Year of No Sugar: A Memoir

Year of No Sugar: A Memoir

3.8 12
by Eve Schaub

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For fans of the New York Times bestseller I Quit Sugar or Katie Couric's controversial food industry documentary Fed Up, A Year of No Sugar is a "delightfully readable account of how [one family] survived a yearlong sugar-free diet and lived to tell the tale...A funny, intelligent, and informative memoir."


For fans of the New York Times bestseller I Quit Sugar or Katie Couric's controversial food industry documentary Fed Up, A Year of No Sugar is a "delightfully readable account of how [one family] survived a yearlong sugar-free diet and lived to tell the tale...A funny, intelligent, and informative memoir." —Kirkus

It's dinnertime. Do you know where your sugar is coming from? Most likely everywhere. Sure, it's in ice cream and cookies, but what scared Eve O. Schaub was the secret world of sugar—hidden in bacon, crackers, salad dressing, pasta sauce, chicken broth, and baby food.

With her eyes opened by the work of obesity expert Dr. Robert Lustig and others, Eve challenged her husband and two school-age daughters to join her on a quest to quit sugar for an entire year.

Along the way, Eve uncovered the real costs of our sugar-heavy American diet—including diabetes, obesity, and increased incidences of health problems such as heart disease and cancer. The stories, tips, and recipes she shares throw fresh light on questionable nutritional advice we've been following for years and show that it is possible to eat at restaurants and go grocery shopping—with less and even no added sugar.

Year of No Sugar is what the conversation about "kicking the sugar addiction" looks like for a real American family—a roller coaster of unexpected discoveries and challenges.

"As an outspoken advocate for healthy eating, I found Schaub's book to shine a much-needed spotlight on an aspect of American culture that is making us sick, fat, and unhappy, and it does so with wit and warmth."—Suvir Sara, author of Indian Home Cooking

"Delicious and compelling, her book is just about the best sugar substitute I've ever encountered."—Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Powers

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The diary I wish I had kept ... the adventures of her family, the roadblocks they encountered, and the sheer daily difficulty of overcoming a national obsession." - From the foreword by David Gillespie, author of Sweet Poison

"Eve O. Schaub's Year of No Sugar has the potential to alter your deeply rooted convictions regarding the innocent pleasure of sugar." - Betsy Shaw, blogger and former Olympic snowboarder

"The surface charm of Year of No Sugar-breezy wit, blithe anecdote and effortless evocation of people and the stuff they put in their mouths-cannot conceal Schaub's deeper purpose: a takedown of sugar, its disarming myths, its dangerous presence in nearly everything we eat, and its cynical marketing. Delicious and compelling, her book is just about the best sugar substitute I've ever encountered." - Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Ron Powers

"[Schaub] debunks questionable nutritional advice, pokes fun at her own past experiments with health fads, and recalls the particular challenges of sweets-laden Halloween and Christmas. At the end of the year, the family was healthier, and they had accumulated a store of ideas and recipes (included in the book) to counter the craving for something sweet." - Booklist

"Delightfully readable account of how [Schaub] and her family survived a yearlong sugar-free diet-and lived to tell the tale. ... A funny, intelligent and informative memoir." - Kirkus

"informative and hilarious ... Eve and her husband tackled every blip, fit and question with a heaping dose of good humor." - Woman's World

"Eve Schaub has certainly heightened my awareness of sugar. After reading Year of No Sugar, I haven't been able to walk in the grocery store without reading a label (which I always did, but now it's really consuming). If you're looking for an entertaining read, pick up a copy and see if you can't help but avoiding the sweet stuff-even that can be addictive." - Sweet Home

"I admire Eve and her family for their stick-to-itiveness, and I highly recommend Year of No Sugar. It's a quick read, but will leave you thinking for a long time. It certainly raised my awareness." - Baby Center Blog

"Schaub is a wonderful storyteller. Her sense of humor and ability to paint pictures of situations they find themselves makes Year of No Sugar a pleasure to read. Whether or not you decide to follow in her footsteps concerning limiting or removing sugar from your diet, you will undoubtedly enjoy reading her story, and find lots of food for thought as well. " - Story Circle Book Reviews

