You know the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, I definitely judged “I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook” but its cover, or at least its title. Give up sugar? For 8 weeks? Eek! That sounds like a lot of work and not a lot of good (or at least tasty) eating. But even the World Health Organization has joined the sugar reduction trend so when Crown Publishing sent me a copy I tried to keep an open mind.
The book, written by Australian television personality Sarah Wilson, is a guide to slowly giving up sugar, welcoming in fat, and finding a place of balance in your body. Over 8 weeks you start to cut back on sugar then quit it all together, spend a couple of weeks without any sweetness to help reset your tastebuds and your cravings, then slowly add in a little natural sweetness as you’d like. The idea is that a little natural sugar (such as those found in fruits and brown rice syrup) goes a long ways, so long as you break your body’s processed sugar habit.
I read through the book and it sounded plausible, if not actually appealing. But when I got to the recipe section—108 healthy, inspiring meals, snacks, and desserts—I was convinced that “I Quit Sugar” deserved a place on my bookshelf. The recipes are absolutely divine. So far I’ve made two soups—a warm one with sweet potato, lentils, onion, and a blend of spices and a cool one with avocado, cucumbers, scallions, and cilantro. And I have the ingredients for a few more: fluffy squash and chia muffins, cashews chia pudding, and coconut curry meatballs, to name a few. These aren’t necessarily items I would expect to have sugar in them, but it is a good reminder that by focusing on eating good stuff I might naturally start to eat less sugar, which is a concept that’s a lot easier to digest then simply going cold-turkey on sweets.
The funny thing is, I picked up the book thinking, “No way”, but I have a feeling that as I start to play around with the recipes in this book and learn more about other ways to add flavor to food, giving up sugar will sort of naturally happen all on its own. All of the ideas Wilson shares in the book are things that really resonate with me: preparing more food at home, limiting processed foods and ingredients, eating seasonally and locally. But she shows why a few of the things I regularly do are actually getting in the way of my healthy habits. Things like eating a lot of fruit (Per Wilson, even good sugar is sugar.), making allowances for regular sugar breaks (yes, even chocolate covered almonds count into your sugar and caloric intake), eating low-fat foods (which often have added sugar for extra flavoring), and feeding my sweet craving when it strikes (the more you feed it, the stronger it gets).
There are some harsh truths in the book—when you finally go off sugar you’ll probably feel pretty cranky for about a week—but honestly, this realistic approach seems a lot better than “I quit sugar every step of the way.” Best of all, the book is an easy read. There are no long text blocks and some of the chapters are just a few pages long. However there are a ton of photos—especially ones of the food—and a lot of fun little boxes and sidebars that help keep your attention as you read.
If you’re contemplating giving up sugar, or even cutting back, this book is a great place to start. And even if you’re not all that concerned about sugar, the recipes in this book will stack up to the best ones anywhere.
May 28th, 2014