By Reilly Brady
From cookies and candy to ketchup and even bread, added sugar exists in many of the foods we eat on a daily basis. Whether it is a quick snack or a large meal, there is most likely sugar added somewhere in that food. For a week, I decided to give that all up and see how I would fare with no added sugar. Though it felt like one of the longest weeks of my life, I made it all seven days –– with no cheating allowed.
As I began to closely study the ingredients lists on each food or drink item I ate throughout the day, I realized how much sugar I had truly been consuming. My hastily-eaten granola bar each morning was 7 grams of sugar alone. At lunch, two mini sandwiches on Hawaiian rolls meant 5 grams of sugar per roll. Salad dressing at dinner? Another 5 grams. However, where the vast majority of my sugar consumption spiked was not in meals, but in my between-meal sugary snacks and drinks. My beloved Nutella-and-pretzel snack was 21 grams of sugar, and my post-cross country Starbucks strawberry açaí with lemonade reached a shocking 32 grams of sugar. Even worse was dessert: a Trader Joe’s ice cream sandwich — two cookies, vanilla ice cream, and chocolate chips — amounted to a whopping 42 grams of sugar. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended amount of added sugar consumed per day for women is 100 grams. So, with all my meals, snacks, and drinks combined, I was definitely exceeding the limit.
However, I only limited my consumption of added sugar, and I was still able to eat natural sugars. Thanks to fruits and vegetables, I survived the week. With the absence of candy and chocolate, I snacked on grapes and carrots. And without juices and sodas, I made sure to drink more water throughout the day.
During the week, although I often caught myself staring longingly at a friend’s snack shack cookie or gummy worms, I found that, despite my cravings, I was doing well. With each sugarless meal, each day became easier. I realized that as I ate healthier, I felt better.
Though I did notice some changes, these were not life-changing differences. I did not feel a significant energy boost, and I did not feel more awake. However, my main takeaway was that although the challenge to drop added sugars seemed nearly impossible, I did it. Though I did not experience any monumental changes, I learned that it is possible to survive without added sugar.
Despite my promotion of healthier eating, I admit that my first bite of cake to break my sugar fast tasted heavenly. However, I still encourage everyone to try this challenge, as the experience, though taxing, was eye-opening in what I discovered about both myself and how I am affected by what I eat.