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Sugar On The Homestead

By Christine Nelson

Tags: Too Much Sugar, Cutting Out Sugar, No Sugar Challenge, Christine Nelson,

Christine NelsonWhen you think of a farm fresh meal, what comes to mind? I would say roasted leg of lamb with sweet potatoes, salad and of course, an amazing dessert like apple pie or peach cobber.

But if we are all really trying to be like our ancestors and grow our own food, where does sugar really fit in? Back in the day, sugar was an extra special and rare treat. I remember the episode of Little House on The Prairie when Pa had been on a long trip and on his return he brought with him a small amount of sugar. In the show they poured some out and oooed and awwwed over it like it was gold. If you think about it, the amount of sugar he brought back with him was probably equivalent to what we put in one whole pie. We certainly don't stretch it over a long period of time like Ma Ingalls probably did.

apple pie sprinkled with sugar | Fotolia/Dani Vincek

Photo: Fotolia/Dani Vincek

Think about what people might consume each day that contains added sugar that you don't even consider to be a special dessert. Let's say for breakfast you had a muffin, for lunch a BLT and dinner your favorite pasta. Even if you made every single meal from scratch, the typical recipe for all of these contains sugar. Add it all up and you are most definitely consuming more than you think.

A dessert now and then is not so bad, but sugar seems to be added to everything now, even from scratch recipes. It seems so many recipe books, including those titled Grandma's Down Home Cookin', involve adding sugar to even spaghetti sauce.

The average American consumes about 150 pounds of sugar per year. Take a step back and really think about that for a minute. That's a lot of sugar!

Don't get me wrong, I love a tasty dessert just as much as the next person. But I want my children to grow strong and healthy and I know that if we ate like the average American they wouldn't be able to keep up with all of the things that farm life involves. I've seen the effects of what sugar does to their mood, I'd hate to see what would happen to their health if we ate a lot of it long term. If we want our children to grow up and pass on our values, don't we want them to live long enough to make an impact, not end up in the ER with a heart attack at 50?

Imagine how hard life would have been if the early settlers ate 150 pounds of sugar per year. Do you think they would have been able to wake up in the morning ready to tackle the physical labor that true homesteading involved? I doubt it and often wonder if they would have been able to succeed like they did.

We all know that there's no way settlers would have access to the amount of sugar that we currently do. Image how great (or rather, healthy!) the world would be if we treated sugar like it was something that was hard to come by. 

According to Dr. Robert Lustig's 2012 book, Fat Chance, 40 percent of death certificates list diabetes as the cause of death. That is up from 13 percent 20 years prior.

This is a global problem and it's only growing.

spoons of sugar | Fotolia/marylooo

Photo: Fotolia/marylooo

Last week our local news featured a story examining the fact that more than 71 percent of Kansans are too overweight to be in the military. This is according to Mission: Readiness. It's literally a threat to our national security.

So what's my point, you may be wondering? Why should you care? You strive for self-reliant living and can your own beans for crying out loud.

Well, I think of the modern-day alternative farmer as the pioneer of good things. If Joel Salatin hadn't been brave enough to do what everyone else thought was crazy and nonsense, imagine how different the world would be. It has taken bravery on his part to think outside the box in order to improve farming methods. This improvement has lead to livestock improvement and health improvement of those who consume it.

Even if you are canning your own food and raising your own meat, you are paying for this sugary overweight problem. You are paying for it with your tax dollars, something none of us can get out of no matter how self sufficient we become. Being overweight increases our risk of disease including heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Our money is going towards the medical care related to the diseases listed above and it's only getting worse.

So my challenge to you is this. Cut down on the sugar. Be an example to other people, inspire them to do the same. Making a difference starts out with one person and spreads to the community. You can be the change, there's no reason why not.

I am doing a 14 Day No Sugar Challenge in order to inspire others to take a closer look at their sugar consumption. We are a small group on Facebook that is starting August 1. I would love for you to join us and be sure to invite your friends and family. We will discuss recipes and offer support; it's going to be great fun! You can also read more about this no-sugar challenge on my personal blog page at Nelson's Edibles Acres.

Do you eat much sugar? I'd love to hear your no-sugar recipes!