June 19th, 2008

Sugar Highs and Lows

Some of you have been kind enough to ask me for a Diet Coke update, and the news is good. I am coke-free and feeling good. I don’t even think I miss it very much. Well, okay there was that one painful time when I ate a handful of Doritos and the thought, no the need for DC flashed through my brain. But it was a passing pain. I am over it. Moving on. Life is good.

In the comments on my Can Kicking post some of you mentioned that even the “fake” sweetness of diet sodas can increase cravings for sweets and “bad carbs” and wondered if I might notice a difference in my other eating habits as a result of giving up the soda.

I may not be the best test case for this particular study because I cut way back on my bad sugar habits long before giving up diet Coke. I used to live my life from one sugar high to the next. Something about being pregnant many times, though, wakes a person’s body up to these kinds of sugar abuses.

When I was newly pregnant with Raphael and (typically) sick as a dog, I discovered the wonderful power of protein. In proper doses, it could settle my stomach, at least for a bit. It kept me from feeling hungry and held off that awful low blood sugar shakiness and nausea that plagued me when I tried getting by with cookies for breakfast. Lean meats, eggs, nuts, and dairy became my go-to foods. And, when I was feeling better, I added whole grains too.

My diet these days is not perfect (note the Doritos mention above), but it’s a lot closer to normal than it has been in past years. I find that when I make the first move to keep my sugar intake under control, it winds up keeping itself under control. I don’t crave the stuff if I don’t ingest large quantities of it in the first place.

I’d love for us to have some discussions about diet and nutrition. Do you have particular nutrition struggles, thoughts, or questions? Share them here and maybe I can follow up with discussion posts on some of the topics that are brought up.

65 comments to Sugar Highs and Lows

  • Rosita

    I have found one gluten-free blog that I really like. I do not have celiac, but I love finding new recipes and using whole grains. She has a whole section on gluten free flours that I found really interesting. The address is glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com. She is has a real love for life and a great writing style. And her recipes are fantastic. And there are a lot of links to other pages with info and recipes for those with celiac disease.

    As for keeping my diet under control, I completely agree with those who mentioned making your own food. I know when I get a real sweet tooth, I make a batch of cookies or a cake and bring that into work so that I don’t snack on the candy people have out on their desks. That way I am controlling the level of sugar (I also cut sugar in the recipes in half) and I still get to satify my sweet tooth. And as others suggested, adding extras can be a great way to build nutrion. (The last cookies I made, I added walnuts, almond butter, coconut and dried cranberries in addition to the chocolate chips). If I make cookies, I will also freeze them in quart sandwhich bags with about 12 in a bag so that I am not tempted to eat a dozen or so at a time (it has been known to happen) just because they are sitting out.

    I also have problems getting some of my family to eat baked goods that are 100% whole wheat. I find doing half ww and half white flour usually works. The finished baked good is a bit lighter then with all whole wheat, but still far healthier then if it was all white flour. Same with rice, I like brown rice, my husband prefers white, so whoever cooks gets to choose the type of rice. So, while I am definately eating more white rice then I ever used to, I also know that he is eating more brown rice then he ever used to. And that is what marriage is all about right? Finding a working compromise.

  • Like a few others here, I am pregnant and also failed the 1-hour glucose-tolerance test. My doctor’s office told me to go low carb (no sweets — I was big on the regular soda and ice cream, I admit!) the week before the 3-hour test. I passed that just fine (and even felt like I was going to pass out from hunger that last hour! What do they have on the TV in the lab waiting room? The FOOD Network!) I suspected I might have gestational diabetes in the first place, though, because I was just SO TIRED most days after lunch and just dragging all afternoon. So now feeling more energetic has been my motivation to eat better. That and reading about gestational diabetes and how it could affect your baby (and you) on the American Diabetes Association website. Enough to scare me into it! And if I don’t buy something, I won’t eat it; so many times Pop Tarts or ice cream or something like that in my pantry has just been calling me from across the house. Also, I was reminded that my father, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes more than 40 years ago, was motivated to take care of himself by having four (then five when I arrived) young children and realizing he needed to be around to provide for them. He’s done great, living that long with diabetes and having no major problems. You go Dad! I’m trying to make that my motivation as well. Sure I could step out of the house and get hit by a bus tomorrow, but I figure what I put into my body is at least something I can control. Easier said than done; I’m one who knows how to eat, it’s just a matter of doing it (there’s that motto again: JUST DO IT!). I also think you have to see what works for you — I know they say eat more than 2,000 calories while pregnant and nursing, but I think that’s why I gained 75 pounds with my first. If I eat when I’m hungry (and eat WELL at those times) then I do OK. My first was 8 pounds 11 ounces (at 41 weeks) and my second was 10 pounds 3 ounces (at 39 weeks). This baby’s big, too, so I’m lucky in that I don’t have to worry too much about overall calories. Oh, someone asked about good snacks: I like the ol’ “ants on a log” — a stalk of celery with some peanut butter and raisins on top.

