Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Jujube-Free June

Well, as Discipline Year was originally designed, this was supposed to be No Java June, but as I said yesterday, I'm hopeful I may be on deadline before long, and that's no time to invite caffeine withdrawal. Thus, I'm swapping June and July's challenges [read: delaying the inevitable torture of giving up coffee].

So June is the month of no sugar. That is to say, no significant added sugar. Obviously, fruit is full of sugar and I'm not giving up fruit. I mean sweets—candy, pastries, drinks with sugar added—as well as packaged foods with sugar (or sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, etc.) listed as one of the first five ingredients OR with more than five grams of sugar per serving listed on the nutrition facts.

I just inventoried my kitchen, and was sad to discover these parameters rule out my favorite soup (six grams of sugar per serving, meaning the meals I make it into have twelve grams!) our usual barbecue sauce (eleven grams of sugar in two tablespoons!) and the not-as-lovely-as-I'd-thought Yellow Thai Curry Sauce from Trader Joe's (a relatively low six grams, but sugar is listed third, after water and canola oil—ewww). There are other places you wouldn't expect to find added sugar either, such as in crackers and pre-made pasta sauce. I'm a little worried about the latter, as it's a staple in our house. I've got a lot of label-reading to do this month.

We'll be getting farm share veggie boxes starting next week, and I'll be royally bummed if the Indian simmer sauces I rely on to dress up surfeits of less thrilling vegetables are packed with sugar…I don't have any jars of the stuff in the house at the moment, so I'm not sure. But I suppose I could make facsimiles with tomato paste and curry and cumin and onions and salt and cream and so forth. I suspect I may be in for a few disappointments when I go to the grocery store tomorrow.

I'd like to make a goal for how much sugar I'll aim to take in each day, but I'm not entirely sure where to set the bar. I think I'll keep an eye on it for the first few days, and go from there. Today I've only had breakfast so far and I'm up to four grams—two grams from a slice of spelt toast, and two grams from a couple of tablespoons almond butter (where is the almond butter getting its sugar? the only ingredients are roasted almonds and sea salt!) Thank goodness half and half is sugar-free, as is my taste in coffee. So perhaps twenty-five grams of sugar per day? That seems ambitious yet reasonable. I'll workshop it, though I don't want to make myself crazy keeping track of the math, either. Most of what I cook for dinner is from scratch, and the individual vegetables don't come with nutrition labels. Thank goodness brown rice has zero grams of sugar or we'd be screwed—we eat that with half our dinners.

Want to hear something terrifying? A tall (that means small) Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino contains thirty-four grams of sugar. That's without whipped cream. Even more horrific, a CAN of Mountain Dew has FORTY-SIX grams of sugar! All of it added, of course, as there's no fruit in there, just some citrus flavor chemicals they probably engineer in a bunker in Newark. That's nearly two days' worth of sugar, by my experiment's standards, in a twelve-ounce can. And in a Super Big Gulp of the stuff? About 150 grams (if you add ice—otherwise closer to 170). Shudder. Get your shit together, America.

Now those two examples aren't a temptation for me, but alcohol had been a worry. I assumed wine was packed with natural sugars, and though no sugar is added, a serving would still have exceeded my five-gram-per-serving limit. But no! A glass of merlot, for example, has only about one gram of sugar. Score! A sweeter wine, like riesling, has closer to five or six grams per glass. Beer is trickier. I found it very difficult to sniff out specific sugar content for various brews, but it looks like although beer is high in carbohydrates (often twenty or more grams per bottle) sugar makes up a relatively small portion of those carbs (between two and four grams, in the handful of examples I found). So beer isn't especially safe, if only because it's so hard to know what you're consuming, but it's not as decadent as I'd feared. And generally the maltier the beer, the more sugar it contains, and I prefer crisp, dry beers. But I think we're good—let summer commence!


  1. My kids constantly feel put upon that I won't buy all the sugary cereals and Chips Ahoy. But every time I'm ready to weaken, I read the side of the box in the store and put it back on the shelf.

  2. Oh Lord, I can't even imagine the battles I'll have ahead of me when a kid turns up!

  3. You arer my new hero! Giving up sugar is so hard, but something I'd been thinking about doing for a while. Maybe I'll get off my butt and do something about it soon.

    Giving up coffee though? You're on your own for that one. :)

  4. I love the idea of "sugar added" to Mountain Dew. What would it be without the sugar? Citrus water, I suspect.

    Good luck with the sugar challenge! I don't eat much that I don't make myself, but when I do it's pretty much pure sugar. I have no sugar discipline.

  5. Godspeed! I'd be screwed. ;) One thing you might actually enjoy more by July is the tomato sauce change. I started making my own a couple of years ago and now the jarred kind tastes so syrupy. That said, I ate a mini carton (or two) or Nerdz about 10 minutes ago. Pure sugar rush to the brain. Mmm.

  6. Join me, Christine! One of us, one of us!

    Ruthie and Kramy, indulge in my honor this month.

  7. Good luck with that... No, seriously.
    I'm from India, so going without sugar is pretty much unthinkable. A meal is considered incomplete if it has not been followed by dessert. Altho' this would be an interesting challenge for that very reason.

    On a side note, came across this article that might interest you. 'Caught on Camera' is mentioned.. :-)