Article and photo by Lisa Crockett
It’s that time of year when I stock up on candy for little ghosts and goblins, where there is sugar in every nook and cranny of my life. It’s one of my favorite times of year, except that my initial supply of goodies for the trick-or-treaters has never actually gone in anyone’s treat bucket, ahem. I decided this year would be different though, and am embarking on a 30-day sugar fast. For 30 consecutive days, I won’t be consuming any food with added sugar (so foods with naturally-occurring sugar like fruits and veggies are okay). During this month, which is sort of an ode to the glories of all things processed and sweet, I’ll be abstaining, thank you very much.
I love sugar almost as much as I love oxygen, so this fast is a real challenge. I’ve done it before, however, so I have some idea of what I’m up against. If this go-round is anything like the sugar fasts I’ve done before, I expect the strongest cravings will hit during the first few days, and then again as I near the finish line, particularly as store displays feature tasty fun-sized goodies ever more prominently as the big day approaches. Some of my friends have questioned whether October is the best month to embark on such a quest, but to my way of thinking, it’s actually an optimum time. By leaving sugar alone for several weeks, I’ll really be able to enjoy something tasty at the end of my journey, and I’ll be much more likely to keep my consumption in check if I don’t have all month to indulge. It’s also a great way to gear up for the coming holiday gauntlet of delicious, once-a-year treats, which will start to appear soon.
It’s surprising how many foods contain added sugar. Almost anything that comes in a package or can has some of the stuff, and many recipes for savory foods (chili and spaghetti sauce, for instance) often call for sugar, so I not only have to think about what I buy at the store, but also what I use in the kitchen. While I don’t want to simply replace packaged indulgences with natural ones, there are a few health-promoting substitutions I have found to help me kick my craving for all things sweet and sugary. Fresh fruit, particularly apples this time of year, is my first line of defense when what I really, really want is a Snickers bar. No sugar usually also means little or no bread (nearly every commercially-produced kind of bread has added sugar and the ones that don’t tend to have the flavor of a kitchen sponge) so I think about adding a little brown rice to give my diet the starchy satisfaction I need. My favorite secret weapon in the fight against sugar is sweet potatoes. They taste rich and creamy, they have abundant natural sweetness, and they add an element of satisfaction to almost any dish. When I’m off sugar, I peel, cube, and roast a batch every week and then store them in the fridge to toss into salads or lettuce wraps. In a real emergency, I eat them straight, reveling in their tasty goodness, knowing I’m consuming a reasonable amount of calories along with lots of nutrients and a good bit of fiber.
Breakfast without cereal, toast, jam, pancakes or waffles can be a bit grim, but sweet potatoes are a lifesaver here too. If you roast the potatoes ahead of time, making what I call a “breakfast stack” takes just minutes, tastes great, and will give you a satisfying meal that will keep your tummy happy and comfortable until lunch time. Eat this dish regularly for the next 30 days, and you’ll be ready for a fun, guilt-free splurge on the 31st of the month.
Roasted sweet potato breakfast stack
If you like, roast extra sweet potatoes for easy meal additions at any time of day
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 pound breakfast sausage, regular or low-fat
4 eggs, cooked according to your preference
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with the olive oil until well coated, then spread in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Roast until the potatoes are soft and tender. Cook breakfast sausage and drain, then set it aside, reserving a tablespoon or so of fat in the pan. Cook eggs (scrambled or fried) in the reserved sausage fat. Divide the sweet potatoes and sausage onto two plates and top each plate with two eggs. Serve hot.