Shaking the Sugar Habit (and a recipe)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


You might know that over the last year, I've been going more and more paleo.

I'm at the point now where I can't even remember the last time I had a sandwich or bowl of pasta.  I used to LOVE grains.  I could eat an entire baguette with jam in one sitting.  I'm happy to report I don't miss them at all now. AT ALL. 

But sugary pastries, candy and coffee drinks?  Ummm...I'm actually sipping on an iced mocha right now.  I set some sugar rules for myself, but to be honest, I probably break these rules more than I keep them.

These are my sugar rules: 
1. One dessert per day
2. No sweets before 2 solid meals.
3. If I'm having a nighttime sugar craving, drink tea and get to bed as soon as possible.
4. I'm allowed 2 coffee shop drinks per week, and they don't have to count as my dessert for the day.

Some people might find these rules very liberal, and maybe a little silly.  But to a sugar addict like myself, it takes so much will power to obey them. I sometimes wake up in the morning wanting See's candy for breakfast, so to force myself to eat two healthy meals before I can indulge is very very difficult. And sugar is just so hard to eat in moderation.  if there is sugar in the house, it's on my radar all day long.


I'm almost afraid to write this because it makes it real, but my new goal is to be *practically sugar free by 2013. Why?

  • Sugar is terribly addicting.  
  • It's horrible for my teeth and liver. 
  • I get a strange buzz in my temples and severe stomach cramps if I eat too much of it.  
  • It feeds cancer cells.  
  • In large amounts, sugar can be so toxic, some researchers believe it should be regulated like alcohol or cigarettes (the libertarian in me totally disagrees with this solution.)
  • Most importantly, I want to be a good role model for Sisi.  Whatever she sees me eating, she wants. 
Ok, so I've set the goal, and I really believe in the goal.  Stop eating sugar! Just STOP IT. Easy, right? No.
My husband dropped sugar cold turkey years ago.  That's just the way he works- he's more black and white about diet. But for me, I have to be more strategic.  I need a game plan to wean me off of it.  Hopefully next year I'll be as ambivalent about sugar as I am about bread or pasta. I'll report back to you on that. 


I've noticed that I have sugar cravings at 10am, 4 pm, and 9pm.  Like clockwork, those are the times when I reach for the cookie jar.  I just have to get through each craving, one by one. I have to fool myself a little bit. 

  • 10am craving hits:  retaliate with 1/2 cup of organic coffee or tea with a spoonful of xylitol or erythritol, and a splash of heavy cream.  Feels like a treat, tastes sweet and delicious and keeps me occupied until lunch time. I'll do a separate post about xylitol and erythritol, for those of you who've never heard of it or think they sound like some creepy chemicals. (It's funny, I read an article called "The Dangers of Erythritol", and the only "dangers" it listed was possible gassiness and stomach gurgling sounds if eaten in large amounts.  Run for your lives!!!!!!!!!)
  • 4pm craving hits:  By then, I've had my two solid healthy meals, so I'm technically allowed to have a dessert.  I used to grab a pastry from a coffee shop, a bowl of ice cream, or (way too many) cookies from the pantry. Now I always have sugar free, gluten free paleo cookies on hand.  I even keep a few in my purse in case I'm tempted to make a sharp turn into the Sprinkles Cupcakes parking lot. They are so filling, so I am satisfied with just one or two, and I don't feel that awful sugar buzz afterward.   These cookies are like a "nicotine patch"- they get me through the craving.  Recipe below.
  • 9pm craving hits:  I drink some plain herbal tea.  I find that the smell and warmth of the tea is comforting enough to distract me until the craving passes. Even better to add a pinch of cinnamon, which helps fight sugar cravings even more. Before I know it, it's time for bed, and I've made it through the day, practically sugar free!

I've stuck to this plan fairly well for the last two weeks. My clothes fit better. I tried on bright blue skinny jeans yesterday and I actually bought them without hesitation because they looked nice.  For a pear shaped girl, that's saying a LOT.  But even more importantly, I don't have sugar on the brain constantly.  This is the closest I've come to being truly paleo, and I feel GREAT. 

