Senior Health

2/10/2021 | By Terri L. Jones

Both my husband and I had less-than-stellar bloodwork this past year. My triglycerides were elevated and his A1C put him on the verge of being pre-diabetic. We blamed it on the pandemic and self-pity/boredom eating and drinking, but we knew that that even that excuse was wearing thin after almost a year. It was time to clean up our diet!

When my husband suggested that we do a sugar detox after the holidays, I was game … to be honest, I was peculiarly excited about it!

Not Our First (Sugar Detox) Rodeo

About seven years ago, before our wedding, we had done the popular 21-Day Sugar Detox twice. Back then, we were hard core and stopped eating all sugars – from high fructose corn syrup to even natural sugars – and we did it cold turkey! This time, we eased into the diet over the weeks after New Year’s, with me slowly cutting back on my Starbucks runs and him switching from a sugary cereal to mini wheats, among other things. Plus, this go-round, we were more realistic in what we eliminated from our diet. We continued to eat fruits, except the very sweet ones like pineapple and mango, replaced bread with low-carb tortillas and only reduced the alcohol we imbibed rather than going completely on the wagon (during a pandemic, you can only deprive yourself so much!)

The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Boring

Our mission to eliminate unnecessary sugars from our diet launched on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The change in the foods we ate wasn’t all that difficult for either of us. On the whole, we eat a pretty healthy diet. We had just gotten off track since the pandemic and developed habits like eating potato chips with several lunches a week, giving in to cravings for French fries more than usual (didn’t help that my husband bought a 10 lb. bag of them at Costco!), and drinking lots of alcohol.

When the detox started, we replaced our potato chips with kale chips, fruit, or a couple of olives. Instead of snacking on cookies or crackers, I’d grab a handful of nuts or munch on celery, whereas my husband opted for cold, crisp Granny Smith apples. Where sweets were concerned, I didn’t have many cravings. I did, however, find myself eyeing those York peppermint patties in the long checkout line at Michael’s. My husband, on the other hand, has a raging sweet tooth and missed his beloved ice cream, which he sneaks out of the garage freezer when I’m not looking.

It was the dearth of beverages that I personally found frustrating. I could still have my morning coffee with almond milk. Only I had to switch from sweetened almond milk to unsweetened. I added a pat of butter to give it a little oomph (try it; you might like it!). And I had to completely swear off Starbucks because they don’t serve unsweetened almond or coconut milk!

Outside of coffee, all we could have was unsweetened tea (not palatable to me) and water. While I drink a lot of water under normal circumstances, I usually add a splash of sweet birch water and that was out. All that remained was plain old water. I added cucumber or lemon to my tall, ice-cold glasses of water, but I grew weary of nothing but H2O rather quickly.

Preparation Was Key

The most important step I took was make a plan. I ordered the 21 Day Sugar Detox Official Program Guide, which included meal plans and recipes, and stocked the fridge with plenty of the satisfying foods, like eggs, avocados, bananas, and salmon, that would help us stay on track.

The detox requires lots of cooking. However, since the pandemic, I had already been making both lunch and dinner for me and my husband (we make our breakfasts), so I didn’t have to step up my game very much in that respect. Some of my go-to dishes were a crustless spinach and tomato quiche, pumpkin pancakes with almond flour (yum!) and chicken tortilla-less soup. When I needed a rich and filling snack, I dipped my spoon into a jar of sunflower butter, which is lower in sugar than peanut or almond butter, and, in my opinion, even tastier.

We haven’t been dining inside restaurants since the pandemic; however, we have been ordering takeout every Friday night. On that front, we were limited to only a couple of restaurants and only a couple of menu options. No barbecue with sugary sauce, Chinese, pizza, or fried oysters. Even my favorite veggie and grain bowls were out because we couldn’t have grains.

Thankfully, one of our favorite restaurants has the most delicious oven-baked, almost-no-filler crab cakes; we ordered them the first and last weekend with a small side salad and spiced, steamed shrimp with veggies the second weekend. We were both satisfied, and I was happy not to have to cook one night a week!

Best Foods & Benefits for a Low-Sugar Diet!

The End Results

In the second week, my husband realized that the Super Bowl was going to fall on the last weekend of the detox, so we decided to abort the mission a little early so my husband could have football food during the game. After almost 20 days, we felt like we had achieved what we set up out to do. I lost about three pounds and my jeans fit better; my husband lost five. More importantly, neither of us was craving the foods we cut out.

But I know it’s a slippery slope. As soon as I add those foods back into my diet, I’ll probably find myself overindulging again. That’s why I plan to continue drinking my coffee with unsweetened almond milk and cooking the same way I did on the detox with only the occasional side of sweet potato fries or bowl of ice cream for dessert.

I may even swear off Starbucks forever!

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over ten years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide. She also writes for many other local magazines and publications.

Terri L. Jones