Preparing for the Sugar Free Challenge

We already have well over a hundred people planning on doing the sugar free challenge for a week next Monday. That’s great! I have gotten so many questions from you all, I am afraid I won’t be able to answer all of them today. But I thought the most important aspect to talk about today was preparation as well as a few other details. By the way, I am a little behind in adding people into the challenge, but I will finish adding you all in tonight and of course people are welcome to join in at any point!

So here it goes.

The goal: My personal goal is more long term with the challenge. As I shared earlier, Elena is sensitive to too many sweets. So for her sake, we will cut out most sugar forming food for a while. My goal for my blog challenge is to reduce sugar consumption and bring awareness to this important issue. I will be blogging more about why this is so important next week. But I think most of us know why we should avoid too many sweets.

Why The Different Levels?

I realize that some of us need to make more dramatic changes than others. Some of you need to just make that first step and cut out white sugar and white flour. That is a big step for a lot of us. But if we set the goal too high (as in, cutting out all starches too), people will get overwhelmed and not change anything. I bet you all will find that cooking with natural sweeteners is quite fun. At least, I think it is!

The moderate level is a great level to be in. Fulfill your sweet tooth with fruit and you get the health benefits of fruit while still eating sweet things.

The Advanced Level is mostly for those who already eat a white sugar and white flour free diet on a regular basis. They eat a pretty sugar free diet already, but perhaps still have a few lingering sugar cravings or yeast issues. Going on a yeast free diet for a week isn’t going to solve any deep set issues, but it’s the first step in the right direction.

I was a little vague on what was allowed on this level and that was because there are different opinions on what a yeast free diet should look like. There’s the GAPS and SCD diet which basically removes all starches and limits you to food that breaks down into mono-sugars, but in the full diet does allow some fruit and honey. There’s The Body Ecology Diet which practices food combining, allows buckwheat, millet, and quinoa, but doesn’t allow any fruit or honey. There is also more traditional yeast free diets, which allows some higher glycemic grains (like brown rice). The point is this, there is more than one way to do a yeast free diet. And there are people who have done all of the different diets with success. I won’t dictate the exact guidelines for you, you just choose what you want to follow.

Two General Rules to Keep in Mind

However. there are two rules that I think would be helpful for all the levels.

1) Reduce sugar forming foods

2)Add in Cultured or Lact-Fermenting Foods (lacto-fermented sauerkraut, coconut or milk kefir, sugar free, live culture yogurt, etc)

Yeast free diets in the past just tried to starve the yeast out. Now the good yeast free diets (like the Body Ecology Diet and the GAPS diet) are more proactive by adding in foods that actually feed the good bacteria in your body. The other plus is that eating foods like this actually helps you deal with sugar cravings!

On my resource page you will find a great source for buying water kefir grains, yogurt starts, lacto-fermenting supplies, and other helpful cultures. I would order soon, if you want to use any of them this next week. But consider starting to lact-ferment on a regular basis. It’s so good for you! You can also buy already fermented vegetables and dressings (check it out here). The lacto-fermented dressings are nice because they are very mild. Not sour at all.

Shopping List and Recipe Ideas

If you are in the beginner level, start gathering natural sweeteners and looking up recipes. You can find a lot of different ideas on my recipe index page, look under baked goods and desserts. Have a few sweet things on hand, but also concentrate on food that’s not so sweet.

If you are in the moderate level, pick out some yummy fresh fruit. You can also get dried fruit (which is still quite high in sugars) to sweeten things, like soaked oatmeal.. Instead of having cold cereal, have hot cereal or smoothies.

If you are in the more advanced level, breakfasts are probably the trickiest meal. When we’re on really strict sugar free diets, we usually eat eggs and veggies (there are so many ways to enjoy eggs too). Or even leftovers, like soup.

Basically, everyone should concentrate on vegetables and high quality protein sources. That’s easy enough.

I find that my three year old loves zucchini, so we buy a lot of them normally. Made like this is especially good. Broccoli is also a favorite. Sweeter vegetables, like carrots (pan fried, buttery carrots are good) or squash are good too. We really like butternut squash fries and just had them last night! Avocados are really nice too. They are filling, rich, and satisfying. Japanese style Avocado is lovely. Cucumber slices are a nice snack, and we like this cucumber salad as well.