  • Joan


    I agree with you. A gluten free diet, is not for everyone. There is nothing wrong with eating wheat as long as your body can tolerate it. We are lucky, in that so many gluten free food products have come out in the past few years. I tend not to buy the cookies and cakes, but once in a while for a party I will bake some cookies or brownies for a special treat. Living gluten free is a way of life that is different than most, but it is worth the benefits for me.

  • I’m coming into this conversation a little late, but nutrition is a subject that has basically over taken my life, so I thought I’d add my two cents to the conversation 🙂

    Most eating disorders start out as “diets.” If you’re at a healthy BMI and at an acceptable percent body fat, please do not try to lose a few pounds, even if doing so wouldn’t necessarily make you under weight.

    If your BMI is too high, or if you have been diagnosed with an illness that requires a change in your dietary habits (high blood pressure of diabetes, for example) please please please meet with a registered dietitian who can help you develope a healthy new lifestyle plan, NOT a diet.

    Dietitians are experts on nutrition and actually know more about it than most doctors. Meet with your dietitian on a regular basis, even if it is only once every eight weeks. Doing so will a) help keep you accountable, b) make sure that you are still on the right track, and c) nip any disordered eating/exercise behaviors in the bud, before they turn into a full-blown eating disorder.

    Eating disorders were once thought to be something that only teenage girls suffered with. Unfortunatly, there has recently been an alarming rise in the number of very young girls (8-12) and middle aged women (40+) diagnosed with eating disorders. I have been in treatment numerous times and I have met patients with eating disorders as young as 6 and as old as 60.

    My point of this long, somewhat off topic comment, is that the most important thing to strive for is health, not a *magic number* on the scale. It is so important for mothers to model appropriate and healthy behaviors around food and exercise to their daughters.

  • Anonymous

    The other Lisa in Texas

    What I would like to know is how to feed a family of 9 (some with food allergies that preclude nuts, peanuts, soy, eggs and wheat) how to feed the family cheaply, healthily AND with some convenience since homeschooling and fixing sometimes two or three versions of the same meal to accomodate allergies is time consuming. Are there any good websites for frugal organic/healthy cooking in somewhat large quantity (as a good dinner usually makes a good lunch the next day!)?

    Anybody use agave for a sweetener? What is your take on that?

  • Mom 2 eight

    Hi Danielle,
    I too changed the way I ate within the last few years and have noticed a huge difference. I am 34 and expecting our 8th baby. My doctor introduced me to protein shakes and what a difference it makes in the morning when all is hectic and I need to eat something healthy. I learned to have the same thing for breakfast each morning and I am actually quite satisfied for about 4 hours. I invested in a magic bullet mixer and I purchase my protein from Nutrition Express(Lindberg’s natural whey,they have vanilla and chocolate) I throw in almonds,skim milk,frozen berries(love blueberries) and apple pectin(makes you feel full)…I also take my prenatals,fish oil(one with high epa and dha’s extra b’s, folic acid,and vitamin e(for my varicose veins)I have LOTS of steady energy and require only about 6 hours of sleep and nap daily (15-20 minutes works wonders) I still exercise about 4-5 times per week and strength train never lifting more than 3 lbs but do hundreds of reps while walking….
    hope this helps….

