Buffalo News Refresh – April 2017

By: Holly R. Layer

The WNY Refresh ‘No Added Sugar Challenge’ – A progress report

How’s everyone doing on their April ‘No-Added-Sugar’ Challenge? I was pleasantly surprised to hear how many of my friends planned to join me in avoiding added sugars or in some other ‘get healthy’ undertaking. Between Facebook and those I ran into around town, we have a small crew of people interested in improving their health, which makes me excited!

First of all, congratulations and keep up the good work! It takes a lot to commit to something like this, so kudos to you if you’ve tried to omit sugar for even a day or a week if not the entire 30 days. We’re more than halfway through April, so I encourage you to stay strong until May 1. (Here’s a gentle reminder NOT to ‘celebrate’ the end by eating all the junk you’ve been avoiding.)

Secondly, if you fell face-first into a bowl of jelly beans Easter Sunday, cut yourself some slack and get right back on the no-added-sugar bandwagon. Everyone makes mistakes and this isn’t a Whole30—you don’t have to start over. Just like I tell those I counsel, you’re never more than one opportunity away from making the right choice.

Just to keep it real, here’s how I’m doing:

  • No dessert for me: While on a weekend trip to Philly, I was the only one of the group to pass on (what was apparently) very good water ice. I’m a huge fan of the cool treat, but I was still full from my cheesesteak dinner and didn’t think it was worth it to break my challenge.
  • Being prepared while out of town: For both our trips this month, I packed compliant snacks and breakfast items so that I’d be prepared. I made my no-added-sugar banana muffins, brought plain yogurt, grain-free granola, trail mix and lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Homemade jam: I found a recipe online and gave it a whirl. After cooking some fruit and mixing with chia seeds to thicken, what you get is a fresher, fruitier ‘jam’ to mix into yogurt or spread on toast. Check out my blog for the recipe.
  • Weight Loss: I’ve also incorporated calorie counting back into my routine using the MyFitnessPal app. It helps keep me accountable, curbs snacking and late-night eating and promotes appropriate portions. Calorie counting is something I dread until I start, and in about a day I realize how much better I feel when I’m being more diligent about what and how much I’m eating.
  • The hubby has really impressed me. He’s following the rules (although he was a bit more liberal while traveling) and even trying new things, like unsweetened tea and seltzers…and likes them!
  • In an effort to be transparent with my readers, there have been some ‘exceptions.’ Ordinarily I’d insist that there be no bending of the rules, even during our two weekends out of town. However, in the interest of rule-breaking (something I’m working on personally) and ‘food freedom’ (something else I’m working on personally), and the fact that there are just some really great things out there you can’t get in WNY, I allowed myself a couple treats while traveling. All of them were delicious, unique to the area and added significantly to my experience with loved ones.

If you need another reason to decrease added sugars in your diet, consider this: a recent study showed that decreasing added sugar intake from 28% of calories to 10% resulted in improved blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and blood sugar levels in as few as nine days.

Again, best wishes for a strong finish!

it’s my jam

Not really.  It’s Joy Bauer’s Cherry-Chia Jam!


For our 30-day ‘No-Added-Sugar’ Challenge, jams and jellies are all OUT because they’re loaded with sugar.  Bummer.  Neither Andrew nor I are big PB&J eaters (not because they aren’t delicious, they’re just not the healthiest choices and we tend to gravitate to leftovers for lunches), but I do like jam on bread or atop oatmeal, etc.

However, when I saw this recipe come across Facebook, I knew I had to try it.  I actually have a friend who joined in the challenge who was really going to miss his daily PB&J sandwich, so I was hoping this would be a winner.

Verdict: Success!

The result was a fresh, fruity gel that was perfect on a slice of toasted Ezekiel bread this morning, and I think it would be even better with some nut butter!  My chia seeds didn’t change their texture very much (I expected them to swell and become translucent, like chia puddings), but they achieved the gel-like consistency the jam needed.