We personally really like having green salads a lot. So we try to buy a few heads of lettuce every week. Most dressings in the store are going to not only have inferior oils, but also sugar (as well as other additives). Make your own! You will save money too. Lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar are the best choices for a yeast free diet, along with olive oil. My everyday dressing is one that we love (and use all the time).

In everyday life, we also consume a lot of homemade soups, made out of homemade soup stock. It’s very nourishing, healing to the gut, frugal, and filling. I am definitely planning on making plenty of soups! Once again, you can check out my recipe index for some ideas.

So there are some starting ideas for you. Remember to concentrate on enjoying the foods you can have instead of thinking about what you can’t.

My last piece of advice is for those doing this with families. Make sure that you prepare them for the week without sugar by explaining why you are doing it and talking about all of the other yummy food you will be feeding them.

What about the rest of you? Have any food advice for everyone on the challenge?

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. Christy says

    I’d love to join in the challenge, however, I’ll be spending all next week visiting my grandmother… I don’t think she would be too happy with her guest refusing her white flour and sugar-filled goodies. I just wanted to show my support and thanks for such a great challenge. It’s really such an important topic and too many people don’t realize it. Your blog and recipes have been such a wonderful inspiration in eliminating the white flour and sugar in my own diet to create a more traditional and whole foods based lifestyle. Thanks for all your hard work on this blog!

  2. says

    I have a question about the challenge–some things like kombucha feed on sugars and then we drink them–are they okay going sugarless? They’re fermented and such but does the starter really eat ALL the sugar?

    • KimiHarris says

      Some people really feel that kombucha helps them, others feel that not enough of the sugar is converted. The kombucha which you can buy at the store is quite sour, and is generally fermented for 30 days. Home brewers often only ferment for 10 days or less. I would say if you are going to use kombucha buy it, or ferment it until it’s quite sour. 🙂

      • Cameron says

        Hey all, I have been working on doing the candida diet for a long time. I did it about 5 years ago with great success. I can explain more later, but then I got pregnant and my candida came back, so I am back on it. With respect to the Kombucha it is not really recommended at all if you have a serious candida issue. (Candida is why most people crave sugar products). The kefir grains can not eliminate all the sugar from the drink so it is recommended that you eat more fermented veggies like sour kraut and kimchi that don’t use sugar to ferment them. I would think that for the mild and medium individuals is would be fine, but for the advanced individuals I would sway away from it.

  3. Brook says

    Hi Kimi! You can add my family of 4 to the challenge. We will be at the moderate level for sure and aiming toward the advanced. Thanks for doing this.

  4. Symphony says

    Yay! I can’t wait to start the sugar-free diet with all of you I’ll be on beginner level, but I do have a question does organic agave’ syrup count as natural sweetners?

  5. says

    Hey There! Going Sugar Free really is NOT A PROBLEM. I have been sugar free for 9 years and really feel amazing and so energetic! I think my only vice is that I chew a lot of sugar-free Orbit gum, but that’s healthy compared to OTHER things I could be chewing!

    Here are some of my food staples that actually get me EXCITED to eat the way that I do… Oh and before I list them, I must say, I don’t crave ANY sugar what-so-ever! I don’t eat breads (or wheat/gluten/yeast) as well and I actually do not even eat FRUIT because it’s full of sugar as well. I only eat lean high quality meats/fish/poultry (free-ranged everything… well the fish is wild ha ha)… non-starchy vegetables & healthy fats (bring on the olive oil, macadamia nut oil & flaxseed oil)… I have been living for this way for 9 years as I said and it’s been wonderful! I hope your long term goals come through – at first it might be hard to stick with it, but once you get over that HURDLE… you won’t miss sugar at all! So any ways.. here are my food staples:
    – Pureed Pumpkin
    – Nori Sheets
    – Sesame Seeds
    – Spinach (Raw & Frozen)
    – Green Beans (Raw & Frozen)
    – Spaghetti Squash
    – Yam Noodles (5 calories per serving)
    – Water Chestnuts
    – Olive Oil & Olives
    – Cherry Tomatoes & Bell Peppers
    – Whole Omega-3 Enriched Eggs
    – Salmon (I love the belly part because I am a huge fan of fat)
    – Unagi/Eel
    – Grass-fed beef, bison, ostrich, elk & venison

