God bless my mom, I grew up in a household where I don’t think I knew what soda was until I was 6, I took all natural, no sugar peanut butter and fruit sweetened jelly sandwiches on whole wheat bread to school for years. It was always water or milk to drink with the occasional offering of “real fruit” fruit juice. I think it was grandmother who first introduced me to Fruit Loops and Fresca, God bless her, she did add some balance to my eating repertoire eventually.
Over the years, I learned to be a relatively normal and balanced eater, or so I thought. It wasn’t until I was in my early 40’s, well, 40 to be exact, that I realized what I was eating had a tremendous impact on my body. I traveled for work for years and always tried to eat what I thought were healthy foods, however, I didn’t read labels or really understand what was in the foods being served to me when I ate in restaurants.
When my body started to rebel, I knew I had to figure out what it meant to really eat healthy. I went back to the basics – I needed to understand what was in the food I was eating! That meant reading labels and asking questions and truly learning what made up a healthy diet.
I started with getting rid of sugar – I was on a quest to find all of the foods in my kitchen that had a form of sugar in it…and when I got done, I basically had nothing left!!! So, off I went to Whole Foods – and I started reading labels. It took me 3 hours to get less than a weeks’ worth of food. I am not sure how many times I was asked if I needed help, but I would politely decline and just tell them I was on a quest for foods with no sugar. I’m not sure how many times I got laughed at as they all wished me good luck and sometimes did offer a few suggestions – all with the disclaimer that the food likely tasted like crap.
I learned where there were hidden sugars and started to cut them out. I found it interesting that as I cut out sugar, the less my body wanted it. I ended up going almost a year completely sugar free. What I also learned was that I never wanted to give up ketchup or real maple syrup ever again!
So you ask “where do I start” and I will tell you to start reading – read every label you can – ask questions of your server if you are out at a restaurant if you are so inclined. Start by looking for salad dressings with olive oil and no sugar. Start by replacing your jams and jellies with the fruit sweetened kind and get an unsweetened nut butter. Get the unsweetened coconut or almond milk. Look for cereals with coconut sugar instead of cane sugar or brown rice syrup.
Begin your journey by becoming educated on what you are putting in your body. Remember, it is not about being perfect, it is about balance and taking one step at a time to empowering positive change in your life!
If you want to read more about sugar hidden in plain site, please check out http://www.sugarscience.org/hidden-in-plain-sight/#.V_FMtfkrLX4