Saturday, June 12, 2021

Takeaways: The 3-Week "No Refined" Sugar Challenge


Greetings everyone! The Unleashed One here. I hope that everyone is doing well and being safe. There is so much I want to share, but I'm not quite sure where to start. Therefore, like looking through a closet and trying to decide what to wear, I'll just pick something and go with it.

First, a tiny update on the "weight loss" portion of my Highway to Healthy journey. I believe I am reaching my stopping point and want to redirect my focus on maintenance. There was this program being offered through my insurance, and since it was free, I wanted to see if it could offer some helpful tips to guide me through these steps.

In a nutshell, the program is focused on the concept of intuitive eating. Only eating when you are truly hungry (not starving and not for any other reasons). I've only completed a month of the program so far, so I don't want to give my full consensus yet until I've gone through the whole process. Let's just say there are philosophies that have me furrow a brow, and others that are like, "Okay, I can see that."

One of the challenges posed was to do three weeks of no refined sugar. This coming Sunday will make my last day of that challenge. I want to share with you some of my discoveries, what items didn't work, kind of worked, and actually worked.

Side Note: Coming into this, I also had to recalibrate my medication schedule as well as have the challenge work in conjunction with my recent diagnosis as it pertains to my digestion, which I will cover in a separate post. 

One of the first tasks I did was to go through my refrigerator, freezer, and pantry to see how many food and liquid items I could still use for this challenge. To my dismay, not many. Some of my regular go-to items were full to the brim with added sugar. And, on top of that, the majority of the eliminated foods were the quickest to prepare.

Since some of the foods and drinks I had not too long ago purchased, I attempted to reallocate them to another location, so I wouldn't reach for them. For those I couldn't move, I simply marked the items that I could have, so it would signal my brain that if it isn't marked, I can not partake.

After that, I was on a mission to substitute some of the on-hand stuff for those which suited the challenge. The main staples to replace were:

(1) Cereal
(2) Yogurt
(3) Chips


Out of all the substitutions, cereal was the biggest challenge. Even the ones that are supposed to be "healthy" have added sugar.

The first cereal I tried was the Alpen Muesli.

Needless to say, it wasn't for me. Perhaps it was because I was used to flakes. Or when I think of fruits and nuts, I think trail mix, not cereal. As a breakfast selection, I was only able to get through half a serving before tossing the remainder out that was in my bowl. Now, I'm hoping others in the household will be able to utilize, since tossing a six-dollar box of cereal in the trash would give me a mini palpitation.

The next cereals I heard about were High Key and Magic Spoon. I was drawn to them not only because of the "no sugar added" spiel but because they touted being high in protein. I even did further research and saw what others on YouTube were saying about the products. They did warn that both brands were pricey, even more expensive than the Alpen. However, if even one of these could check off two boxes, then I could see it as an investment that's used frequently.

High Key does have other flavors, but growing up, I did not like fruity cereals. If you are a person who likes fruity cereals, then people do rave about the fruit one. Since I was spending a higher than normal price point, I wanted to get flavors that would be similar to what I would stick with. The closest are the two shown. I bought one of each.

There are some substitute sweeteners that I am more sensitive to than others. This challenge has definitely opened my eyes to what works and what doesn't. For me, what High Key uses as its sweetener (mostly erythritol; at times, erythritol combined with allulose) is very potent. If you have never had it before, it doesn't take some adjustment. In addition, I had to use an alternate milk to balance out the sweetness of the cereal, which is something I never had to do previously.

The first milk I bought was the Oatsome, but the aftertaste of this made me feel like I was eating oatmeal mixed with cereal, which I found weird. Luckily, Jazz was able to use it for a homemade creamer, so that wasn't a total loss. I finally discovered a solution in the Unsweetened Vanilla version of the Silk Cashew milk as well as the Good Mood milk on standby.

