Healthier Alternatives – My Sugar Free Adventure

I am laughing to myself while I think how to phrase this. What do you call someone who eats generally well, but wants to kick it up a notch? Am I on a health kick? I’m not sure (chuckling), but what I am sure of is I need full energy to keep up with my life right now and I wasn’t feeling it. I have been blaming my lack of sleep for months. Baby will be one year old next month and he still wakes up at least three times each night. So I haven’t had more than 3 hours straight sleep in about a year. Still, I’ve been here before (a few times) and felt clear headed, full of energy and joy. After a full week of feeling just about the opposite I knew it was time.  I am also very blessed to have been reminded of this by a friend or two who has been there done that.

Heart Shaped Almond my Brownie Boy gave me the other day.

Heart Shaped Almond my Brownie Boy gave me the week of Valentines Day. The “found” gifts from children are so sweet. *LOVE*

For those of you who have never struggled with food cravings skip to the good information and fantastic recipes below. For those of you who have struggled with cravings you might like to read here you are not alone. I didn’t even know I had a sugar/carbohydrate food addiction until I was an adult. Most people might just say they get cravings, but for me it wasn’t just a little something. It was a something that made me feel like I needed to have sugar or carbohydrate food that I didn’t need. That is an addiction. I am very sensitive to this type of behavior because I grew up in a family where nearly everyone was addicted to alchohol or drugs. Since I was very young I have purposed to not be controlled by any addiction. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that food can be addictive. Especially the processed stuff we call food in every grocery store today. I also learned that the only way to fight my addiction was to not partake at all for long periods of time. That may sound easy, but it hasn’t always felt easy for me. It may sound too difficult, but it is much easier than you might think once you are not craving those type of foods.

berreis in jarBack to real time. Two weeks ago I went off sugar/processed foods. I am still enjoying healthy fresh fruit and frozen berries in my yogurt, oats and smoothies, but no more processed sugar. At least for awhile. I had two days of feeling aweful and then woke up day three full of energy and clear headed. I knew that it was right around the corner, but boy those two days were rough. I actually woke up at 5:30 am naturally just a few days ago. Normally I have to drag myself out of bed about one hour later. Eating low glycemic foods helps me sleep better when I do sleep. I am having a much easier time keeping up with my four little Brownies and baby Brownie, home schooling them, working at Brown Box and doing all the other life things that I enjoy and want to have energy for. I am so very thankful!

Are you looking to boost your energy? Here are some great tips that might help you no matter where you are at with your health and diet.

Often people don’t know exactly where to start in making healthier food choices.  Here are some ideas:

1. Eat more plants to be sure you are getting the best nutrients for your body.  Add dark leafy greens like kale or swiss chard to soups and stews.

2. Choose the majority of foods as whole, fresh, organic, local, seasonal and unprocessed and eliminate refined, processed foods with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats.  For example, choose an organic apple instead of apple juice.

3. Get your healthy fats from plant sources such as nuts and avocados.  Minimize “extracted” oils and processed fats.

4. Select  leaner meats and seafood, as well as lower fat dairy products. Build your menus around using smaller amounts of meat, and greater amounts of vegetables.

5. Choose nutrient-dense foods with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants. 

It’s important to eat 12-20 grams of protein at each meal, particularly breakfast.  So, if you choose to eat more vegetables, be sure to check the amount of protein you are getting on a daily basis.  A good website for vegetable recipes and information is  Like everything else, a healthy diet needs to be customized to your own health needs and status, so consult a licensed health care practitioner to help you make individualized choices.

Instead of                                           Eat

Wheat bread, rolls, buns                                  Whole grain, spelt bread

Bagels                                                  Whole grain bagels

Enriched flour                                     Whole wheat, spelt, or rye flour

Pastries and cakes                                Fruit squares sweetened with juice, 100% fruit leathers

Donuts and packaged cookies             Whole grain cookies and muffins

Commercial breakfast cereals              Steamed whole grains (rice, millet etc.)

