How To Cure A Sugar-Fiend

Have you ever tried to get a child to eat healthy foods, only to have them opt out of eating altogether? The plate gets pushed aside. The tasty smoothies get poured down the drain. Someone stubbornly refuses to eat.

I owe this insight to a friend of mine (who shall remain un-named). She began her Lenten journey this year with a renewed zeal for feeding her family Real Food. They would be disciplined! They would eat more fermented & raw foods! They would throw out all the candy and packaged snack foods!

When she’d tried to introduce Real Food to her family in the past, her daughter had always protested. Why? She had an incurable sweet tooth (or so they thought).

What finally converted her little sugar-fiend?

Removing all refined sugar from her diet.

I know it sounds simple. So simple you won’t believe it’s true.

But think about it for a minute. If you were a 7 year old, or a 3 year old, or a 33 year old, and you got something sugary sweet regularly enough that your palette was used to it, would coconut banana kefir smoothies taste sweet to you?

Answer honestly.

When we saturate our taste-buds with intense (and often fake) flavors, we won’t be able to discern the subtle sweetness of carrots or beans or coconut. They’ll taste bland. Horribly bland. And the power-packed sweetness of fruits like bananas will pale in comparison to our high-fructose corn syrup laden sodas or desserts.

Don’t get me wrong. The transition wasn’t easy! For the first week of Lent, my friend’s daughter protested vehemently. She didn’t like this. She didn’t like that. What? You call that dessert?

But then a couple of mornings ago she asked if she could eat a bowl of almonds, shaved coconut, cacao nibs, raw milk, and a dribble of honey for breakfast. Naturally, her mom said yes to all those nutrient-dense, healthy raw foods!

“Mom, you mean I can eat dessert for breakfast?”

YES! By all means YES!

This post is part of two blog carnivals this week: Real Food Wednesday’s hosted by Cheeseslave and Works for Me Wednesdays hosted by We Are THAT Family.

(photo by obo-boblina)


  1. says

    This is so true. After I got off refined sugar, about a month later, I ate half of a cupcake.

    I used to love these cupcakes — they are from one of the best bakeries in LA. Used to be my favorite.

    Well, after being off sugar and “fake food” for a month, I could only eat half of this cupcake. It tasted so cloyingly sweet and kind of like chemicals and wax. YUCK! I also got a headache and felt dizzy after eating only half!


  2. Leopold says

    Yey! …first comment. You know it is amazing but true. I have a little testimonial to share that confirms your post.

    I used to think that coconuts were bland, and certainly not sweet. Same with the sweet beans and even sweet corn. I used to drink up to 2 liters of Coke a day. Can you believe it? I also ate lots and lots of candy. I had no idea how badly it was frying my taste buds. But eventually I got scared of the heath consequences and my wife was afraid that I would get diabetes, so I started to cut back little by little. Now days I rarely eat candy or drink soda. I still add sugar (raw/sucanat sugar) to my coffee, and I reserve sneaking a donut for special occasions.

    The point is that things really do taste better now. Much better. I actually am able to enjoy more foods. I need less sugar in my coffee, and when I experiment with some of your famous “green smoothies” I like them without adding extra sweeteners!

    I certainly am no expert, but I think that breaking the sugar habit probably is one of the first things that a guy has to do before he can really enjoy a good raw diet. I am not sure I could have made the switch even just two years ago because I was too addicted to my bad food habits.

    I’m sorry about the long comment. Keep up the good work!

  3. Skinnygirl says

    When I was growing up, my Taiwanese friends never ate sweets like my family did. Sometimes we would go out to their favorite little Asian cafes, and they would get these wonderful unusual drinks and desserts sweetened with beans and corn, etc, but not sugar! I thought the snacks were tolerably ok, but I never really liked them. At the same time, at my birthday parties where we had traditional cake and ice cream, they would eat it, but complain that was way too sweet. I was confused, but we were good friends, and would all laugh and that was that.

    It was not until years later, after I had ditched sweets, that I realized how tantalizingly wonderful their sugarless sweet drinks and desserts really are. The subtle sweetness. The diversity of natural flavors. It is a beautiful thing. Maybe Food Renegade can do a piece about raw and/or traditionally prepared Asian treats?

  4. says

    My younger son is a sugar bug. That’s what we call him. It’s been difficult to transition him to a more natural diet. He does like fruits (grapes, oranges, bananas, berries, melons) but he’d much rather eat the junk.

    I totally agree with Leopold, cutting out the sugar is the 1st step to eating a more natural diet. I read Nourishing Traditions in January 08. At the same time we were beginning to low-carb and cut out the sugar completely. NT overwhelmed me. Now, a year later, NT is not so overwhelming. It doesn’t freak me out like it did last year LOL.


  5. says

    Cheeseslave — I had a similar thing happen to me.

    Leopold — You may be right. I’ll have to add that to my list of Newbie Tips.