Apart from that, here are my thoughts on High Key.
(1) I do like that they were formed liked Rice Krispies.
(2) The Frosted did taste like Rice Krispies, only extra crunchy.
(3) I don't think the Honey Nut tasted like Honey Nut Cheerios but that was okay.
(4) Even immersed in milk, both kinds of cereal remained crunchy.

Would I buy High Key again? 

I decided to purchase Magic Spoon next. I went directly to their website and got a custom box: 1 Frosted, 1 Cinnamon, 1 Chocolate, and 1 Chocolate Peanut Butter.

The Chocolate and the Chocolate Peanut Butter is out of my comfort zone, but it wouldn't have been much variety to pick four of the same one.

The first one I did try was the Chocolate Peanut Butter. It totally amazed me ... it was absolutely delicious! I did not get hit with the erythritol aftertaste. The aftertaste was practically nonexistent; it was mainly the chocolate and the peanut butter that was dominant. I discovered that the sweeter used was allulose, and my taste buds are a fan of the erythritol not being in the equation. The same witchcraft (that is what I'm calling it until I can figure out the secret) that kept the High Key cereal crunchy reappeared with the Magic Spoon.

As I write this, the Chocolate Peanut Butter is gone.

The next one I tried was the Frosted. It tastes absolutely nothing like Frosted Flakes. The smell reminds me of a vanilla cupcake but the taste is somewhere between Kix and Honey Comb. Although I have not had the cinnamon or chocolate Magic Spoon yet, I predict that the Frosted will remain my second favorite. 

They also have slightly more protein than the High Key.

I can easily see this cereal as being a staple. I do wish it was available in the nearby stores, but until then, the subscription box it is!


Another quick staple (either as a small breakfast or dessert) for me would be yogurt. I always liked vanilla as a base but the brand I tended to get had added sugar. I did hope that I would be fine with the plain, provided I blend in lots of fruit.

Plain yogurt is for recipes, not for having on its own. Near the end of the 2nd week of the challenge, I stumbled upon the Oikos Pro (which has 20 g of Protein), which saved my taste buds.


What can I say? Some snacks one can eliminate; others, in moderation. For me, chips fit in the moderation category. Over the past few months, I've strived to get chips that have more protein. The main one that I heard about was Quest.

I watched this review by Exercise4CheatMeals. I was able to find the Nacho Cheese and Ranch flavors pretty easily. The Nacho Cheese did not impress me. The Ranch was slightly better. The two that I wanted to find in the stores (BBQ and Loaded Taco) I was having difficulty finding in the stores until I went to Target last week and found the 4 pack bags for $8.00. For me, those two flavors are a hit.

Another winner for me was the protein puffs by Shrewd Food. Before I found the Quest chips I was looking for, I ordered a pack of the Brick Oven Pizza flavored puffs from Amazon. They have a decent amount of protein (14g) per bag and about 90 calories. 

Now that the challenge is coming to an end, I have discovered:
(1) I didn't miss the "added sugar" in coffee as much as I thought I would. My coffee was flavored with a sleeve of Splenda and a sleeve of Stevia, and I was good to go.
(2) The cashew milk goes well with cereal. I don't even mind drinking it solo. I still cannot say that for almond milk, although I'm unsure why.
(3) I did miss having the occasional bagel, so I will introduce that once the challenge is over. Again, quick and easy to consume.
(4) Protein chips are becoming more of a permanent fixture. I find that I get full; therefore I don't have to consume as many chips to satisfy my craving.
(5) Boost Max serves as a better meal replacement than the Glucerna. With the discovery of how much added sugar the Glucerna has, I'll be phasing that out after the excess supply has been used.
(6) I did miss having the Yasso Greek yogurt bars. I will still have them from time to time, but not as often.
(7) I have become accustomed to sugar-free gummies and sugar-free chocolate. I even found a sugar-free cookie that I enjoy.

Okay, I think I've covered all the bases. More to come later.

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