Soooo Scrumptious Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Baker Gal's recipe)

Baker Gal's done a lot of research on paleo cookies.  After comparing 6 different paleo chocolate chip cookie recipes and not loving any of them, she decided to come up with her own.  It really is the best I've tried.  However, I'm not big on agave nectar (very high in fructose), and I try to limit my honey intake (it gives me that same weird head buzzing that sugar does).  I made a few changes to suit my own version of the paleo diet, and it's super yummy! 

Here's her recipe (my  changes are in bold.

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, Makes 16-20

5 oz (1 1/4 cups) very finely ground blanched almond flour (I used JK Gourmet)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used finely ground sea salt b/c it's better for you and so tasty in desserts)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup raw agave nectar (I used 1/4 c. pure maple syrup with 3 tbs erythritol or xylitol mixed in)
1/8 cup macademia nut oil (link goes to amazon)
1 tsp vanilla extract
A scant 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips.(This is the only blatantly non-paleo part of the recipe- I put a mere 3 or 4 semi-sweet chips in each cookie after shaping it on the cookie sheet.  You can buy a super dark chocolate bar and crush it into chunks if you really want to go sugar free.) 
I added a handful of chopped pecans, too, to make these cookies more filling.
ingredients- some are a little hard to track down, some are pricey.  it's worth it!
  • Heat oven to 325.
  • Mix almond flour, salt, and baking soda well. In a small bowl, mix maple syrup, erythritol, Macadamia nut oil, and vanilla. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing well. Batter should be thick enough that you can roll a small ball between your palms and set it on the cookie sheet without it drooping or losing shape. Add a handful of nuts.  
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients together.
  • Make 16 - 20 small balls of cookie dough and space them evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the cookies down as flat as possible with the palm of your hand. This is important! The cookies will NOT spread out on their own.
  • You need to squish these yourself- they don't change shape after baking.
  • Rather than mix chocolate chips into the dough, I press 3 or 4 chocolate chips into each cookie.
  • Bake about 6 minutes. Watch closely and remove when the edges start to brown. . . they could be done at 4 minutes or at 8 minutes depending on the size of the cookie and your oven calibration. 
  • This is how many cookies I got from doubling the recipe.
Big thanks to Baker Gal for creating the original recipe!  Your cookies are helping me achieve my goal of being sugar free by 2013!!!

*I say "practically sugar free" because I plan on eating things like wedding cake, thai food, and ketchup from time to time.  There is sugar hidden everywhere (especially if you eat out!), so I don't want to go insane trying to eliminate it completely. But no more blatant everyday sugar binges.  That was soooo 2011.


Haley McAdams February 21, 2012 at 7:34 AM  

Amazingly easy and really looks delicious. I'm definitely craving for a plate of that right now. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe. This is definitely a must do recipe this weekend since I got my Alcohol Server Certification.

Sarah February 21, 2012 at 8:46 AM  

I know I shouldn't think this way, but all rules are off when I'm pregnant lol. Those cookies look soooooo good. =)

- Sarah

Rachel February 21, 2012 at 12:45 PM  

Your strategy sounds great, Kris!

I go through phases where I have severe sugar problems. I can go for weeks without any sweets (I do eat ketchup, etc, so I'm never truly sugar free) and then the craving hits and I find myself eating straight sugar. So embarrassing.

I don't keep treats in the house and I have certain things that are just off limits (candy bowl at the office, candy bars in the checkout line).

I just made myself a dorky spreadsheet where I have to keep track of my daily health stuff. I can check off my exercise and vitamins and I have to write in my desserts if I ate anything sweet. I'm hoping that seeing a month at a time in black and white will help me stay on track!

Sarah February 22, 2012 at 10:57 AM  

Hello my dear. I tagged you on my blot today =)

- Sarah

Joe Branca February 22, 2012 at 4:15 PM  

You go wifey!

I'm excited about the prospect of more people heading in the direction of real food. As soon as there's a goal in sight to match cravings with actual biological needs -- i.e. fueling ourselves right -- then it becomes natural habit to continually pursue positive change that will protect us from poor health even into later years.

Of course this requires a radical new thought about old problems, to challenge the mindset that food choices are innocent matters of preference instead of the road to vitality or illness.

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