Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Breaking the Habit - Tales from a Former Crystal Light Addict

**This is an old post from 2012 that I accidently republished, ha... but on the plus side, I am still on the wagon and Crystal Light-free! ;) **


I tend to go through food and drink phases where I become OBSESSED with particular items for a certain period of time...

Some were short-lived:
~ Kashi cereal, Luna bars, Annie's mac-and-cheese, Propel water, Nut Thins (so addicting... they seriously put the "crack" in cracker)

Some are off and on depending on the season or my mood:
~ baby carrots, oatmeal, pumpkin coffee, pomegranates

Some are relatively new obsessions:
~ red grapefruit, sweet potatoes, Ezekial bread

And then some have been sticking around for quite some time:
~ bacon, orange juice, salmon... and Crystal Light... that is, until I recently challenged myself to stop drinking it.

Crystal Light... helping water get in my belly for much too long now...
I've been a Crystal Light (CL) drinker for a LONG time.  I started years ago as a means to increase my water intake.  I was never a huge fan of drinking plain water... even when I worked out, I usually drank either Propel water (see short-lived obsessions, above) or orange Gatorade mixed with a little protein powder.

When I discovered CL - and subsequently, CL To Go single serving packets - I found myself stocking up on the iced tea flavor and kept To Go packets everywhere so that I'd never be stuck drinking (gasp!) plain water :)

While training for my first bikini competition last year, my coach continuously stressed the importance of eating real food and watching intake of processed foods, such as artificial sweeteners, due to their toxicity.    This included CL, which contains aspartame.  Are artificial sweeteners toxic in small amounts? No, but research is still unclear as to what the long-term effects are... especially if being consumed on a daily basis.

I was consuming up to three CL To Go packets per day, not to mention my sugar substitute of choice at the time was Splenda.  I was quick to cut out Splenda entirely (I can't even stand the taste of it now) but CL remained a staple.


Last month, I decided to challenge myself to cut out CL cold turkey and focus on finding other ways to get my daily water intake (like I needed to add another challenge onto my year).  I wanted to put serious effort into eliminating this remaining artificial sweetener from my routine and, considering I went through at least one CL box per week, this would be a big test!  I also wanted see if I felt a difference being off it.

Now, my background is in strength and conditioning, not nutrition, so I was curious to know what a nutritionist thought of CL and if it matched up with what I had been coached on while competition training.  I decided to reach out to the creator of Beautifully Nutty, Registered Dietitian Melanie, for her thoughts...

"All in all, I don't think Crystal Light is a bad product," Melanie said, "but I also don't like the ingredient list and lengthy additives."  She pointed out that if one of her clients refused to drink water unless it was mixed with CL, then she would say to have it because it's better than nothing.  However, she advised not drinking CL in excess and recommended adding your own ingredients instead for the majority of the time.

I discovered that Melanie had also gone through a CL phase in college in an attempt to drink more water but she admitted that it also wasn't the healthiest time in her life.  She now prefers to drink plain, filtered tap water or club soda and adds lemon, lime, cucumber, orange or mint (but not all at once!) to give the water a nice, subtle hint of fresh flavor without adding any funky ingredients.
cucumber mint water, yum!

It's been almost 1.5 months now that I've been CL-free and, honestly, I don't really miss it.  Granted, I couldn't say that in week 1 and had to shield my eyes when I walked by the display in the grocery store so that I wouldn't be tempted to reach out and throw one in my basket... but I can definitely say that now :)  I also don't have that constant "bloated" feeling anymore but not sure if that's from removing CL or not.

How do I get my water intake these days, being CL-free?

  • Adding fresh limes - it's almost a joke how many limes I go through a week but I seriously love lime in my water.  I'm definitely going to try Melanie's tip of adding mint to my water too!
  • Making my own fresh brewed decaf iced tea instead of the CL version - much more of an authentic taste... who knew?! ;)
  • Keeping it cold - I am much more apt to drink water the colder it is... I have this water bottle ice cube tray from IKEA that freezes the cubes in a long, narrow shape that fits in a water bottle... Perfect!

My water bottle ice cube tray from IKEA

There is a new CL product sweetened with stevia instead of aspartame, which I recently tried, but the taste just didn't win me over. I discovered that I prefer to go the natural route with flavoring my water.  CL definitely helped me achieve my goal of drinking more water; however, my nutrition priorities have gradually shifted over the years and CL simply no longer aligns with them.  As with any individual nutrition plan, you have to find what works for you :)

One quick side note - if you haven't been on Melanie's website, Beautifully Nutty, do yourself a favor and check it out.  There are some delicious recipes in there that look amazing, including her recent Petite Squash Puffs with Bacon Saute... are you kidding me??

It has bacon in it... 'Nuf said.
photo courtesy of Beautifully Nutty

Have you ever tried to eliminate anything from your nutrition practices?  How did it go??



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