Don’t freak out. I realize that the words “low sugar diet” sound like those of a no-fun, whacked-out loon. At least, that’s exactly what I think. And maybe for me the term “lower sugar diet” might be more accurate. I am, after all, still a working pastry chef. And I do live within a mile of Mora Iced Creamery, which is hands-down, the best ice cream shop on the West Coast (check it out, they’ll ship ice cream to you). Trust me, I’ve done my research. I do still consume sugar, just a lot less of it than before.
Like many things in life, this shift to a low sugar diet had the unlikeliest of beginnings. When we moved to the island seven years ago, the only preschool that had a spot for Alexa was the local Waldorf school. On paper, this seemed like a great fit. I like organic food, environmental responsibility and making bread. Why wouldn’t it work out? We jumped right in, and oh boy, it soon became clear we wouldn’t be welcomed into their fold. At first I was perplexed. Could they tell our pre-school ritual included a clothing check for Disney characters or Dora? Is it that big a deal that my 3-year-old would rather practice writing her name than paint with their homemade yellow paint? Then I rebelled. You don’t like us? Fine. Don’t mind that plastic toy I *might* have slipped into my kid’s bag today.
It was at the school’s mandatory parental talk on nutrition (nettle tea, anyone?) that I first heard the comparison of sugar to poison. I think the room could palpably feel my full-body eye roll that followed that pronouncement.
But somehow the idea continued to rattle around in my head. Perhaps it was the quick calculation I made that night to determine my approximate daily sugar intake. (It was more than I wanted to admit.) Or perhaps it was the realization a few years later that my diet might have benefited from a few more nutrients, and a little less refined sugar. Most of this sugar came in the form of cookies or ice cream. At a certain point three years ago I decided that whenever I reached for a cookie, I’d take a cheese stick or vegetable instead. It wasn’t a reduction of inputs as much as an improvement in their quality.
At the outset a big part of me hoped that nothing would change. Then I could happily return to my cookie-eating ways. But I noticed two big changes.
- After the first two or three (rough) weeks, I no longer craved sugar in the same way.
- After the first two or three months, I wasn’t getting sick in the same way.
Following the birth of my children, I found that I caught every single cold they brought home. I was sick all the time. But on the low sugar diet, as the fall and winter months began to roll by, I noticed that though the kids still got sick, I didn’t. And since I didn’t crave the sugar in the same way, it was easy to keep the ball rolling.
In the intervening three years, this has continued to hold true. Yes, I still get sick from time to time but not with the same frequency that I had in the past. And despite the fact that I do have to taste my pastry creations and still sweeten my coffee (let’s be real here), the sugar cravings don’t really exist anymore.
This is by no means a treatise on any one strict way of eating. Though it seems like the sugar industry might have single handedly financed the low fat diet craze, I’d still give a good eye-roll at anyone equating it to pure poison. I’m not all or nothing on anything. I mean, sometimes you just need a Frappuccino. And as soon as the immune system benefit stops working, you’d better believe I’m going back to my cookies. But for now, a low sugar diet still has some upside. Just don’t everyone go adopting it. I still like making pastry for people.