In the beginning of last year I decided to eat more sugar.
You see, sugar wasn’t always our enemy. It used to be fat and before that it was salt.
In order to be healthy, we were told to stop consuming them.
What got lost in the message though, is that we eat too much of them because we are increasingly consuming processed foods. Isn’t it fascinating that we have arrived at the no sugar stage because we tried to replace the fat in our food. In order to make low fat taste nice, sugar started to be pumped in.
It’s not the salt that we sprinkle on our eggs or that seasons our dishes that is bad for us. It is the hidden salt that we consume in processed foods. It is not fat that is bad for us, it is the wrong kinds of fats, lots of them in processed foods. And it is not sugar that is bad for us per se, it is the amount of sugar that we eat mindlessly and are unaware of (in processed foods), that has such an unhealthy effect on our lives.
Food guilt is not helpful
We have lost touch with what food really is and how it is meant to be consumed. When we create these dogmas around it, we also create confusion and feelings of guilt and shame if we can’t adhere to the strict guidelines. If you have successfully eliminated sugar from your diet and you feel this is the one true way for you, rock on. If you haven’t, I am here to tell you that this is ok and that you don’t need to achieve that to live a healthy and vibrant life.
We don’t have to ‘eat clean’ to be healthy. We don’t have to be perfect to be happy. Feelings of guilt (and shame) mean stress. We experience so much stress in our lives already, let’s not make food another trigger. Balance is the key. Food is meant to be enjoyed, it is not meant to give us anxiety.
The food we eat plays an integral part for me when it comes to family life. One of the things that I love and want to pass on to my son, is having ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ on a Sunday afternoon. Enjoying coffee and cake, surrounded by family and friends is beautiful and also nourishing I would argue.
So I decided to buck the trend of shaming sugar as the food enemy number one, and set out to bake a cake every Sunday. From scratch. No baking mixes!
6 steps to allow cake into your life
I need to mention here that I am not a nutritionist. I am a wife and mother who strives to eat healthily and wants to cook nourishing food for my family. In my 20’s I was definitely on the no-fat train and in my 30’s I’ve loved learning all about healthy food options. I did 5 day juice cleanses, took green smoothies into the office when everyone thought I was mad, was inspired by the latest superfood, tried colonics, did raw foods work shops and came home to my husband with bliss balls exclaiming in excitement ‘look, they don’t contain ANY sugar!!’. At the time I thought this is going to be key to our healthy lifestyle.
But as the no sugar movement grew stronger, I grew increasingly tired of it. Don’t try to tell me how many teaspoons of sugar are in my apple juice. Get stuffed. It makes food sound scary and way too complicated! Let’s relax and apply some common sense instead.
Here are 6 simple steps that we can do to allow cake into our life (yay):
- Cook and bake from scratch, as often as we can.
- Say no to fizzy drinks, even the diet ones.
- Stay away from flavoured fruit yoghurt, especially low fat.
- Be mindful of the amount of fruit juice we consume.
- Seek alternative 3pm pick me ups, like bliss balls.
- Try herbal teas like liquorice which can help with sugar cravings.
The positive effects of my cake project
Sharing is happiness.
Baking every week meant I had a lot to share. I think this is a vital key to happiness. Sharing it with others! It also makes the house smell nice, bonus.
Remembering my Omi.
I remember my Omi every time I bake and it makes me feel like I honor her memory through her recipes. I see no reason to swap that for ‘healthy’ baking. Plenty of countries who embrace their traditional sweets manage healthy living perfectly fine, look at the French, Italians, Greeks and Scandinavians for instance. They model a culture of food appreciation that I want to embrace as well. Fear of sugar has no part in it.
I know what is in my food.
By baking from scratch I know exactly what goes in my cake. There is sugar and white flour but no weird colourings, artificial flavourings, preservatives or anything else that gets added when food is manufactured for a long shelf life. I try to buy as much as I can organic, it is not cheap and baking from scratch is work intensiv, but it makes me appreciate every bite.
From abundance can come moderation
For me, the abundance meant that I never over ate. This may not be the case for everyone, but there is something to be said about what we don’t allow ourselves we crave more of. In my case the opposite was true as well.
(And in case you were wondering, I didn’t gain any weight. In fact I continuously kept loosing my baby weight and six months later I was back to what I was before being pregnant.)
What should we focus on if we want to be healthy?
I think focusing too much on the negative, on what we shouldn’t eat, isn’t helpful if it makes us feel guilty and resentful when we do have it. That can only be a step towards having an unhealthy relationship with food. There are enough nutritionists who tell us that cutting out sugar completely isn’t necessary. We should simply monitor our intake of it (and if you have health concerns like diabetes you should speak to a doctor).
Here’s what I suggest:
Let’s shift our focus to the things we should add more of into our healthy and balanced diet: plant based whole foods.
Then let’s look at how we choose to live our everyday lives, how much care we put into preparing and eating our meals. What we can do to eat more mindfully, no matter if it is the green smoothie or the piece of cake.
And finally, let’s say good bye to processed foods and embrace cooking from scratch. Even if we’re busy, even if we feel there is no time, even if we have other priorities. I’m here to help you with that!
Below is my Omi’s Sandkuchen recipe. I (mindfully) ate a piece while writing this ;).
Let’s make peace with sugar and free our minds from the dogma and stress of trying to be perfect.
Now I’d love to hear from you! What is your view on sugar and how does it fit into your life? How do you eat it mostly and how does that make you feel?