat when we are with a bunch of cousins). I just make sure that when we do buy juice, we get the ones that don’t have added sugars in them. They have to be natural sugars straight from the fruit.
Teach your kids how to read these labels!
Knowledge is power. My kids love looking at the labels and knowing what is going into their bodies. At the store I have people come up to us awe-struck because they see my kids taking food off of shelves and inspecting the labels. They also inspect the labels at Costco when there are samples or ask them if there is sugar in it. It’s quite impressive and admirable to see a 4-year-old asking, and even an older kid for that matter. Kids checking labels? That is pretty awesome.
Once you know how to read the labels… Get all of the sugar out of your house. You can do this in a couple of ways. You can cold turkey it and throw it all out- that is what I did to almost everything that had sugar in it. I put it all in garbage bags and then gave it to a couple of college aged kids and told them to enjoy it! I felt bad throwing it all out, haha.
The other option, that can work in certain cases, is to finish what you have but don’t buy it again. Ketchup, for example, has sugar in it. (A LOT OF STUFF DOES GUYS, YOU HAVE TO CHECK LABELS ON EVERYTHING!) But, our family decided to keep that ketchup bottle and finish it- it doesn’t have that much sugar in it and we didn’t want to waste it. So we finished up the bottle and the next time I was at the store I found ketchup that was only sweetened with honey. You will be surprised at what substitutes you can find, when you may think there won’t be any. LOOK and research.
STEP 5- How To Say No Tactfully and Graciously
Okay, so you’ve read ALL OF THIS and have one more concern. You aren’t quite sure HOW CAN YOU SAY NO to people and not hurt their feelings? Is there a way NOT to burn bridges or make people feel like you think you are better than them for not eating sugar? HOW DO YOU SAY NO!? These are legitimate questions and concerns.
This is actually the #1 REASON my husband jumped on board the no sugar train.
He knows how important it is for our children to learn how to SAY NO. Our children are going to be faced with all sorts of temptations throughout their childhood. Drugs, smoking, swearing, pornography, bullying, stealing, YOU NAME IT. It is all around and it will be offered to our children from outside sources- friends, peers, strangers, family…
My husband realized that if we took on being sugar free for a YEAR that our kids would learn a most important life skill. How to say NO and not give in to peer pressure. How to be the only one not doing something and be okay with it- even PROUD to be different.
That is exactly what we are seeing unfolding in our children’s lives right now. Our children know how to say no! Being the only kid not eating sugar is totally fine with them. And they have already experienced saying NO to other things at school.
My oldest son told me that at lunch a kid was talking about how he looks at pornography (ELEMENTARY, PEOPLE!!), and he pulled his phone out and asked if he wanted to see. My son told me that he quickly said, “No man, that’s not cool, I don’t want to see that kind of stuff.” And the boy put his phone away. I asked my son why he was able to come up with such a quick reflex of an answer and he said, “Well, you’ve already taught me that it is wrong to do that so it was easy to know NOT to…and I am used to saying No to things already because we don’t eat sugar.”
There you have it, folks. Going sugar free can save your kid’s life.
Too dramatic? I don’t think so. If your kid can say NO and feel confident doing so while sticking to their life GOALS, MORALS, VALUES, and STANDARDS– imagine the pitfalls they could avoid. Yes, it probably won’t solve all of them, and yes, they are sure to make mistakes, BUT STILL —THIS IS AN INVALUABLE SKILL TO MASTER—!!!!
Hopefully, if you were reading this to get convinced and motivated to jump on the bandwagon, you now are. For those of you with your feet already in the wagon, let me now offer you some examples that my family has been faced with and how we have handled saying no, in hopefully the most tactful and gracious way we could.
*Invitations To Dinner:
Them: “Hey, we would love to have you over for dinner tonight!”
Us: “Oh, that would be so fun! Thank you! What can we bring?”
Them: “Nothing, just come!”
Us: “That is so sweet of you, thank you! So, our family has a goal to be sugar free for a year, but we can eat whatever food you are making, no problem, even if you put sugar in it. When we eat at friend’s houses we just avoid the obvious sugars like desserts and candy. So, if we want a dessert after dinner we could make everyone some yummy sugar free shakes or we could bring a sugar free dessert if you want? Or, popcorn is our favorite!”
Them: “Oh wow, okay! Yeah, if you want to bring something for after dinner that would be great! So how long have you been doing this?…..”
