As we were planning out this week, my husband just looked at me: “Why did you plan the Break the Sugar Habit Challenge for this month?”
It’s a good question, really. I thought I’d checked my calendar, but we’re looking at one of the craziest weeks of summer, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t intimidated by the idea of trying to maintain our sugar-less lifestyle in the midst of it.
By the time you read this, the big girls and I will be on the road, on our way to a Classical Conversations Practicum an hour or so away. Because of the distance from our house — and my step-dad’s generous contribution of hotel points — we’ll be staying at a hotel during the three-day event, where I’ll learn more about CC philosophy and homeschooling in general and the girls will attend geography camp.
Not only will we be trying to maintain our commitment during the challenge, which means turning down the available lunch options and packing our own, but we’ll be fending for ourselves for breakfast and dinner too…without a kitchen. I’ll share my plan below!
On top of packing and planning for our time away, I also had to prepare food for Sean and the little girls, who are staying home. Our fridge and freezer are packed, as I’ve been making bulk of pretty much everything for the last week.
We get home Wednesday night, enjoy one “normal” day at home and then head out to my dad’s for a little backyard camp out next weekend.
On the way home from that, we’ll drop the big girls off for a week of VBS with my mom.
Needless to say, this last weekend was pretty much all about preparing for the week, and I’m happy to say that I got everybody packed for all three trips, following my own advice about packing early.
I’ve also been brainstorming food ideas for the next week, and I’m feeling pretty good about our meal plan.
On Food as a Moral Issue
Before we jump into the food lists, I want to share something I’ve been thinking about a lot as this challenge progresses.
It may not surprise you to know that I think everybody has the right to make their own decisions about the food they eat and prepare for their family. (You know, Food Your Way.) Although we’re making healthier choices and taking bigger baby steps these days, it’s taken me a long time to get here, and I’ve chosen unhealthier options simply for convenience and taste many times in the past (and I’m sure in the future).
I think it’s important to remember, especially as our diets change, that food is not a moral issue.
There are certainly some moral issues around food — like the millions of children who die from hunger every year…the hundreds who die every hour.
But whether you choose a salad and water or a Whopper and a super-size soda is not one.
I loved this quote I read last week (and I promised at the time I was going to pull it out frequently, so here we go):
“A culture that redefines food choices as moral issues will demonize the people who don’t share the tastes of the priest class. A culture that elevates eating to some holistic act of ethical self-definition – localvore, low-carbon-impact food, fair trade, artisanal cheese – will find the casual carefree choices of the less-enlightened as an affront to their belief system. Leave it to Americans to invent a Puritan strain of Epicurianism.”
I’ve seen that happen so many times, and let me tell you — as someone who’s been on the other side of that attitude — even if I want to listen and learn from you, it’s a total turnoff.
My worst fear as we go through our diet changes is ending up just like that: someone who preaches at people and looks down at them when they continue to make choices I disagree with. I’m vowing now not to do it, no matter how passionate I may be!
Which brings we to my next point. As we go through the challenge, and especially the next two weeks, I have two goals:
1. To not place an undue burden on anyone else to support or enable this lifestyle choice.
2. To not set up sugar as a forbidden fruit that my children sneak or hide.
On Voluntary Food Restrictions & Relationships
Let’s look at the first one, well, first:
While our food choices for the practicum are mostly our own, we will be eating at my dad’s house over the weekend and the big girls will be staying at my mom’s the week after that.
Eliminating sugar from your diet is not an easy thing. It doesn’t come down to just making the decision and then not eating sugar. I’ve spent more time in the kitchen this past week than I could have ever imagined, and every food requires multiple steps — preparing “safe” pantry staples and then preparing the meal.
There are certainly some easier options — fresh fruit, stove-top popcorn, etc, but in general, meals have been tricky!