"Vermont author Eve O. Schaub chronicles how her family (husband, two school-age daughters) tried to banish fructose and "it's many, many aliases" from their life. Easier said than done, since the stuff has snuck into everything from ketchup to salad dressing to bacon. When Schaub announces the plan, both girls break into hysterical tears (one later describes her sugar-free family as "mutants"). But as the months progress, their sweets cravings diminish (substitutes help, like brown rice syrup), and they feel happier and healthier." - Boston Globe

Library Journal
This blog-turned-book details Schaub's one-year challenge of eating meals containing no added sugar. After watching a YouTube video called "Sugar: The Bitter Truth," writer Schaub decided that she, her husband, and their two daughters would eschew all forms of added fructose, which the video convinced her is a poison, for 12 months. The author makes a few exceptions—one dessert a month containing sugar is allowed; each family member can choose one item that deviates from the plan (wine, diet soda, or jam); and the kids had autonomy outside of the house to decide whether or not to have sugar. The year began on shaky ground as the clan discovered that added sugar is in nearly everything: bread, tomato sauce, crackers, salad dressing, and Worcestershire sauce are just a few examples. Dining in restaurants and traveling proved tricky but not impossible, and after growing tired of confections sweetened with bananas, coconut, and dates, Schaub discovered dextrose and began baking with it. VERDICT Schaub's writing is witty and humorous and she makes the science behind the dangers of sugar accessible to the lay reader.—Pauline Baughman, Multnomah Cty. Lib., Portland, OR
Kirkus Reviews
A Vermont blogger mom's delightfully readable account of how she and her family survived a yearlong sugar-free diet—and lived to tell the tale. After Schaub watched a video of a professor of medicine that claimed sugar was "a poison" and suggested that American culture "was the modern-day equivalent of an opium den," she was both horrified and intrigued. She knew that eating sugar in excess was unhealthy. But Schaub had no idea that sugar—and, specifically, its main ingredient, fructose—was at the heart of a worldwide obesity epidemic that was affecting infants as well as children and adults. Determined to help her family kick the sugar habit (or at least moderate it), the author challenged her husband and two young daughters to live without sugar for one year. What she and her family didn't realize was that going truly sugarless would mean more than just giving up desserts. They quickly discovered that everything—from bread to soups to salad dressings—contained trace amounts of sugar, but Schaub and her family worked around the problem. They created recipes (a few of which the author shares) for meals made from whole foods and treats sweetened with fruits or dextrose, a sugar which contains no fructose. Over time, the author found that her family's hyperfondness for sugar gradually faded and that she herself no longer enjoyed confections as much. In fact, she developed powerful, and unpleasant, sugar headaches that left her feeling irritable and lethargic. The most telling result of this experiment revealed itself in her children's pattern of attendance. During the family's year of no sugar, the girls' illness-related absences from school dropped by 75 percent. Sugar may have become the cultural shortcut "to better taste, to more convenience and to ever-higher food industry profits," but as Schaub suggests, the path to health and happiness is best traveled conscientiously rather than quickly. A funny, intelligent and informative memoir.

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Sugar and me? We go way back.

I love sugar. LOOOOVVVVVE it. I love everything about it: how it makes little occasions special and special occasions fabulous. How it performs hot, bubbling magic on sour fruits, like rhubarb and gooseberries, to make the most succulent, mind-blowing pies and jams. How it crunches with perfect granulation in the best cookies and how a single cube of it adds fairy-tale perfection to a real Italian cappuccino.

And don't even get me started on chocolate.

I've known about the power of sugar for a long time. When I was in seventh grade, we were given an English-class assignment: create a "how-to" presentation on a subject of our choosing. Although I was awkward, painfully shy, and terrified to stand before the class, I still knew exactly what I wanted to do: a demonstration of different methods of cake decorating using a standard two-layer I had baked as a prop. Easy peasy.

The day of our presentations arrived, and I was petrified but excited-after all, I thought, how could I go wrong with a topic like cake? Then it came to be my turn and I, decked out in my best Esprit sweatshirt and ribbon barrettes, proceeded to inform the class how they could make their cakes more beautiful and interesting, which I'm sure had my preadolescent classmates simply riveted. This was 1982, mind you, before Martha Stewart did for homemaking what Edward Cullen did for being alarmingly pale. Making cakes and cookies wasn't even remotely cool; it was what grannies did when they weren't crocheting throw blankets in shades of mustard and avocado.