    Skinnygirl — What a great idea! I should research and post on traditional cuisines more often. Not only will the results be yummy, but I bet more people would be willing to try it out! Although, I always do say that we need to start eating where our palette is. So there are a lot of traditional foods that might be absolutely disgusting to some people.

    Motherhen68 — I think the AHA/breakthrough moment with my friend came when they made junk totally unavailable to her sugar bug daughter. Prior to completely cutting it out, they had made it so that her access to sweets was limited. But b/c she still had a palette accustomed to sweets, she didn’t really care for healthier options all that much. Perhaps you could try something like that with your younger son? Take him off sweets cold turkey?

  6. says

    Totally true!
    My sugar/chocoholic husband has great luck when he gives up sugar. After a week or two, his cravings completely disappear.

    We’ve not gone TOTALLY off of sugar. But, now it’s a managed habit :)


  7. says

    Amen to that! I haven’t even cut out sugar completely from my diet but enjoy the sweetness in foods that I used to think were bland. It’s amazing what eating real food will do to your perception of food :)
    I am active in a Flickr group where we share photos of our lunches. Most of the posters are adults who are making “diet” or vegetarian lunches for themselves (and me, with my real food lunches :) but we get a good number of moms and dads sharing their kids’ lunches. So often it all sweet foods – a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grapes, dried fruit or fruit leather, a piece of candy and chocolate milk or juice. I joke with them about all the sweets and they talk about how thats all their kids will eat. It makes me wonder which came first? The mom feeding all sweet foods or the kids only eating sweet foods?


  8. says

    lo — I’ve been there! I think that’s where my husband is, too. Sweets are now a managed habit. That said, I’ve felt 100% better since nixing the stuff in my own life. Whenever I eat some (by mistake or on purpose), I really feel the nasty effects on my digestive tract.

    Alyss — What’s really odd is that your friends probably don’t think these sweets are all that bad. I know quite a few moms who are *convinced* that PBJs, dried fruit leathers, juice, and chocolate milk are all HEALTHY. (And they MIGHT be, if the bread was sprouted and the peanuts soaked before being turned into butter and the jam homemade with natural sweeteners…if the fruit leathers were homemade…or if the milk were raw.) But what you buy in the store is the epitome of nastiness — laden with high fructose corn syrup and a myriad of unnatural ingredients you’d need a chemistry degree to understand.

    Kyle — I’m sure they were!

  9. says

    It’s amazing how tastes change depending on what you’re exposed to. One of my favorite things is to offer DS ice cream for breakfast and not worry about it being junk (seriously: egg yolk, raw cream, and a bit of honey! that’s good stuff there). Three cheers for dessert for breakfast!

    Nourished Kitchen

  10. says

    Nourished Kitchen, my ds would FLIP if I fed them ice cream for breakfast. Honestly, I can see how yours is healthy, so it’s really not a big deal, but the stigma of ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST! I can see my mother rolling her eyes LOL.

    I’ve got a battle going on inside my brain. The battle is over healthy foods vs cheap foods I can buy at the grocery store. The healthy food side is winning. After doing a major inventory of my pantry, I’ve decided yesterday to cut out all junk foods, even if I can get them for pennies on the dollar. To what expense am I costing my kids by feeding them processed foods?

    Unfortunately for us, we live in a state that raw milk & products are illegal. But I can buy the best organic dairy I can. We already belong to a CSA and buy pastured eggs from a neighbor, so I’ve got that going for me.

    The food revolution will start with bloggers like you and others who follow the NT way. I haven’t been this excited about cooking and food for a long time.


  11. says

    Jenny & Motherhen68 — This morning my 2 year old ate butter for breakfast. That’s it. Butter. I know it’s not incredibly well balanced, but it’s raw and from grass-fed cows and sooooo good for his developing brain! I *really* need to make some ice cream now that I’ve got an ice cream maker.

    Kristin — Good luck! You can never go wrong giving up refined sugar. ūüėČ

  12. says

    That’s fantastic. It’s true, it’s easier to eat no sugar than some sugar. Once I get going it’s hard to stop! What a great thing to do for Lent. Maybe I’m too harsh on my Catholic upbringing ūüėČ


  13. says

    I have pretty much removed all refined sugar from my diet, so yay! My problem is that usually PMS time I get this uncontrollable urge for carbs. I started taking 1000 mcg of chromium and it works like a charm. My OMD recommended this for me.

    As I am learning to balance my body naturally, I am having to eliminate natural sugars (for the time being). It is really nice to feel level-headed!


  14. Janet W says

    Giving up sugar for me was a sort of non-vicious circle. Before I could give it up, I had to be eating real food. Once I was doing that, it was easier to quit cold turkey. And giving up sugar helped me give up glutan and higher carb foods, which has been soooo good for me.

  15. judelicious says

    Ok, so this is nearly 3 yrs old but I’m just jumping on board… Better late than never, hey!
    So how do you deal with all the refined sugar that comes from outside sources – b’day celebrations every other week at kinder, sleep-overs at the rellies who love to spoil their grandkids (literally!)?

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