Bittersweet

Mint tea, almond pastilla, and flavored yogurts are staples in Morocco, but unfortunately have one thing in common: lots of sugar.  Based on recent books, studies, and experiments of sugar-free life, more evidence is coming out that sugar is one of the worst things we can eat.  Supposedly it works like any addictive substance, so that once you start putting three sugar cubes in your morning tea, you can’t easily cut back to two.  Sugar can be hard to avoid in packaged foods, and sweet treats are often offered as a sign of hospitality, making them hard to refuse.

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Just because those pastries are green doesn’t mean they’re good for you.

My mom and I have decided to see what the no-sugar revolution is all about by cutting sugar out of our lives for five weeks.  We read that a sugar-free diet can lead to withdrawal symptoms, rapid weight loss, and drastically improved health.  We don’t think we will see such a big difference seeing as neither of us eat much sugar as it is; just the occasional sweetened yogurt or some chocolate.  However, one of our motivations is that it will give us the ability to easily turn down treats that are forced on us.  We both dislike when people try to get us to eat unhealthy foods against our will, so it will give us a good excuse.

 

We're only eating sweet treats that grow on trees.

We’re only eating sweet treats that grow on trees.

Our five weeks started strong on Tuesday, with three healthy meals and a dessert of a melon eaten directly from the skin with a spoon…very sweet.  We’ll keep you updated!

But You Haven’t Eaten Anything!

In many cultures, it’s considered to be a sign of hospitality to encourage others to eat.  The best way to make a guest feel at home is to bring them plates of food until they can no longer move, and then to exclaim, “but you haven’t eaten anything!”  Or to ask someone who has eaten modest portions why they haven’t eat much and if they might be ill.  I certainly enjoy situations like this on occasion, because it makes me feel like royalty; not to mention the fact that there are some truly phenomenal cooks in the world.

But if these situations of being encouraged to eat too much happen on a regular basis, it becomes a burden.  It is difficult too eat enough to please your host without making yourself sick, or to praise the food profusely enough that you can get by without offending, or to come up with a convincing excuse, often a lie, as to why you can eat no more.

We're having pastries for dinner tonight! (If only my mom had ever said that...)

We’re having pastries for dinner tonight! (If only my mom had ever said that…)

Nutrition is certainly a confusing thing, and new studies still come out on a regular basis with new information on what we should or shouldn’t eat, how we should eat, or when we should eat.  I have made it one of my goals to teach my students (and their parents) about proper nutrition, but I’ve realized that one of the major obstacles is that many people just don’t know what good nutrition is.  I think this is the same issue with food as hospitality; it is unclear whether eating more is good or bad.  In some situations, eating more might give you the necessary nutrients that you might not otherwise have gotten, and if you do not have enough to eat normally, it is helpful to be served too much every once in a while.  But if you make a point of eating only healthful foods and in appropriate quantities, being to told eat more can be annoying or offensive.

Look at all of those fruits and vegetables!  I'll trade in my pastries for some of those clementines.

Look at all of those fruits and vegetables! I’ll trade in my pastries for some of those clementines.

When I cook for myself, I like to make dishes like lentil soup with cauliflower instead of potatoes, or bread with yogurt instead of butter in order to make them a little healthier.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy some pastries every once in a while.