The Highs and Lows of Sugar-Free, Plant-Based Eating . . . With Kids

fruity breakfast

Today, it has been exactly two weeks since I began my sugar detox.  I guess I can’t really call it a detox anymore, though. It is now slowly becoming a way of life for me.  No one is more surprised than I am that I have made it this long without more than 20 grams of added sugar in 14 days (that’s from my sprouted grain bread, at 1 gram per slice, and a few trace elements elsewhere).

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am (was?) a sugar addict.  I love all things sweet and sugary: cereal, candy, ice cream, cookies, etc.  I especially love to bake sweet things, for my family, friends, and neighbors . . . and myself!

The Beginning of Change

When my husband and I started our journey toward healthier eating 2 1/2 years ago (after watching the documentary Forks Over Knives), we made several significant changes to our family’s diet:

  • We served salad with every dinner (the kids have to eat their salad before they are served the main entree).
  • We only purchased organic beef and poultry products (you should see our stand-up freezer at Thanksgiving, when we buy 12 organic turkeys from Costco!)
  • We stopped buying popular kids’ sugar cereals (except on birthdays).
  • We drank water as our main beverage (fruit juice is reserved for special occasions or sickness).
  • We joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and learned how to prepare a variety of both familiar and mysterious vegetables.
  • We switched to organic milk/ I switched from dairy milk to almond milk (To date, four of my five kids have transitioned to the unsweetened almond milk!)
  • We kissed Aunt Jemima goodbye; for our whole wheat pancakes and waffles, we use pure maple or Log Cabin All Natural syrup.
  • I started making my own whole wheat bread.
  • Even baking got an overhaul as I switched from all-purpose, bleached flour to organic, 100% whole wheat flour and organic or raw sugar.

A Slow Regression

We haven’t been perfect, and some of the changes we made could have been even better, but we were headed in the right direction.  However, even with my newfound awareness and the subsequent changes, the sugar stayed.  And, gradually, my resolved weakened in other areas, as I allowed more and more processed and non-nutritional food to permeate our home.  We still do all of the things I mentioned above, but other things have crept in beside them.

As I have gone through these two weeks, my eyes have been opened to the glaring errors I have made in both my food choices and the foods I serve my family.  Sure, we eat vegetarian meals 3-4 times per week.  Yes, we still buy organic meat and poultry, but it has again taken center stage at dinner rather acting as a flavoring for it.  My kids eat boxed cereals nearly every morning that max out their sugar intake for the day (I’m talking Frosted Mini Wheats, Oatmeal Squares, and Life). We still use Heinz ketchup with high fructose corn syrup.  I buy ice cream by the gallon, and I still bake-yes, with higher quality products- but with lots of added sugar (it’s still sugar, whether it’s organic or not). Confession: I bought three of those 42-oz bags of M&M’s when they were on sale at Costco at the beginning of summer.  They are all gone now. (No, I didn’t eat them all myself!)

A New Resolve

At this two-week mark of my sugar detox, the rubber meets the road.  I am ready to take it to the next level.  My mission is to help my children find freedom from added sugar and processed foods and to embrace a primarily plant-based lifestyle.  The struggles I am facing are: 1) how to put together a meal plan that uses normal, real food in tasty and acceptable ways, and 2) how to get my children on board.  Granted, I do have several go-to recipes already in my arsenal, from 2 1/2 years of preparing vegetarian meals, but I want more, and I want them to be truly plant-based.  Tomorrow, I will be sharing some of the books and information I have been reading to help me in this endeavor.

As for the second, what has been working for me, somewhat, is sharing my journey and findings with my kids.  I explain to them why I’m not eating certain things; I include them in chopping vegetables for salads and dinner or adding fruit to smoothies.  I teach them how to read labels so they can see how much added sugar there is in their cereal and other foods.  I leave the books I am reading out for them to look at, and I read the especially interesting parts out loud to them.

For the most part, they are responding positively.  They actually liked the smoothie with celery in it I made today (thanks Colectivo for the idea).  All except one, that is.  And there is the rub.  How do you get a die-hard, sugar addicted, processed snack-loving kid to embrace this new lifestyle?

Here is what my son wrote on the dry erase board today.
Here is what my son wrote on the dry erase board today.

Struggles on the Path

Today, he fought back hard, refusing to drink the smoothie, barely eating dinner, berating my choice of foods, and bemoaning the fact that we don’t have anything good to eat, like the other kids at school. “Can’t we even have goldfish or pretzels?!” he exclaimed (as though I’ve never bought them before).  In my defense, I showed him the suggested snack list from school, which supported my position (except for crackers and dairy products), and he still balked.  I can’t have him throwing his lunch away (which he says he is doing) and trading his healthy food for junk food.

I’m not sure what to do. Our conflict wearied me and actually made me crave the emotional comfort of something sweet (chocolate, preferably). I just hope his negative attitude doesn’t influence his siblings who have really become so supportive of the effort.

So, there it is, the long and the short of sugar-free, meat and dairy limited, whole grain living . . . with kids. I won’t even get into how my husband recently decided he wants me to make him a cheeseburger at the end of the night a few times per week. Ugh. It’s not all apples and carrots, but we’re getting there.

Do you eat plant-based or sugar-free?  I’d love to know what’s working for you.


6 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of Sugar-Free, Plant-Based Eating . . . With Kids

  1. Aimee,

    This post was challenging to me because I’ve tried several times recently to detox from sugar with little success. My friends and I used to go for three months without any sugar, and now I seem to have lost all motivation. But I’m glad each day is a day without no mistakes in it yet. I’m going to have to look back over your other related posts now to see what sort of things you did in the beginning to help distract yourself from cravings.

    1. I, too, have fallen off the bandwagon. I just keep thinking how much better I felt and how much more energy I had when I wasn’t consuming sugar. I am trying to find a healthy balance, but even staying within the recommended daily intake is difficult. I feel like I have to take an all or nothing approach to be successful.

    1. Sandy, I am sorry to hear about your lack of support. For me, it is just a personal decision, not a medical necessity, so no one’s immediate health is threatened by eating otherwise. I have heard that eating plant-based can really help with diabetes, but I don’t know if that applies to all types. I would recommend checking out Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live. It is inspiring and transformational. Best of luck to you on your journey to better health, and I hope your family will come around, too!

  2. Love this post. I actually documented my recent 30 day sugar detox journey and will be posting it on my blog soon. The first thing I noticed was that I stopped craving the sugar after about a week – I didn’t want it as much as I thought I would. Since the detox, now whenever I have something sweet, I get a headache almost instantly and can feel my body crashing. It really makes me think twice because I can only imagine what it’s doing to my body if I’ve become that sensitive to it.

    1. Yes, I find that I am more than satisfied with the sweetness of a fresh fruit. I did splurge over the weekend and eat sugar free pancakes with pure maple syrup (I dipped my pancakes into it instead of pouring it on top, which helped me consume far less than normal), and it was so nice not to crave more sugar throughout the day. I would love to read about your 30-day journey; when you have it up, please send me a link at Thanks!

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