For this batch, I used mostly frozen cherries with a few frozen strawberry and blueberry stragglers and fresh pineapple.  I was able to mash it all pretty well, so I didn’t remove any chunks of pineapple like Joy instructs in the recipe. I can imagine this jam with other fruits, like strawberries or apricots.  It was so easy to make, I may start adding this into the rotation as we finish off the jams and jellies we already have at home.

Also, while searching for Joy’s link, I came across this site with a VERY similar recipe. Jessica and Stacie are Registered Dietitians and expound on the health benefits of chia seeds in their post. Be sure to check out their site!

*Note: This is one of those items that flirts with the line between no sugar and ‘added sugar’ since it’s high in NATURAL sugar–basically the very sweet pineapple is contributing natural sugar to the flavor.  My no-added-sugar banana bread is also guilty of this, although it’s not very sweet. On the one hand, sugar is sugar is sugar; on the other, it’s natural sugar and doesn’t tend to be as sweet, so it helps to decrease a person’s dependence on sugar.



the Easter there was no sugar 

Unfortunately, Easter falls smack-dab in the middle of our ‘No-Added-Sugar’ Challenge.  Sorry, guess you’ll have to pass on inhaling all that extra sugar this year (insert sarcastic voice). Seriously, don’t we all regret that (first/second/third…) bag of jelly beans?

(If you’re really that broken up about it, there’s nothing stopping you from stashing a bag to eat May 1. It’s your sugar rush, not mine.)

Back to Easter.  Andrew and I have done baskets for each other every year since we got married, and for the last four or five years we’ve spent the holiday with his grandmother in Indiana.  I happily fill their baskets and–let’s be real–most of mine.  Andrew throws a couple surprises in for me, too.  He’s actually a fantastic gift-giver; over the years I’ve gotten floral running tights, stacks of books, a beautiful journal and tons of ‘healthy’ treats like fun granola, energy bars and specialty chocolate.

This year, I wanted to show everyone how easy it is to find no-added-sugar items for everyone’s Easter basket!  After a quick trip to Wegmans and TJMaxx, (and grabbing some of our own items from around the house), I put together some ‘themed’ baskets:

  1. For the ATHLETE:


Obviously, this one is near and dear to my heart, and features some of the items that will go into my basket.  New running socks, dry shampoo, hemp seeds, Evoke ‘Athlete Fuel’ cereal, Sunbutter (no added sugar version), a KIND fruit bar and a BondiBand sweat band. (You can get 10% off your order at BondiBand with my coupon code ‘healthypineapple.’)  To read my post on how AMAZING these sweat bands are, click here.

2.  For a WOMAN:


I had grandma in mind when I built this one, although it’s not exactly what she’ll be getting, since she reads the blog!  EOS hand lotion, nail file and polish, Bath and Body Works shower gel, Tom’s bar soap, a tea sampler and a lavender shave gel as well as a KIND fruit bar and a lemon Larabar. Since MY grandma isn’t doing a sugar challenge, I got her a couple treats, too, that aren’t shareable so Andrew and I won’t be tempted.

3.  For a MAN:


I don’t know about your hubby, but mine LOVES his everything-flavored bagels, so these pretzels were a must-buy when I saw they didn’t have sugar. Also in the basket: an adventure book about the Adirondacks, ‘manly’ hair gel, my favorite Project 7 gum (gotten get that everything-breath fresh!), beard soap and a trail mix.

4.  For a CHILD:


I realize this basket is a little anemic and girlie, but bear with me.  I grabbed some of my favorite childhood books, colored pencils, KIND fruit bars and a little board book I intend to give my bestie’s daughter when we see them just before Easter.  Kids are perhaps the easiest to satisfy, as small stickers, toys and trinkets will fit into plastic eggs. I’m always a huge fan of books as gifts for any occasion, and coloring books are all the rage these days.

Happy Easter-basket filling!