My friend Megan in St. Louis recently inquired about our corn syrup ban. Before I begin, let me quickly say this is NOT a paid advertisement for trendy food and/or trendy grocery stores. It is trendy to eat “healthy” – especially in a town like Madison, but in case you don’t know me – I AM NOT TRENDY.
Our journey began with an attempt to cut out sugar completely. HA! This attempt lasted for the entire 20 minutes between waking and my first cup of coffee on the first day of our attempt. Honestly, I knew as a family (and nation) we were just consuming tooooooo much sugar. I also had begun to notice foods containing corn syrup were bothering my stomach.
I did a teeny weeny bit of research and the gist is this… In the 70’s the food industry discovered corn syrup. It is cheaper than sugar and delivers (especially high fructose corn syrup) a much more intense sweet than cane sugar. It is also thought that this more intense sweetness increases our craving for sweets in general. I decided we would try and eliminate it from our diets for a while and see what happened. At the very least I expected we might find my stomach issues decreasing. We have been generally corn syrup free (we do make exceptions for things like birthday cake, special treats, etc.) for several months and the positive results are many and surprising.
First of all, I was forced to read food labels again and was DISGUSTED by what was in the food we were eating. I found that most foods that contained corn syrup also contained other non-recognizable ingredients that were just plain scary. Guar gum anyone? Yummy… Sure, it’s cheaper to use these types of ingredients, but some of them sound more like they belong on a cat litter label, not my cereal box. Anyway, by eliminating corn syrup we virtually eliminated all prefab food of all sorts. This meant fruit snacks, most types of granola bars, many of our favorite breakfast cereals, frozen waffles, most brands of premixed yogurt, Popsicles, salad dressings, ketchup, etc.
We don’t have the type of budget to replace ALL of these items with high cost brands from Whole Foods and the like, so I had to start making some of these things myself. This has been hugely advantageous for cost reasons AND sugar control reasons. Now when my kids want yogurt, for example, I heat up some frozen fruit, (or cook a little fresh in the micro with a little honey) and throw on some plain yogurt. It’s cheap and I have a better idea of how much sugar they are consuming.
Another benefit is we also just eat less. Thankfully, my kids aren’t battling weight issues or anything, but I think in general, we all eat more than we need to. Example, our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are served on very hearty and filling bread, made with natural peanut butter and all-fruit preserves, (which are easy to make, and not very expensive to buy at Trader Joe’s). A half of one of these fills me up, where as one made on white bread with Jiffy and Grape Jelly would require something like 3-4!! 🙂 Sure, calories may be around the same – but I feel like I’m eating appropriate portions of good food which is a good habit to build into my kids lives.
The greatest benefit is we eat better. I mentioned already having to make some of things we used to buy (like salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, granola bars, cereal, etc.) which are all much better tasting homemade AND can be just as “sweet” without nearly as much sugar as you might expect. I hate artificial sweeteners, and have a major sweet tooth, so believe me – I don’t skimp. I’ve been using honey when I can, molasses, and just decreasing the amount of sugar called for in recipes.
We eliminated foods containing partially hydrogenated oils many years ago and experienced very similar benefits. This just seemed to expand on those.
All this to say – I think we are improving the type of food we eat by cutting out corn syrup. I know we are eating more appropriate amounts of food thanks to eating better food that fills us up, and I HOPE we are decreasing our overall craving for sweet things in general. Also, my tummy is much happier. I experimented a little the other day and drank a coke. (Oh yeah – hardly any soda anymore either- again unless we are out – I LOVE Dr. Pepper!!!) I had a yucky burning feeling in my tummy all afternoon. 😦