Nonetheless, everything seemed to be going along fairly well until I got to the part about making designs in the frosting using the tines of a fork. After chocolate shavings and shaking powdered sugar through a doily, this was pretty much my Big Finish. It was then that I realized-with horror-that I had Forgotten. The. Fork.


This was one in a series of moments in seventh grade when I fervently wished I had a shell in which to curl up and disappear, but lacking that, I instead turned a lovely shade of beet and attempted to mime the fork part. Worse public speaking debacles have happened, I imagine, but you couldn't have convinced me of that then.

However, despite the Fork Faux Pas and my appalling lack of public speaking skills, all was not lost. My English teacher liked the speech, but she loved the cake. I have a distinct memory of her pink, round face beaming as we all dug into our slices. I received what was in all likelihood a wholly undeserved A. That was proof enough for me in the power of sweet.

As far back as I can remember, I've always loved to bake. Once, when I was perhaps seven or eight years old, I created a carefully hand-lettered menu and invited everyone in the family to my "restaurant." Forensic analysis of that menu now reveals that I let Mom worry about the incidental entree of steak and baked potato (yeah, whatever), while I focused on what was really important: apple cobbler for dessert. The menu even featured a fanciful illustration of the pièce de résistance on the cover. As far as I was concerned, I had made dinner.

Like most kids, I knew dessert was something special, something magical. Every once in a while, my mother would handily transform a pile of fruit into a pie, handing us down the pastry scraps, which my brother and I would roll into little balls and eat raw while we climbed trees in the backyard. I pined for an Easy-Bake Oven in which to make my very own magical concoctions, but sadly, Santa ignored my culinary aspirations (also, my request for a Barbie Styling Head and Wonder Woman Underoos). So I pestered my mom to let me use the real oven until she finally relented.

I made box cakes from the time I could reach the kitchen counter. I remember my shock the first time flour exploded high into the air because I turned the mixer on too high, too fast; my cavernous disappointment the first time I tried to make a recipe without a key ingredient (baking powder, perhaps? I mean, how important could that half a teaspoon really be?), and it came out like warmed-over mud.

Still, I would bake at the drop of a hat-for our family, for the neighbor, for the neighbor's dog, for anyone. Everyone always loved it when I baked, with the possible exception of Mom, who patiently cleaned up after me. After all, who doesn't like dessert? Dessert to me was, and is, an ultimate expression of love-it is beyond a meal; it is beyond sustenance. It is something extra, something special that is made because someone simply wanted you to have it... More than being fed, they wanted you to be happy. I made the connection at an early age that sugar is the food equivalent of love.

I also learned that the withholding of sugar is a mighty punishment. Once, when we had a rather unobservant babysitter, I had the idea to bring a pocketful of the sparkly doodads from Mom's jewelry box to the playground and use them to decorate my sandbox creations. Of course, once I ran off distractedly to play elsewhere, the jewelry disappeared, and suddenly I found myself in big, huge, ENORMOUS trouble.

Abject, tear-stained, I waited like an inmate for my sentence. At last it came down from the powers that be: no dessert. For a month.

This may not sound like much to you, but believe me, it was the most effective punishment they could possibly have dreamed up. I was open-mouth horrified. A month? That was like, forever. I might expire first. Couldn't they just cane me instead?

But watching my family eat the occasional Entenmann's slice of yellow-sheet-cake-with-the-frosting-that-comes-right-off-in-one-piece wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that this, this was the month of a very special event: the Indian Princess Make-Your-Own-Sundae Party.

Oh. My. God.

I had never been to a Make-Your-Own-Ice-Cream-Sundae Party, but at that time, it only sounded to me like the Best Thing in the Whole World. I was more than horrified; I was in shock. "Indian Princesses" was a YMCA-sponsored activity (and, obviously, a pre-politically correct era one at that). It was not unlike Brownies or Girl Scouts in that there were lots of craft projects and we marched together in local parades. But the main idea of Indian Princesses was that it was a father-daughter bonding activity, so I knew it was Dad who would be taking me. Would he break down? I wondered. Wouldn't he cave just a little at the sight of so much potential happiness just beyond his adorable little Indian Princess's reach?

The answer to that, actually, was no. Although my dad is known to be a bit of a softy, I'm guessing my mother prepped him in advance: no dessert means...No. Dessert. End of story. I sat and watched all my friends and their dads pile bowls high with what seemed to me at the time to be just about the most delicious combination of ingredients I had ever witnessed-not just ice cream and sprinkles, but M&M's, hot fudge and butterscotch, even whipped cream from a can! ARRRGGH!!!!!!! I was in Hell.