To avoid placing the burden on my dad, I simply offered to grocery shop on the way to his house and cook for us while we were there. My dad’s an amazing cook and he enjoys being in the kitchen, so I have no doubt that he’ll end up helping me prepare meals, but I would never expect or require that he read all of the labels and purchase all of the ingredients needed for this weekend since the challenge was our choice and not his.
For the girls visit to my mom’s, I’m taking an even more laid back approach. She and I have talked about avoiding some of the worst offenders — fruit snacks, cereal, etc. — but I will not require her to read labels or make condiments from scratch.
My plan is to send along lots of meal ideas she can pull from as well as some ready-made food — laraballs, homemade peanut butter, etc. I’ve also picked up a few of our favorite brands of “safe” food at the store for her — Polaner’s jelly, organic microwave popcorn (I make mine on the stove, but again, not going to require her too!), etc.
They’re certainly still going to feel the effects of us doing this challenge, and I think they’re happy to play along, but it’s my responsibility to make sure it doesn’t become stressful for them!
Creating a Healthy Food Culture in Our Home
But I also want to talk about how this challenge is affecting the girls:
My goal so far has been to provide lots and lots and lots of yummy options for meals and snacks for the girls so that they don’t necessarily feel like they’re sacrificing anything.
As we head out to interact with other people, though, I’m taking a two-pronged approach. I’ve packed laraballs and fruit and tortilla chips and a variety of yummy food for them, but I’ve also given them permission to eat the classroom snack both this week and next week at VBS; I simply asked that they tell me if they do.
I think there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll choose the yummy snacks I’ve packed over the classroom snack, but if they don’t…that’s okay.
While I do believe that refined sugar poses a danger to our bodies when consumed in large quantities, I think that forbidding it and having the girls either pine after it or, worse, sneak it, is a million times more dangerous. I want to set them up to have a healthy relationship with food as they grow, and making lots of rules or having them miss out on it (especially in a social setting) is not the way to do that.
On-the-Go Meal & Snack Ideas
With that out of the way, here is our meal plan for this week. See the original list of meal and snack ideas here.
- Biscuits with butter and fruit salad on the side
- Homemade strawberry fields salad with grilled chicken and pureed strawberries (in place of dressing)
- Hard-boiled eggs, cheese and fruit (on the road)
- Baked ziti (at home)
- Snack: laraballs, popcorn
- Eggs & fruit (at the hotel and at home)
- Yogurt with fruit, cheese, veggie sticks
- Tropical Smoothie Cafe — all-fruit smoothies without sugar and salad
- Shrimp alfredo (at home)
- Snack: laraballs, apple slices with peanut butter
- Eggs & fruit (at the hotel)
- Oatmeal (at home)
- Peanut butter & banana smoothies
- Leftovers (our easy dinner because we’ll be rushing in the door at dinner time)
- Snacks: tortilla chips, applesauce
- Dutch puff with fried apples
- Pasta with sauce
- Italian chicken with mashed potatoes and corn
- Snacks: frozen smoothie pops, veggies & dip
- Yogurt parfaits
- Tropical Smoothie Cafe (on the road)
- Cheeseburgers, shrimp kebabs, corn & asparagus on the grill (no bun for me!)
- Snacks: fruit kebabs, laraballs
- Pancakes with pureed strawberries
- Chicken quesadillas on homemade tortillas
- Snacks: chips & salsa, popcorn
It’s a bit redundant, huh? Partly because of the restrictions of eating on the road and partly because of my own lack of creativity. I’ll be searching for more recipes this week for sure!
Be sure to check back on Wednesday, when I’ll be sharing links to even more recipes!
How do you handle sugar-less when you’re on-the-go or traveling?
|Mandi Ehman is the founder and publisher behind Life Your Way and the co-author of All in Good Time, as well as a wife and the homeschooling mom to four beautiful girls. She lives with her family on a little slice of heaven in wild, wonderful West Virginia and loves coffee, chocolate, easy meals, beautiful things and minimalist spaces.|