It’s nearly 50 degrees outside right now, but it’s sunny and a few of my windows are open. This weekend is going to bring beautiful weather, and with it, our first real sigh of spring in New England. Our gift for putting up with a seemingly endless winter is the euphoric arrival of fair weather and the dream-like return of flora and fauna.
I believe that many of us who celebrate Easter without the religious emphasis see the holiday as a celebration of the new season. This year, I’m ahead of the game in Easter preparations — but things will be a little different this time around. In recent months I’ve gone hard-core in getting rid of the sugar and cheap carbs in my pantry and refrigerator. Yes, I *thought* my diet was healthy — vegetarian, largely organic, trying to reduce our dependence on anything that comes out of a box — but then I read Connie Bennett‘s Sugar Shock and Nancy Desjardin‘s The Sugar Free Lifestyle. I had read other books on sugar and its insidious, addictive properties before (and how many things we don’t think of as sugar act in a similar way) but this time I actually got it.
Fat is far less of a concern (especially for vegetarians) than sugar is. When shopping for organic yogurt for the kids, I now pick the brand with the fewest grams of sugar. I’m working toward getting them onto plain yogurt. I now make sure that the organic peanut butter I buy doesn’t have added sweetener. I will no longer buy potato chips, because they’re too much of a rush on the glycemic index without any protein or fiber to slow things down. I won’t even buy Annie’s organic products anymore if they aren’t whole-grain. That means whole-wheat mac & cheese and whole-wheat bunny crackers, which were an easy switch on my little guys. Now, when my kids eat fruit or whole-grain crackers, I make sure they have some nuts or something else with protein in it to reduce to effects of sugar on their tiny little systems. I don’t even prepare regular pasta for dinner anymore — it has to be whole grain. (Schar makes tasty whole-grain pasta that is also gluten-free — nice for me, as I don’t eat wheat at all. Not because I have celiac, but because I find that eating wheat products — even whole-grain wheat — induces strong food cravings that drive me crazy and destroy my mood. Other carbs that aren’t whole grain — like rice cakes made from white rice instead of brown, or potato puffs, pirate booty, etc. — also entice me to pig out and then crash.)
I’m not even buying or making cookies anymore. Do I sound like a mean mom? The only reason I’m getting away with this is that my oldest son is away at college (but trying to improve his diet anyway); the next oldest son, a junior in high school, doesn’t have a sweet tooth at all; my daughter, who is 15, has been right on board with me in improving our snacking habits; the little guys are happy with the occasional all-natural popsicle. OH, and I even stopped buying juice. Can you believe it? The little boys get organic juice boxes in their lunches, but other than that, it’s water (which we all love anyway) or soy milk (I’ll save my rant about soy for another time). I won’t even buy my kids gum since I learned from my friend Jane that even “natural” gum contains plastics — and regular gum contains truly awful chemicals that you don’t want your child putting in his or her mouth.
While I’m on the health rant here, I’ll note that I’ve also just given up caffeine. Now, if you know me, you know that I was an extremely devoted coffee fan. I have a Keurig one-cup brewer (which, OK, I absolutely adore except for the fact that the K-cups are not yet recyclable) and was enjoying at least 3 — sometimes 4 — large cups of coffee a day. Each with skim milk and two sugars. Any time I felt a little down or tired I’d hit the machine. But then I stumbled across some information that opened my eyes to the effects of caffeine — and that the data on caffeine being an appetite suppressant and/or metabolism booster is sketchy at best. If anything, caffeine may give you a short-term buzz that fends off hunger, but then you’re going to come off of that buzz and be more interested in food than you would have been if you’d skipped that cup of Joe in the first place — not to mention all the bad stress-like effects that caffeine wreaks on your body. So there I was, relying on caffeine to keep my cravings away, and I was actually shooting myself in the foot. (Speaking of feet, one of my motivations in altering my diet is that I broke my foot more than two months ago and it’s refusing to heal. I was hoping that removing the sugars, cheap carbs, and caffeine that tax that body — and replacing them with an emphasis on raw vegetables — would stoke my healing ability.)
Going off of caffeine was SO much easier with the help of Teeccino. I’d never had this herbal coffee before, and I LOVE it. (Thanks, Brenna!) Teecccino company, if you’re reading this, I will do ads for you for FREE. It’s all-natural and many varieties are largely organic. Totally caffeine-free. It doesn’t taste quite like coffee, but it satisfies in the way that coffee satisfies — and I only put a tiny bit of sugar in it (which I’m working on weaning off entirely). At the beginning, I blended regular coffee with Teeccino in increasingly smaller doses so I could ease off without the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. OMG, Teeccino has made such a huge difference for me — I have several flavors and can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be off caffeine without it. I still get that “ooooh, I’m having a treat” feeling that I used to get from coffee. (Bonus: I make my Teeccino using the reusable Keurig filter, so no more waste.)
I don’t know if it’s the drastic reduction in sugar and cheap carbs, the elimination of caffeine, or the raw green protein smoothies that I try to have every day, but my skin has never looked better and my energy has never been more abundant. I’m sleeping like a dead person and waking up refreshed. My creative bandwidth is unprecedented. Has all of this helped my broken foot? The next set of x-rays is scheduled for the end of next week, so we’ll see.
So, all of this goes to say that I couldn’t bring myself to load the kids up with tons of Easter candy this year. All that sugar, all that artificial food coloring and chemicals — ugh. It’s just not good for them, and will be a real shock to their bodies after eating so well for the past few months. And I don’t want to have it around to tempt *me* either. We can’t go cold turkey, as that would be a little unfair, but I drastically reduced the amount of candy that the Easter Bunny will be hiding, and the kids’ Easter baskets (even the teenagers still get them), with the exception of a chocolate bunny in each, are filled entirely will non-food items. That was actually fun. But in order to transition in way that’s satisfying for everyone, we need to develop some new traditions. I want to focus on creativity, health, family, and the new season.
If you celebrate Easter, what are your favorite non-food treats? Do you have any Easter crafts — in addition to the can’t-miss annual egg-dyeing — that have become traditions? I’d love your ideas and inspiration!