    **I cannot wait for your posts about your journey! I will definitely be commenting a lot – ha ha! Good LUCK!**

    • Marlise says

      Hi Gigi!
      Wow, congratulations! I try to stick to a WAPF and mostly sugar and gluten free diet but often struggle because of invitations, work lunches, and other social events where food is offered. How do you manage this? Just came back from a conference in New Orleans for example where I would have been the total freak if I had brought my own food… it’s mostly ok with friends, but even then I sometimes feel bad because I don’t even eat all their homemade dishes… Any suggestions are very welcome… Thanks, Marlise

  6. Michelle says

    If anyone else has crazy ice-cream cravings like I do, try this bit of deliciousness:
    1/2 small barlet pear, frozen, cut up in slices or chunks
    4-5 chunks (approx. 1″ in size) frozen mangos
    1/4-1/2 cup milk (soy works best, but this is also tasty with almond)
    2 Tbsp. plain yogurt (full fat or non fat, doesn’t matter)
    Dash of agave/honey (optional, I find that my ice cream never needs it, but I am using fresh pears that are extremely sweet, so if the pears you are using are not so great, this may be necessary)
    Toss everything into a blender, and presto! If you have one of those amazing Vita-Mix blenders, you could probably cut down on the amount of milk and have the mixture come out even creamier. However, for all of us with inferior machines, a little more milk may have to be added.
    I love making this when I have a crazy sugar craving, it’s so creamy and delicious, almost like the real thing!

  7. Evie Poythress says

    Hi Kimi. Michael and I will be doing the beginners level next week :-)… after we decided to do it though, Michael ran off and ate a whole bunch of gummy bears since he will have to go without them for “so long” *giggle*

  8. says

    This is a great challenge. I went off of all yeast, starch, gluten earlier this year. I felt great. My husband joined me and we saw significant improvement with our physical health. I added homemade bread into my diet and some brown organic rice. We do treat ourselves every Sunday to a delicious dessert – but for the most part we are a meat, beans and raw veggies family. Even my 1.5 year old eats raw veggies (oh and LOTS OF FERMENTED CABBAGE)!! I will take the challenge and refine my diet even further… like taking out the treats. GOOD LUCK TO ALL!

  9. says

    I am very excited about the coming week. Thanks for the reminder to start preparing… I’m trying to decide which “advanced” sugar-free diet I’ll do. Should I keep quinoa in, and fruit out? Or the reverse?

    Speaking of fruit, a lovely, easy dessert is to buy organic berries when they’re on sale, preferably, and blend them in a Vita Mix or blender, add a bit of stevia (or xylitol), lemon, cinnamon if you like, some yogurt or kefir if you like (or skip the dairy entirely) or coconut cream even (or not) and freeze in small containers. Makes a wonderful sorbet when just slightly thawed. I like a blend of blackberries, raspberries, strawberries. A tip I got from a Vita Mix demonstrator at Costco once: save time and add Vit. C by not bothering to remove the tops of strawberries. If the leaves are still fresh and green, just throw the whole berry in. You’ll never taste it or notice it whatsoever. For that matter you can throw in a half a carrot, juicy red pepper, or mild cucumber to cut down the sugar content. Again, with a Vita Mix, you won’t notice it as far as taste or certainly texture, as long as you make ripe fruit the majority of the inputs.