  • Mary Russell

    I am sorry to say something a bit critical about this blog, but it strikes me how much sugary eating the Bean family does- carrot cake for breakfast, making cookies on an ordinary weekday night, etc.
    I am trying to make sugar a special treat with my kid (a 1 year old), rather than a daily occurrence. He has never had juice, eats sugar-free yogurt with gusto, and rarely has cookies. I follow a clean diet as well, something I started about 5 years ago, immediately losing 2 dress sizes. Snacking between meals is, I think, key. We were not meant to go 6-7 hours between meals.

  • MotherofMany

    Mary, sweetie … You are making me smile. You have one kid. He’s one year old. We all do the Sugar-Nazi thing with our first babies. By the time you get to baby number 4, 5, 6 …, you realize the value of making some concessions and living a little. “Cookies on an ordinary weeknight” can be a special treat that isn’t going to mess up anyone’s diet for life. What can mess up someone’s diet for life is treating sugar and/or fat as a forbidden fruit — I knew a girl in high school whose mother was super-strict with her family’s diet and she used to binge eat when she went babysitting or visited friends’ houses. Not exactly healthy behavior.

  • Easy there, Mary R. — it’s not any of our business to know or comment on how much sugar the Beans eat. Sheesh.

    Sarah L. — I actually haven’t read Michael Pollan (not yet, anyway), but I know a little about his books. I found Gary Taubes’ recent book on diet and health really interesting, as he traces the history of the science involved, going back more than a century.

    MotherofMany — I would agree that sugar doesn’t need to be forbidden, but being strict about something doesn’t guarantee that your kids are going to rebel when they leave the house. There are a lot of things that we have to be “strict” about as parents; hopefully the kids will grow to understand our reasons. Communication helps, of course.

    The real issue is, just how harmful is sugar? I think it’s pretty bad stuff, but reasonable people can disagree on this. As for fat, I’ve already mentioned that I don’t believe it’s harmful.

  • Gina

    I don’t think sugar is “bad”. Food is food. Everything in moderation is not harmful. Our family eats sugar in moderation and all of my six kids are of a healthy weight and are detached from food. In fact, my daughter can look at her Easter candy for months before she starts eating it. They don’t have any hang ups with food.

  • Gina

    By the way, it get harder to control every aspect of your child’s life as they get older. Someone else will probably give them sugar even if you don’t. There are some things I had to just give up on as my kids aged, and since sugar isn’t immoral, this is one thing that I decided to not worry about so much. There are PLENTY of other things in the world to worry about and I don’t want to restrict my kids from doing everything. Blessings!

  • Gina — your response is a reasonable one, given the mixed messages we’ve been given about diet and nutrition over the past few decades. I’ll just say that it’s a good thing that researchers and the public health authorities have done a better job with the (less complex) issue of tobacco; otherwise, most of us would still believe (as the public once did) that smoking is a pretty harmless pleasure.

    The fact remains that we have abnormally high rates of some serious diet-related health conditions in this country. Something’s causing this, despite the fact that most of us feel that we eat “moderate” diets.

  • Joan

    Oh my Mary! You sound like me when I had my first child. By the time number 3 came I was much more lenient, but sugar was never out of control. My kids always complained that they were the only ones not allowed to eat fruit snacks. Gee, none of them had cavities, and none of them have weight problems. They all know how to eat healthy. The key here is not to be so strict that they rebel.

  • Carrot cake, cookies, whatever… the Bean family looks pretty healthy to me!

  • Mary Russell

    I knew I’d get a few condescending replies to my post- “you only have one child, wait until you have 10”, etc, but really- strictness with diet is something I grew up with and, consequently, I never really had a problem with my weight. We Americans eat far more sugar than we ought, and I doubt I will sway from my principles with the arrival of more children. Ryan makes several excellent points about the need for rules and strictness in several areas of child-rearing, not just avoidance of processed foods and sugar. And btw, the canard that children will get sugar from other sources if not from you is true of many other areas- television watching, video-game playing, drug and alcohol use. Does the fact that our kid could get to watch violent movies at neighbor x’s house mean that we should be providing them opportunities to do the same in ours? No. Nor does it mean that they’ll be addicted to violent entertainment later on in life if they aren’t exposed to it early on in our homes.
    Junk food, low-brow movies and other entertainment, video games are all OK in limited quantities, but the carrot-cake-for-breakfast thing and cookies every day of the week is not for me.

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