Let me just tell you, I never touched my mother's things again. Ever.

Since then, a lot of time has passed; over my teenage, college, and early adult years, I continued to bake and even became interested in actual meal cooking as well. No one I knew in college seemed quite as interested in these things as I was. Most everyone I knew was content to be spoon-fed whatever was trucked in to the myriad dining halls we had on campus. I insisted on going off the meal plan and doing my own food experimenting in the dorm mini-kitchen across the hall. While my floor-mates were discovering Jell-O shots or arguing over their Dungeons and Dragons powers, I was making hummus in my room, buying bulk quinoa at the co-op downtown, and trying to figure out how to devein shrimp on top of my bedspread. When the apple pie I had baked from scratch for a friend's birthday was stolen from the communal fridge, I was beside myself. Stolen!! Pie tin and all-gone! Pinching money I could almost understand, but food? Dessert? A birthday dessert!?! Did these barbarians have no humanity?

Of course they didn't. We were talking about young adults whose idea of gourmet cuisine was mozzarella sticks from the Hot Truck. From an early age, I was long out of step with my peers when it came to my passion for food.

At the same time, I've been extremely lucky in life never to be in real need of losing weight, so food fads have come and gone without my feeling the need to pay much mind. The Low-Carb Diet, the Low-Fat Diet, the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the Blood Type Diet, the Eat All the Liver and Pistachios You Want Diet...I ignored them all. The only one that grabbed my attention in the late nineties was the popular Sugar Busters diet, which dictated that followers give up refined sugar and white flour.

"Why not just give up eating!?!" I would scoff to myself whenever an acquaintance would profess to have lost "a ton" of weight on Sugar Busters. I was annoyed. I was offended at the suggestion that cakes and pies-my cakes, my pies-made from scratch, with love, could be harmful. Harmful! "This is all going too far. What, are we never supposed to have fun anymore?"

Seriously. What harm could possibly be done by enjoying dessert?

Meet the Author

Eve O. Schaub graduated from Cornell and Rochester Institute of Technology. She has written for Vermont Life and Vermont Magazine, among others. During her family's year of no sugar, Schaub blogged regularly and was often a guest on WAMC, New York's NPR affiliate, as well as a regular visitor to Vermont Public Radio. She lives in Vermont with her family.

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Year of No Sugar: A Memoir 3.8 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book rocks! Finally a book that details the problems created by too much sugar in one's diet without all the jargon that makes your eyes glaze over. The author has done all the research and the work in creating a common-sense approach to limiting the added sugar in one's diet, with recipes to boot. If you have kids, it is important for you to read this nicely paced book an apply its lessons.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It should be how to cheat on your diet. She says no sugar and proceedsto figure out how to eat as many sweets as she can under different guises of sugar. I wonder what else she cheats on and tries to rationalize. I just didn't get it. I kept reading and hoping she would say "just kidding. I really didn't eat sugar this year". To me, no sugar means no cakes, cookies, gelato, candy, muffins etc. Inc wine. No means no in my mind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Although I agree that decreasing the amount of sugar in our diet is important, this book discusses eliminating only specific types of sugar and relies on questionable tertiary sources to support the claim. Junk science is bad, poorly written junk science is insufferable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was engrossing, I couldn't put it down. I never thought a book on the way one eats would be so entertaining. Eve gives the most complete information about the possible bad effects of sugar in our diet, but she has a pragmatic approach to its application. Eve does not preach her message, but after reading her book, you will never feel comfortable with indulging in sugar again. This book is highly recommended for anyone dealing with sugar issues!!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One who has cooked for an insulin diabetic knows all the hidden sugars including veggies you cook from scratch and watch portions bake your own means you can reduce natural sugars in sweet desserts a natural is better than an artifical sugar. sugar is used to increase salt and salt to increase sugar taste.if you are diabetic you will have to decrease sugar salt and fat. Artifical creamer is all sweet solids. I teaspoon of fat per meal and 3 oz to 4 ozmeat fat trim. You get five patties from a pound of hamburger.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't this this book says much that is new and it seems to have lifted its format (including her child's journal) from Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". Probably better off reading the books she references like "Bitter Truth," etc.