And then it usually leads into a great discussion about how a family could possibly be sugar free 🙂
For road trips, we bring lots of nuts, fruits, veggies, bread, and applesauce packets. The junk food we still bring along are chips (surprisingly some chips don’t have sugar in them or at least have less than 1 gram), diet soda on occasion, and we will stop to eat when we need to. A trip to McDonald’s is even okay- we just get our meals but don’t indulge on ice cream or any of their desserts.
*Traveling & Vacations:
My husband travels a lot. A couple of months ago he went to Paris for the first time for work. Talk about temptation, right? All those yummy famous pastries and desserts… I thought for sure he’d crack. But no, not him! Even though everyone around him was eating it and enjoying the experience, he did not budge from our goal and did not eat any desserts from Paris. Our family kinda felt bad that he was missing out so we told him he could eat some if he wanted but he insisted that he wasn’t tempted at all and that our family goal mattered more to him.
Now, that is pretty awesome, but I am not saying that it is the right way or the only way. If your family is traveling or on vacation, maybe you would make an exception so you could experience the culture and food of that country without worrying about what you can’t eat. AND THAT IS OKAY. Just know as a family beforehand what your expectations are. Communicate and commit. That is key! Don’t break the trust…
Here is an example of an exception I made:
It was on the fly—and I believe exceptions need to be made before you even start your goal, but sometimes they are made out of necessity in your current situation.
My sister was in town visiting (she is 13 years old, yes, a big age gap between us!) and all of my boys were in school. So I took her and my daughter to Magnolia in Waco, the famous Chip & Joanna place. They have a bakery there that I have heard is delicious. My sister is not sugar free and I wanted her to experience it. However, my 4-year-old was with us and she is super committed to being sugar free at this point. I didn’t want her to have to say no to this cupcake and watch my sister eat the whole thing. So I bought some baked goods and we pulled out the two cupcakes.
My daughter looks up at me and says in her sweet cute voice, “Is this sugar free?” My sister and I smiled and I told her, “You can eat it, babe.”
“But is it SUGAR FREE?” She insisted that she know before eating it. So I lied… that’s a good lie, right? Haha. She was excited and started to dig in. The reason she believed me is because there ARE desserts and candy out there that ARE sugar free, remember. So, it can get a little confusing for them. That’s why she can look at a cupcake and still think it is sugar free, LOL.
Guess what? She had 1/4 of the cupcake and then said she was finished. “I don’t want anymore, Mommy. It is too yummy.”
It is too yummy!
Can you believe it? After a few bites, she couldn’t even eat it because it was so sweet. “Too yummy” to her was how she was expressing the sweetness. Her taste buds had changed as well as her gut.
*Soccer Game Treats:
All 4 boys of mine play soccer and so that means a lot of after game snacks and treats. We decided not to mention it to anyone because we didn’t want to inconvenience anyone or be a bother. The boys agreed and committed that if the snack had sugar in it, they would not eat it. True to their word, they didn’t ever eat the sugary snacks, which included simple and almost silly things like fruit snacks and Gatorade. It seems harmless, but it is what it is.
You know what they did to make it fun, though? They were almost excited to get a sugar item in their snack bag because they would take those snacks and give them to our neighborhood friends. They didn’t have the goal to be sugar free, so they could eat it! And the kids loved giving it to them and having their friends be excited and happy.
One exception that was made at soccer my kids still don’t know about…
My 5-year-old just finished a taxing soccer game and it was SO HOT outside. He got a Gatorade in his snack bag and my husband whisked it away before my son could look at the ingredients. My husband then ripped all the labels off of the Gatorade and gave it back to my 5-year-old. He said, “Dad, does it have sugar in it?” And he lied, “No, it doesn’t. You can drink it.” I looked wide-eyed at him and whispered, “What the heck, honey?”
Always being the one to balance me out, he said, “It is hot. His body is exhausted. He needs the sugar in this right now. We don’t have to tell him.”
Sometimes it just is okay to bend a little—but I recommend if you bend like that (because that wasn’t an exception we ever made in the beginning) to somehow NOT let your kids know. If my husband would have told him it had sugar in it but that it was okay, I know for sure that would have kicked us in the butt. The kids would have always used that as an excuse, “But dad let us do it at soccer! But we did it at soccer!” It was better that we hid it, trust me.
