Our Sugar Free Home: One Mama’s Story

A few weeks ago I shared my vision for my family for 2013, calling it the Year of Positive Eating. As part of this vision I really want to educate myself more about the best foods to prepare and serve to my family, looking at what we put into our bodies and the effects our choices have on our everyday health. I mentioned wanting to ensure we eat a whole lot less numbers (preservatives and additives) and a heap less sugar. One mama who is a lot further along this path than I is Taryn Rucci of This is Taryn.  A self-confessed sugarholic, she quit sugar over a year ago and then set out to create a sugar free home where no one (hubby or three young children) feels like they’re missing out. I asked Taryn to share some of her experiences so far with us…

What led you to the decision to quit sugar?
After having my third child I found myself with a bit too much extra weight on me. I wanted to lose a few kilos and get back into the beautiful dresses in my wardrobe! The sheer thought of eating lettuce leaves mixed with daily exercise was just too much to take on.

I came across the Sweet Poison books by David Gillespie during a trip to BigW with the kids and I was intrigued. Here was someone saying that sugar was the culprit of obesity, not the lack of exercise or the amount of fat we were eating. I was interested because here was an idea that I had never really come across. David also writes about saturated fats in the books. I had always considered saturated fats to be avoided at all costs because we all know they make you fat. Don’t they? What I found out later was that fat is not as unhealthy as it is made out to be. I soon discovered that the current nutritional advice dictated in this country was purely based on bad science that has spiraled out of control.

The basic principle of quitting sugar is this. You are avoiding the fructose part of sugar (sugar is 50% glucose and 50% fructose). It is the fructose part that messes with your appetite control system and makes you eat too much. I guess I really connected with that message and it just made sense to me.

I read both books in a matter of days and started cold turkey over a year ago. It worked for me. I lost about 4kg in a matter of weeks. I did nothing else but quit sugar. I didn’t exercise. The reduction in my appetite was very noticeable. The weight has stayed off.

What has been the most difficult part of your sugar free journey so far?
The most difficult part of quitting sugar was the terrible withdrawals I felt in the days that followed. I literally climbed the walls. I ate so much. I was grumpy. Nauseated. I later found out the hunger manifests as the body is trying to seek out the sugar in the food you will allow yourself to eat.

Looking back I am pretty sure I was addicted to sugar. I ate lots of it. I could never eat a biscuit without eating the whole packet. I ate dried apricots by the bucketload. I was always thinking about sugar! I drank litres and litres of choc milk during my pregnancies. Blech!

What do you consider sugar? What about fruit?
When I think about sugar I think about the “fructose” part of sugar. Fructose exists in large amounts in different sweeteners such as table sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, golden syrup, juice etc. I avoid all of these. My family and I do eat fruit. I would probably have half to one small piece of fruit a day. While fruit does have fructose, it also houses lots of fibre. Whole fruit (not the juice) doesn’t cause big problems because it’s balanced by the fibre.

gluten free low fructose muesli bars
What sugar alternatives do you use?
There are many alternatives to using table sugar. When I bake, I choose from a variety of different sweeteners or a combination of a few. I use dextrose (which is 100% glucose). I use Stevia, Natvia and Rice Malt syrup. These are all fructose free sweeteners. I always add a good pinch of salt to all my baking as it brings out the sweetness in the food. Adding cinnamon and vanilla are other ways to bring out sweet flavours.

How did you make the transition to a sugar free home?
Once I had conquered my own sugar addiction, my next point of call was to slowly remove the terrible, high sugar, processed foods that had accumulated in my panty. We never had juice available for the kids so that was easy. For us it was the cereal. I shudder to think of all the sugar the kids were eating for breakfast. I removed them slowly, one by one as they ran out and replaced them with healthier options. I think my eldest daughter cried one morning, but she soon forgot about it and now it’s all they know.

Are your children sugar free outside your home?
No. They have sugar at parties or when they go to friends places. I can control what they eat at home. I cannot control what they eat outside the home and I won’t. As they grow older I trust they will make sensible choices for themselves.

Do you or your children ever feel like they are missing out?
No! As I said the kids do eat sugar at parties and if we go out to the park there is the occasional ice cream treat, so they are not sugar free. My home, however where they eat 95% of the food that goes into their bodies, is.

They enjoy biscuits and cakes like any other kid, I just bake them at home with sugar free alternatives. Baking is something I enjoy and I love experimenting. We never “go without.”

gluten free low fructose lemon tart

What do you enjoy as a ‘treat’ now you are sugar free?
My blog is full of my sugar free baking adventures. I love experimenting in the kitchen. My husband loves my sugar free brownies and I love the odd slice of sugar free lemon cheesecake. Being sugar free doesn’t mean you will never eat anything sweet again for the rest of your life. It’s just coming to the realisation that you will be doing the cooking and you won’t be buying processed foods (always a good thing).

