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The WNY Refresh 'No Added Sugar Challenge' – A progress report

By Holly R. Layer – Contributing Writer

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 a similar "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.

I encourage you to stay strong until May 1. Here’s a gentle reminder: Please don't celebrate the end by eating all the junk you’ve been avoiding.

Holly R. Layer

Secondly, if you fell face-first into a bowl of jelly beans on Easter Sunday, I hope you cut yourself some slack and got right back on the no-added-sugar bandwagon. If not, you can start again now, even if it's just for a few days.

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.

[RELATED STORY: Say no to added sugar and feel better]

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. He 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 percent of calories to 10 percent resulted in improved blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and blood sugar levels in as few as nine days.

Best wishes for a strong finish!

Holly R. Layer is a registered dietitian and a freelance writer. She teaches fitness classes at the Southtowns Family Branch YMCA and lives in East Aurora with her husband, Andrew, a village native. She blogs at and her work appears monthly in the online version of Refresh. Send her nutrition-related questions at  


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