  10. Janet Hartford says

    Hi Kimi,
    I too was wondering about xylitol. Thanks, Jodi. Is it as safe to use as stevia? If anyone knows the facts about it, I would be very glad. I have the “end products” affliction, I am afraid. I have been using nothing but stevia for weeks now. I use the liquid stevia from Now. I am afraid that maple syrup and for sure honey are too sweet for me. I used to use rice syrup back in my macrobiotic days, but I find that it is too expensive now. It is an excellent replacement for the sweeter syrups, though. I find that baking with stevia is really hard, and I haven’t had any success with it, so I was wondering if xylitol would be easier to bake with. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada, and the only sweeteners my health food store carries are xylitol and stevia. They don’t carry rapadura. And they don’t carry lakanto, which I have read about on Donna Gates’ blogs. Lakanto sounds like the best alternative for baking, but I can’t order it from her. So, what about xylitol, all you guys out there? Of course my health food store and even grocery stores carry maple syrup and honey, but those are not options for me right now, and perhaps they never will be.
    Anna, I think you are absolutely right that we need to wean ourselves off the sweets habit, and go with the sweetness of fruit in season and of vegetables, like carrots and white turnips. It’s significant that the food manufacturers are even growing carrots to be sweeter to satisfy the enormous sweet craving the general populace has developed – probably in large part because of yeast overgrowth. Anyway, thanks Kimi – I am glad to have discovered you!

    • KimiHarris says

      I have mixed emotions about it. 🙂

      Here’s what I said in a recent Q & A post
      Question Number Four

      “What do you think about Xylitol? “

      I think first, that it’s a refined product. That makes me a little nervous from the get go. Also, because your body doesn’t really process it, it can cause digestive discomfort. However, it does seem that many studies show that it helps fight against cavities and can even heal small cavities. No small feat.

      It still makes me nervous though. There are usually side effects to refined foods and too many “healthy” sugars have been promoted for being health promoting, only to be debunked later. I would say if you have teeth issues, consider xylitol like a drug that may help, but could potentially have side effects. To read both sides of the issue, check out the list of studies here on the pro’s and then check out the con’s here.

      Finally, if your interest in xylitol are rooted in teeth issues, consider reading Cure Tooth Decay (you will find it in the “con’s” link.) It may be helpful to you.

  11. jana says

    This is incredible. I would totally love to join this challenge. I will probably be in the moderate category. We usually live white flour and sugar free but allow ourselves one cheat day a week. I think we are ready to let go of the cheat day. This is going to be great! Thanks so much!

  12. says

    I’m in! I’ve been gearing up to do a candida cleanse for quite awhile now and I think joining you wonderful people will be just the motivation I need to get me started! So put me in the advanced group and I’ll do my best! 🙂

  13. Tutti @ Tribal Talk says

    I’m in! I need something like this to level me out. I am in a wedding this weekend, so I guess that means no cake for me, but once you’ve tasted one wedding cake, you’ve tasted them all-right?!

    My husband’s response to my no-sugar challenge, “You gotta live!”. I disagree. I think this will be living. Thanks for all you do Jenny!

  14. says

    I’m excited to start the challenge today! Breakfast is tea with a little honey, an egg and some Food For Life 7 Sprouted Grains bread with peanut butter, but I’m wondering if the organic malted barley in it counts as a natural sweetener? I have a whole case of this bread coming from my buying club this week. What does everyone think? I thought it was the healthiest bread I could be eating! I didn’t realize it had the malted barley until reading labels for this challenge…The “sugars” count is only one gram.

    I plan to snack on humus and org. corn chips, lots of apples and carrots, etc. from the garden, and maybe I’ll get to making some flourless peanut butter and honey cookies. I really need to change my eating habits to get away from the sugar and white flour, so thanks for motivating me!

  15. Rayelle says

    I’ve never done well at making my own salad dressing. It never seems to turn out and taste good. I find that my consumption of fresh vegetables really goes down if I don’t have a good salad dressing, and I won’t buy anything with ‘bad’ ingredients. I wanted to share a dressing recipe that I found a couple of months ago, and at long last I am making and loving dressing! The addition of a little (homemade) mayo and cream makes it delightful.
    Note-I’ve not made the whole steak salad recipe, only the dressing that goes with it, although I’m sure it would be lovely!

  16. Melanie says

    I wish I would have heard about this earlier.. Our family had cut out “High fructose corn syrup” in our food and we were doing great. But then, it started to crawl back in slowly till we are now back to square one. But this time I know what to do to get us back on track fast.

    I went to the library last week and had gotten a bunch of books on sugar and kicking the sugar habit and now I found this site and am excited again. Count 3 1/2 of us on the sugar free train (the 1/2 is my 22 year old that lives at home he still loves his sugar in any form) I am also excited to try a few of your recipes.

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