What do you say to critics of your choice?
I am literally astonished that there is so much opposition to “quitting sugar”. If I said I was going on a “low fat diet” would anyone raise an eyelid? No they wouldn’t. No matter which way you look at it, sugar is a toxic substance, especially given the volume of sugar consumed by adults and children today. Seeing highly qualified dieticians oppose the quit sugar movement actually doesn’t surprise me. After all, who does the processed food industry rely on to endorse their products? Exactly.

Are their any resources you would recommend for those interested in more information?
I access a lot of my information via Facebook. Sweet Poison on Facebook is great resource. The Sweet Poison books by David Gillespie are a great start. Fat Chance by Dr Robert Lustig is also excellent. Sarah Wilson’s blog is also useful; she has a great program to follow and some excellent sugar free recipes. I also have a blog where I share my life and sugar free/gluten free recipes – This is Taryn.

Thank you, Taryn, for sharing this insight into your sugar free journey. Please feel free to leave questions for Taryn in the comments.

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  1. Great interview – happy to find a new resource. Sugar is a big issue for me (not only do i find it a major contributor to my depression and anxiety – virtually vanishes when i stay sugar free, but i learned a couple of months ago that sugar is the real culprit with heart issue rather than simply cholesterol (which i have been on meds for and suspected was another contributor to my issues – side effects). I was a major sugar addict and still battle regularly – realise i need to start baking again with the right sweeteners so i stop feeling deprived. off to check out the brownies – thanks xx

    • Yes Deb, you’ve certainly make some good points about cholesterol. There are some good books out there on the issue of cholesterol so educate yourself and make a decision. Good luck x

  2. Love this! Hubby is basically sugar free, dairy free and gluten free! I’m lagging behind with a slight (HUGE) sugar addiction! I go on/off and end of binging! Going to have a look around Taryn’s blog and the other resources and see if I can get some fresh motivation! 🙂

  3. Victoria Byres says:

    Limiting fruit intake? No thank you!

    • I agree, that’s what really makes me think of the “quit-sugar movement” (as it’s called here) as a fad.

      • I disagree that being sugar free is a fad. I’ve done it quite successfully for nearly one and a half years now. It’s about getting back to the unprocessed foods that our great grandmothers enjoyed. It’s about understanding the real problems in the food supply. It’s not a diet. It’s about choosing real food for nourishment, not factory food. For me, being sugar free has had some amazing benefits and there is no going back.

        • Sorry, I didn’t mean the way you are taking it is a fad, obviously you are eating fruit, so you aren’t doing it as a fad. It’s when people talk about taking out fruit because that’s sugar and taking out dairy because lactose is a sugar that it becomes a fad, which I think is why dietitians oppose it. They don’t oppose cutting back processed food, added sugar etc. But they do oppose cutting out whole food groups, like dairy, or fruit. So I don’t think it’s fair to bag dietitians. There are plenty of independent dietitians that will give excellent advice on diet specific to an individual’s needs. The dietitian I have used for family food allergies didn’t recommend any processed food, except options for dairy alternatives (which would be considered processed).

    • We still eat fruit. I’ve lost my taste for it mostly. I am not “anti fruit” but I am mindful about consuming too much. The fruit we have available today is much sweeter and larger than past generations. We also have access to more types of fruit than we ever had before. Heck, we import oranges from Israel when they are out of season! Absurd. Certainly something to think about.

  4. Timely post, I’ve been a follower of Sarah Wilson as we share the same autoimmune disease! I too have had my third baby and would like to shift some weight but more so I noticed that visitors brought us lots of sugary treats and I noticed my 2 year’s old behaviour from it. Sooo, thank you for a lovely read, I was originally looking for easter crafts…. I look forward to reading your blog for some more sugar free inspiration.

  5. I’m trying to quit sugar too, but not that drastically (shame)… because I don’t like my coffee without sugar (I like it strong) I’m trying tea now (without sugar taste good)… My kids eats looots of sugar!… even-tough they only drink water at home, not juices, and they eat fruits and veggies everyday, the cereal in the morning is a most for them! and a treat after lunch… I don’t know how to replace that (with a small budget)… and my husband is not good example either, he has a sugar issue 🙁 …

    • I used to love my sugar in my coffee and like you, I would have it very strong (still do). I took the sugar out and poured the cream in. Give it a try. It tastes so great, you won’t miss the sugar.

      With cereal Akira, you could try buying Weetbix (low in sugar, there are other brands lower in sugar than Weetbix) or Weeties which have no sugar. What about Porridge, toast, eggs or even leftovers!

      Good luck! x

  6. Great article. I know I feel better when I reduce sugar. But what about alcohol? I like my wine which I know is full of sugar.

  7. Have finally decided to just not have sugar in my house. The main reason I still kept it was for guests for coffee etc. – and if I weigh “guests having sweet coffee” against “healthy children and lifetime healthier eating habits for them”, hm, tough choice.

    The first month that I quit sugar (and went low carb) I also had intense climb-the-wall cravings. Then about a year of very mild cravings. Then basically no cravings. By year three or four, sugary junk started to actually disgust me. I also made an active decision to get used to the taste of coffee without sugar. I’m 40 and I look better and feel better than I ever have.

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