*Dessert At Chilis:
We ordered a 2 for $20 meal at Chilis one evening but in that deal, there is a dessert included. We asked if they would let us get another appetizer instead of the dessert but they wouldn’t. Not wanting to decline the dessert since we paid for it…we concocted a plan. We got the dessert to go and drove 15 minutes to our son’s teacher’s house from church who goes out of her way to provide sugar free treats for him on Sundays. He was going to give it to her and thank her for being so kind to him. We all were so happy about our decision to stick to our goal but even happier knowing we were making someone else’s day by doing so.
*Game Night and Dessert:
Them: “Come over for game night and dessert!”
Us: “We love games!!! YES! We will be there! But our family has a goal to be sugar free for a year so you don’t even have to worry about making a dessert! We will bring a bunch of popcorn we can all eat while we play games!”
Them: “Well sweet! I don’t even have to bake, then! Thanks! See you tonight!”
What do you do when all your friends are going out for ice cream? Or the entire evening out is planned for desserts and treats all night? I see 3 options here. One, you don’t go and turn bitter, hating that you are sugar free. Two, you don’t go and enjoy time with your family instead and realize this is another way you are creating stronger bonds together. Three, you go and enjoy yourself. Make a shake or protein drink, or have a cup of tea with you… whatever YOU have found that you enjoy. Just eat/drink that while everyone is eating and still enjoy everyone’s company.
When I recently moved and I was invited to a girl’s night at someone’s house and there was going to be a whole bunch of desserts there. I didn’t know anyone, but really wanted to meet people. So I went… and I brought… wait for it… herbal tea. I literally brought a pot of hot water, hot pads, packets of herbal tea, and some styrofoam cups. That was weird, but I didn’t care. I was able to have endless tea, and shared with others what I love.
You can teach yourself how to socialize without associating food with comfort and distraction. You CAN enjoy yourself without sugar and treats– I promise! When you have felt the health benefits long enough of not eating sugar, it WILL get easier!! And remember, your taste buds CHANGE. If you ate that ice cream with everyone it probably wouldn’t even taste as good as it once did. Just enjoy YOUR sugar free snack that you brought and be proud of your stinking discipline!
*Old Lady At The Store:
This one was a doooozey for me. Caught me off guard completely and never have experienced it before. I definitely was not prepared but here is what happened:
All of my kids (5) were with me at the store grocery shopping. We passed this cute little old lady in an aisle, waved, and kept shopping. 15 minutes later while I was picking out apples, someone touched my back and had their face right up in my ear. I jumped so high- freaked the heck outta me. Haha. I looked over and saw this old woman and my brain was frantically trying to think of how I knew her (I was new in the area. Was it from church? The neighborhood? School!?). I didn’t know her.
Her: “Oh hi, sorry to startle you. I just wanted to ask you if I could buy these for your children?”
Me: I looked in her hands and saw that she had a plastic case full of cookies from the bakery.
Her: “Your kids have been so wonderful in the store and are making it such a good experience for those who are shopping here. I would like to buy them these cookies.”
Me: (My brain is freaking out because I have NO IDEA what to say) “Oh my goodness, that is the sweetest thing! Thank you so much for coming to me and asking. I can’t believe you would do something so thoughtful and nice!”
Quick decision making is hard- and you may say the wrong thing. Oh, well.
I thought that I could accept and take them, but would she expect to see the kids eat it and enjoy it? Or could I take them and not have to eat them in front of her and escape the situation- then give the cookies to our neighbors? But that would be wasting her money, this sweet old woman. WHAT TO DO!?
I put my hand on her back…
I continued: “You know what though? Our family made a goal to be sugar free for a whole year and we are 4 months in and haven’t eaten any sugar… and that was SO kind of you to get these cookies and want to give them to us! I can’t believe how thoughtful you are… but they wouldn’t be able to eat them. You know what though?! I just saw over in the bakery SUGAR FREE cookies! And I put them in my cart to give the kids because it is my son’s birthday tomorrow. Can you believe it!? So they will get a treat!”
Her: “Oh wow! Those are sugar free? Well, let me buy it for them then!”
Maybe I should have stopped there, but I didn’t.
I could let her just buy them but they were like 3 times the price of the cookies in her hand and I just couldn’t.
Me: “Oh my gosh, you are the sweetest! KIDS! Do you know this kind lady right here says you guys are being so good at the store that she wants to buy you cookies!? Isn’t that so nice of her!?