Packaged pancake mix                                    Whole grain waffles and pancakes

Commercial pancake syrup                 Maple syrup, fresh fruit and yogurt, fruit puree

Pasteurized milk                                  Raw milk, goat milk, keifer, soy milk,                                                                nut milk, soy cheese, yogurt cheese,                                                       goat cheese, feta, mozarrella

Margarine                                            1 cup butter mixed with 1 cup olive oil

Milkshakes                                          Smoothies made with nut/soy /rice milk

Commercial ice cream                         Homemade ice cream, fruit sorbets, frozen fruit juice, smoothies

Coffee                                                 Teas, herbal teas, postum, inka,

Soda pop, carbonated drinks

and/or alcohol                               Diluted fruit juice, spring water, mineral water

Cocoa                                                  Carob sweetened with honey

Sugar                                                   Molasses, maple syrup, honey, malt syrup, agave,                                                    rice syrup, stevia

Candy                                                  Whole fruit, unsulfured dried fruit, nuts, seeds

Jello and pudding                                Fruit and nut smoothies

Commercial popcorn, chips                 Air popped popcorn, shelled nuts and seeds

Instead of                                                 Eat

Salt                                                      Sea salt, kelp, brewer’s yeast, herbs, Liquid Aminos

White flour pasta                                 Soy, corn, spelt, or whole grain macaroni, spinach,                                                           rice, quinoa, amaranth pastas

White flour tortillas                              Whole wheat tortillas, spelt or corn tortillas

White flour sauces                               Arrowroot, tapioca, or rice polishings to thicken

White rice                                            Brown, basmati or texmati rice

Saltine or oyster crackers                     Whole grain, rice crackers or rice cakes

Lard, hydrogenated oils*                     Cold pressed, olive, sunflower, etc. vegetable oils

Fried foods                                          Broil, poach, steam, stew or bake

Luncheon meats or canned meat                      Bean, hummus,  and/or vegetable spread

Hamburgers                                         Gardenburgers, Boca Burgers, etc.

Beef, pork, veal                                                Lean fish, fowl, lamb, wild game

Ketchup                                               Unprocessed tomato juice or sauce

Commercial soy sauce                          Tamari (naturally fermented soy sauce), Liquid Aminos

Commercial peanut butter                    Freshly ground peanut butter/almond butter and/or sesame butter (tahini)

*coconut oil is a healthier choice for a variety of reasons

Best foods to buy Organic:  Meats, dairy, celery, peaches, strawberries, applies, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes and imported grapes. (Source:  Environmental Working Group)

                                                                            Italian Spaghetti

1 package Italian Herb Spaghetti sauce mix

1 6 oz. can tomato paste

1 cup cooked Italian Sausage

4 oz. Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta (instead of 1 oz, can use 2 oz. dry per person)

Follow preparation instructions on sausage package and add italian sausage.  May garnish with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Nutritional analysis:  per serving:  413 calories,  13 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 24 g cholesterol, 856 mg sodium, 63 g carbohydrates, 7 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 14 g protein.

Thai Noodle Salad

1 8-oz. package brown rice spaghetti                                ¼ cup peanut butter

3 cups shredded napa cabbage (or used regular)           2 tablespoons tahini

4 large carrots, shredded                                                   ¼ cup rice wine vinegar

1 small green pepper—chopped/diced                              ¼ cup sweet chili sauce

2 small sweet pepper (any color) —chopped/diced       5 T. Tamari soy sauce

1 tsp. sesame oil                                       1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tsp. brown sugar                                 1 bunch fresh green onions, chopped

1 tsp. garlic powder

½ cup chopped peanuts                                                     1 tsp. sea salt

2 T. toasted black (used regular)sesame seeds                  1 tsp. ground black pepper

Optional:  8 oz. frozen cooked shrimp, thawed and drained

Break pasta into small pieces and cook in boiling water 8-10 minutes, aldente.  Drain, and toss together with cabbage, carrots, peppers, ½ of the cilantro, ½ of the onions and (optional) shrimp.  In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter, tahini, rice wine vinegar and sweet chili sauce. Season with soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Ten minutes before serving, toss the sauce with cabbage mixture until evenly coated.  Garnish with remaining cilantro, green onions, peanuts and sesame seeds.

Nutritional analysis: (Makes approximately 14 servings, with shrimp) per serving:  141 calories, 5.7  g fat, 23 mg cholesterol, 473 mg sodium, 16.4 g carbohydrate, 2.6 g fiber, 7.6 g protein.

Originally Posted January 2011. Information provided by:

Dr. Karen Benton, Naturopathic Physician


About Rachel

Owner @ Brown Box Organics.
This entry was posted in Cabbage, Carrot, Celery, Diet, Greens, Onion, Peppers, Spinach and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Healthier Alternatives – My Sugar Free Adventure

  1. Amber Herrick says:

    Hi Rachel, I found myself addicted to processed food, too. It was so shocking to me because I’ve always thought of myself as more health-conscious. Over the past few years, my health according to my yearly blood tests has been suffering. I found myself with high triglycerides, high cholesterol, high liver enzymes and high blood pressure. I was wanting naps every afternoon and my stomach size and weight was going up regularly, even with daily exercise and no changes in diet. I didn’t find my doctor’s advice to be much help, so I decided to do some research on my own. I’ve learned many helpful things, but am still trying to put some pieces of the puzzle together.

