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Lessons from a No-Sugar/Low-Starch Diet (aka How I Lost the Baby Weight)

This month’s challenge is to take your clean vegan living up a notch and cut down on sugar and white starches.

This past fall I did a no-sugar/low-starch thing for three months and lost the rest of the 30 lbs of baby weight I had gained from my second baby, who was born last July. That’s not the main reason for doing it; just a welcome side effect. My baby was a little refluxy, and her osteopath said sometimes there’s a maternal gut health link with that. So we examined my gut health, and the lab determined that I had candida plus a funky bacteria that’s usually picked up at hospitals and nursing homes. (Sexy!) Both feed on sugar and starches, which also turn into sugar. So it was clear that I needed to majorly rehaul my diet for a couple of months.

I had:
No rice
No corn
No wheat
No bread
No rolled oats
No white potatoes
No sugar
No maple syrup
No honey (not vegan anyway)
No agave
No brown rice syrup
No dates
No high-fructose corn syrup (duh)

It was hard. And I wasn’t perfect. I made allowances for my son’s birthday, Halloween (baked scary cookies for my son’s class but had no candy), and Thanksgiving. I learned a lot, got rid of the candida and the bizarre bacteria, dropped about 12 pounds in 3 months, and now I’m sharing a few tips with you should you ever want to do something similar.

“Why should I do that, Marisa? I don’t have a funky nursing home bacteria or baby weight. I’m FINE with a little sugar in my diet.” Good! Enjoy it. But there’s something to be said for stretching yourself past your comfort level and heighten your awareness of how much sugar is in everything and what it means for your health. Turns out we aren’t the only ones who are hooked on sugar. Cancer and viruses feed on sugar. It also causes oxidative stress on your cells, causing the release of free radicals, which damage cells, create abnormal ones, and speed up the aging process. Antioxidants, found in so many plant foods, neutralize those free radicals. In short, less sugar/less refined carbs/starches = a happier, healthier, longer-lived you!

But what the heck do you eat? Here’s what I had:

A lot of salad

A lot of soups. One favorite was African Peanut Soup:

A ton of bowls, replacing rice with millet or quinoa, which I found to be especially delicious if I made them just like rice in my rice cooker but used Better Than Bouillon broth instead of water. See here for yummy bowl inspiration for every taste.

Stir-fries out the wazoo. We love the Candle Cafe Cookbook Ginger-Miso Stir-fry.

Replaced rolled oats or granola with oat bran or buckwheat groats. A favorite was toasted coconut oat bran:

Replaced wheat pasta with lentil, black bean or chickpea pasta

Used unsweetened almond milk-vanilla flavor
Chowed down on berries instead of high-sugar fruit like bananas
Snacked on nuts and used more nut butters in smoothies or spread on apples
Replaced sugary yogurt with Anita’s Creamline Coconut Yogurt

Replaced sandwich wraps with collard wraps

Added vanilla or nut butter to smoothies
Kale chips
Broccoli or brussels sprout snacks

Noshed on cherry tomatoes like nobody’s business
Replaced wheat flours with oat bran flours and hazelnut or almond meal in baked goods
Replaced sugar with coconut sugar in baked goods as a rare treat

My chocoholism was enabled by the fine folks at Coco Polo (dark chocolate flavors only) and Inspired Foods, who created a yummy Chocolate Fantasy drink. Both are sweetened with Stevia.

chocolate fantasy bag sidebar

I consumed more veggies than I ever have in my life, and that felt great. My friend Josh Katcher from Brave Gentleman just completed a similar diet challenge, and he said have tons of frozen veggies on hand for convenient cooking was key for him.

This experiment made me aware of how much sugar is in everything and how much I unknowingly consume. I’m off the special diet, but some of it has stuck, so I’m enjoying long-term benefits, plus the joy/convenience of fitting into pre-pregnancy jeans after just four months of giving birth. Woo-hoo!
If you give this no-sugar/low-starch thing a shot–or just cut down on sugar/starch, I’d love to hear from you and cheer you on.

Happy Love Month!