The kids: “Oh wow! Thank you! That IS so nice!”
Me: “These sugar free cookies are ridiculously expensive- so I couldn’t possibly have you pay for them. But honestly, it is the thought that counts. It really means a lot to us that you would buy us cookies and come up to us to tell my kids how wonderful they are being. Thank you so much.
Her: “They are great kids. I can’t believe you all don’t eat sugar. I’m not sure my husband could do that.”
Me: I laugh and am so relieved this is almost over.
Her: “Keep being good, kids! You are all so beautiful!”
And then we walked our ways. THAT was difficult. THAT wasn’t expected and threw me off. I probably didn’t handle it right but I did what came to me at the moment.
Do what you can and hope for the best.
The good thing was, that I was GRATEFUL and expressed that buoyantly. I also ACKNOWLEDGED her good intentions not only to her but to my kids. So she got credit for her kindness (not that she needed or was looking for that, but I wanted to make sure she still felt good about her act of kindness and not feel bad or embarrassed being rejected).
I saw her in an aisle again,15 minutes after this interaction, and she pulled at her husband and said, “Look! That is the family! Their kids are sugar free, all of them!” We smiled and waved and continued on. That helped me feel better that she didn’t feel bad, but hopefully just impressed that we stuck to our family goal, even when confronted with sugary treats from an old kind lady.
*Samples At Costco:
We don’t have a lot of samples at Costco anymore. I check the labels on the samples and if it has sugar, we don’t eat it. On a rare occasion, a sample is sugar free and then we all try it and if it is something we like- we totally buy it, of course. We don’t count samples as a free for all like we do food at a restaurant. The food labels are available, so we use them and abide by our goal.
*Welcome To The Neighborhood:
With our recent move, no one knew we were sugar free of course. We had lots of neighbors come and bring us cookies. We always graciously accepted them and thanked them. When they would leave the kids would excitedly ask, “Who should we give it to!?” (Neighbors and friends, if you gave us cookies and are reading this, the secret is out. We re-gifted your cookies. BUT, the key here is the cookies you brought isn’t ever what is most meaningful. It is the fact that you came to welcome us and showed kindness. That is what we want to remember and that is what we do remember, so THANK YOU.)
We haven’t done Christmas sugar free yet, that is around the corner, but we have done other holidays sugar free. We just don’t eat it and that is okay. Have fun in exploring other treats and food options. What desserts can you make that is sugar free? Your kids will want a treat to eat, even if it is sugar free, and I promise you they will be motivated to find a sugar free recipe. I just go to Pinterest with my kids beside me and we pick out sugar free recipes we want to try. Sunday’s are usually the day we experiment. It has brought our family closer in the kitchen… before they couldn’t care less about cooking and baking.
Tweak traditions sometimes.
We did do something with a special tradition of ours where we normally eat tons of sugar. We tweaked the tradition a bit. Instead of eating lots of candies and junk food, we ate what NATURAL SUGARS we could. FRUIT. All of us went to the grocery store together and we LITERALLY BOUGHT EVERY FRUIT IN THE STORE. 1 of each. The common fruit all the way down to the exotic fruits that we didn’t have a clue about. It was SO FUN! We even got an apple of every kind…which is a LOT and I never knew before which kind of apple I liked because there were so many. Now we all know!
Checking out was pretty embarrassing though, haha…
Me (to the cashier): “Sorry, we are buying one of every fruit in the store. This might take a while.”
Cashier: “Oh how fun! I’ve never done this before! It’ll keep things interesting- I was getting bored!” (Thank goodness I got a young peppy soul.)
Me (to the people in line): “Sorry guys, this may take a while, I have a LOT of fruit he has to ring up. You may want to go to another line. Sorry!”
Line People: Some left, haha. But the lady behind me inquired about all the fruits and why we were buying them.
And so the sugar free conversation began…
It is possible guys.
Your family CAN DO IT. You can even do it ALONE.
And if you still don’t think you can, don’t feel bad about it! Maybe in the future, you will find the will and desire, maybe not. I didn’t choose to go sugar free until I was forced to because my body wasn’t functioning right. I get it.
It’s a hard decision. It can be tough at times.
And we aren’t better or stronger than any of you for being sugar free.
We are better and stronger than WE WERE BEFORE.
***Stay tuned for sugar free recipes, meal and snack ideas, plus a list of all the sugar free foods we love from Costco & other grocery stores!***
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