    This past September, I cut out processed foods, dairy, and wheat because of what I’ve learned about the liver. There is a doctor in Phoenix who specializes and writes about the role of the liver in our everyday health. The symptoms I described above are all symptoms of a struggling liver, according to her! I have followed her dietary suggestions. Since doing this, I have lost 20lbs, do not desire an afternoon nap anymore, have returned to a normal blood pressure, and my stomach has shrunken in size. I need to go to the doctor to get my blood levels rechecked, so I can’t report on that yet. When starting these changes I had headaches and tiredness and strong cravings that lasted for several days, but then went away. I still struggle with cravings sometimes (part of the addiction, I think!)

    I agree with you about a plant based diet. That is what I now do. I use meat (and very rarely cheese) as a flavoring to my salads or soups. I eat eggs and spinach/banana smoothies for breakfast. I drink mostly drink water and tea.

    So this is what I have figured out:
    1. We need a lot of unprocessed plant based foods! This includes unprocessed legumes and grains.
    2. We need both raw and cooked vegetables at every meal.
    3. Processed foods stresses the liver. Natural foods cleanse it, along with other organs.

    What I am still trying to understand:
    1. Dairy-cow’s milk products. I am not convinced it is the best source of calcium. It is pasturized which I think destroys a lot of it’s nutrients. And many people cannot digest it easily. I have eliminated it from my diet, but buy it for my family.
    2, Sugar gets a lot of blame. But I wonder if it is more the type of sugar and amount we consume. Many commercial sugar are made from beet sugar, not cane. I only buy C&H cane sugar and use it sparingly. Everyone now knows the dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup. So I’m still trying to figure sugar/substitutes out, but what I am doing now is working well for me.
    3. Wheat. I only use White Whole Wheat now, and use it sparingly. I think how it is manufactured makes a difference. The wheat plant has been altered to grow more faster and to be resistant to bugs and disease (I learned this from the book Wheat Belly). I’m wondering if that is why people are having a harder time digesting it. Also, does soaking or sprouting grains make them easier to digest and better for you, as some suggest?
    4. GMO Corn and eating meat that as been fed it. What the animals eat, so do we. It will affect us, in my opinion.
    5. Almonds. I’ve been using almond milk I place of cow’s milk, but have found out that there are US regulations that require almonds to be pasteurized. I don’t know if that affects the nutrition of the almonds.

    Here are some resources you might be interested in: (a blog of a woman whose family gave up processed food) (the liver doctors website and her opinion on dairy) (have you read this book?)

    Sorry this post is so long. I have a strong interest in nutritional health. Thanks for sharing your food journey.


    • Rachel says:

      Hi Amber,

      Thank you for all of our insights. I really appreciate you taking time to share what you are learning. I did want to make comments or two in reply and let you know I will look into all the great resources you shared.

      I have learned that we can’t assume what is good for one is good for another. For example I know many people who seem to have no problem digesting pasteurized milk. I know many who do. Some of those can tolerate raw milk and some can’t. There are many places we can find calcium instead of cows milk. Even the old go to milk replacement almond milk has a lot more calcium than cow’s milk. Many common plant sources provide more than adequate calcium. It sounds like you are sorting out what is good for your body. I read an interesting article written by a friend awhile back that got me researching dairy and milk. You might like it also:

      Second, I wanted to share my personal experience with wheat. After the birth of my fourth little Brownie I found myself waking up feeling bloated most days. My fingers hurt and felt like balloons. I tried increasing my intake (through real food) of several nutrients thinking I might just be depleted after carrying a baby, but nothing changed. I went on a diet of elimination cutting out all gains and sugar for four months. After four months of being “clean” I started adding them back in. What I found was that wheat seemed to be the culprit. Not all wheat, though. Sprouted wheat didn’t affect me. All processed wheat did. So I have tried to steer clear of that for the most part. I didn’t eat any for about two years. On the occasion that I have eaten refined flour foods since I almost always wake up swollen the next day. Clearly, my body knows the difference.

      Great chatting with you!


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