Last week, I decided to cut sugar and refined carbohydrates out of my diet for a month (note that I didn’t say I cut out carbs — that would be impossible for me!), and although I’m doing well so far, I did find myself craving something sweet (other than fruit) for dinner. By the way, I’m not going to bore everyone with the reasons for my little dietary experiment, but for those of you who are interested, more about the sugar- and refined carb-free stuff below the recipe and pictures. I also had a strange desire to eat salmon. So, when I came across this maple salmon recipe, I knew it was the ticket.
This was so, so easy. It took me three minutes to throw the marinade together, and 20 minutes to bake. The marinade is amazingly delicious. Even the boys, who aren’t into fish, gobbled up their salmon fillets. The flesh was tender and juicy, as salmon often is, and the sweetness of the glaze perfectly complemented the salmon flavor. I’ll be making this over and over again. You can serve it with all kinds of sides — brown rice, a salad, a crusty loaf of bread, steamed veggies, etc.
- 1 pound of skinless, boneless salmon, cut into fillets
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk well to combine.
Place the salmon in a small baking dish, then pour the marinade over it. Cover the dish and set it in the fridge to marinate for half an hour, turning the fillets once halfway through the marinating time.
While the fish is marinating, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. When the oven is heated, place the baking dish into the oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
OK, so, my dietary experiment: While I was in Michigan, my mother-in-law told me about an article (or articles) she’d recently read in the New York Times about the addictive, toxic qualities of sugar, and how pervasive sugar is (e.g., in many savory bottled sauces and dressings, crackers, chips and the like … not just sweet foods).
None of this was news to me, but when she talked about how she was thinking about cutting out sugar from her diet, just to see how it affected her, it got me thinking about my diet. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink a ton of water, watch my calorie intake and seldom skip a workout, but when I really analyzed what I ate (other than produce and meat), there was lots of sneaky sugar and refined carbohydrates — I have a weakness for white bread, white rice, white pasta (what?! Everyone knows real Asian food tastes better with white rice and white noodles! ), Goldfish crackers, and of course, desserts. I never sat around just eating candy or drinking soda, but I concluded that I still ended up taking in plenty of sugar and white carbs along with the healthy stuff that I do eat. I don’t think it’s done any great amount of damage or anything — I’ve been lucky to not struggle with my weight (other than what my vanity dictates ), I am a high-energy person by nature, and I don’t have any averse reactions to sugar and carbs that I know of. Still, all the discussion with my in-laws about sugar got me wondering: Would I reap any benefits from cutting down on the amount of sugar I ate? I mean, who knows, maybe I’d be Superwoman if I got sugar out of my system, what with everything else that I’m supposedly doing “right.” A few women on a fitness Facebook group I belong to (oh, OK, FINE, it’s a Facebook group of fellow lululemon addicts, but hey, we’re into fitness!) have told me that once they cut out sugar and refined carbs, their skin improved greatly (and I do have very sensitive skin on my face, which has always bothered me), their energy levels soared, and their workouts yielded even greater results. I don’t have high expectations, but at the very least, I figured it’ll get me to explore a wider array of carbs and protein.
I’m also cutting out refined carbs because those get converted to sugar right away once ingested. There are many definitions of what is a “refined” carb. I almost fell asleep reading a thread on a food forum about whether potatoes and carrots are refined carbs. Honestly, they lost me at “glycemic index.” What I’m defining it as is a carbohydrate that has been stripped or processed (other than to remove it from the plant or to clean it). So, I’ll eat all fruits and vegetables because they exist in nature (although I won’t eat too many white potatoes). I’ll also eat breads and crackers made with real whole grain, as long as their ingredient lists don’t include sugar (it is very difficult to find a whole wheat bread without sugar! I finally did; I’ll also make my own sometime soon). Maple syrup (as in this recipe) is also OK with me because it came straight out of a tree. So, it might not be totally “right,” but it makes sense to me. I don’t think I’m doing anything too extreme — really, just cutting out sugar and “unnatural” stuff.
It’s been five days, and easier than I thought it would be. Day three was my low point — we were out at Ikea, and I was ill-prepared (hadn’t brought my own snacks), and whereas normally I would have just eating ice cream cones at the Ikea food court along with the rest of the family, I couldn’t do it while conducting my no-sugar experiment. The stubborn side of me refused to cheat on day three, so I muddled through while becoming very snappy at everyone. Luckily, I’m now stocked with an arsenal of great snacks — whole wheat crackers (kinda like Triscuits), whole wheat bread, no-sugar natural peanut butter, unsweetened/unsulfured dried mangoes, cheese sticks, edamame, roasted seaweed (which I’ve always loved, anyway!), hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit and veggies, just to name a few. Those basically cover any sweet/salty cravings I may have, and strange as it sounds, when I find myself wanting ice cream or some of the kids’ Goldfish, I drink sparkling water, and that helps a lot. I guess I drink so much still water that substituting sparkling feels like a “treat.” LOL. I think the hardest part will be not drinking alcohol (since that gets converted to sugar straightaway, too) when we have guests over. I’m not a big drinker, but I do like to drink socially. Red wine is supposedly OK, but it is the form of alcohol I like least (surprise, surprise, I’m a mixed drink, white wine and Mike’s Hard Lemonade kind of girl).
As for how long I’m going to keep this up, I’ll be strict for a month and see how I feel. So far, I don’t feel a huge energy difference (although, as I mentioned, I’ve always had high energy levels), but I do feel less hungry between meals, and when I do get hungry, the snacks I choose fill me up. One big upside is that I’ve managed to lose the 3 pounds I gained in Michigan in the last five days. However, that probably has less to do with my dietary changes than with the fact that I’m no longer around my in-laws, who spoiled me with nightly wine with dinner and delicious toasted coconut ice cream. Anyway, after the month is over, I plan to eat sugar- and refined carb-free as much as I can, but not go crazy trying to restrict myself — I’ll have a drink or two when we have guests or go out with friends, I’ll eat the ice cream cone in the Ikea food court if I’m starving, and I’ll never be that person who doesn’t eat what everyone else is eating at holiday meals. Life is meant to be enjoyed, after all. But, for the next month, I’ll be adhering to my rules as much as I possibly can. I don’t know yet whether I’ll make special sugar- and refined carb-free desserts. My philosophy about desserts is that if you’re going to sin, sin big . Use the butter, the sugar, the white flour. So far, I’ve felt that I would rather have frozen banana slices than some dessert made with fruit, maple syrup, honey, etc., as sweetener (speaking of sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, like Splenda, are also out, but I’m not a fan of artificial sweeteners anyway), but I know some of you will want some dessert recipes, so I’ll do my best to oblige.
So, there’s my novel about my “new lifestyle” (for the next month). Thanks for reading!