Let me be the first to say that I have a major sweet tooth. I love fruits and vegetables, but I've been known to pound down a bowl of ice cream or sugar laden cookies when offered. The FDA recommends 50 grams of sugar per day for the average person, but I'm willing to bet that I eat more than that on a day to day basis.

Making matters worse, I've been feeling like I'm in an exercise funk. I had to readjust my six days a week gym schedule at school, to a more sedentary schedule back at home. It became harder to keep my stamina up while running, and I suspected my food intake was partly to blame.

sweet, cream
Aakanksha Joshi

So, what's a girl to do? I decided to try a little experiment and stick to the FDA's recommended daily sugar intake to see if it made me feel any better. And let me just say, it was rough.

Day 1—44.7 grams total

sweet, jam
Shannon Carney

To my surprise, I was able to stay under the recommended sugar limit on day 1—but not by much. I started out the day with a breakfast of an English muffin, powdered peanut butter, blackberries, and hazelnut coffee, which brought me to 13 grams of total sugar. This would turn out to be my sugariest meal of the day.

This meal was a big struggle because if I had it my way, I'd eat an entire fruit basket for breakfast. I had to turn down some of my favorites like bananas and apples in favor of blackberries. Blackberries are one of the lowest sugar fruits available, averaging only 7 grams a cup. All in all, it wasn't a bad start, I just wish I had more options!

lettuce, salad
Shannon Carney

After breakfast, I hit the gym and snacked on a protein bar and some more coffee, which tacked on another five grams of sugar. For lunch, I was grappling with a mostly empty fridge, so I decided on two lettuce wraps with turkey and hummus, two celery stalks, and some raw green beans.

For a little added crunch, I had some Harvest Snaps, which are one of my favorite healthier alternatives to potato chips. Once lunch was over, I realized I was battling some serious sugar cravings, so I had two low sugar dried pineapple rings, which brought my meal total to 12.1 grams of sugar.

Shannon Carney

Between lunch and dinner, I went out shopping with a friend. We ended up stopping into a bargain store to look for supplies for our summer job, and somehow wandered into the grocery section. I was feeling the sugar withdrawal as I was tired and all of the packages of cookies seemed to be calling my name.

When I got home, I settled on half of a bell pepper and some Cheez-Its, which only gave 1.95 grams of sugar total. I waited a little longer, and then eventually made myself dinner: one chicken breast, one grilled zucchini, and the other half of my bell pepper.

This meal definitely was the easiest to plan, as most "dinner" foods aren't usually laden with sugar. This meal only had 6.85 grams of sugar for an entire plate full of food. A few hours after dinner, I had a sugar free pudding cup with whipped cream and two more pineapple rings, which provided the final 5.8 grams of sugar.

It was definitely a hard first day, but it really made me pay more attention to where the sugar in my diet was coming from (looking at you, breakfast!).

Day 2—52 grams total

cheese, honey
Shannon Carney

Okay, full disclosure: in the wee hours towards the end of Day 1, I snuck downstairs and shoveled a bunch of granola into my face, which definitely pushed me over my 50 gram sugar limit. What can I say? The cravings hit me hard.

Day 2 however, was a new day, and I started it out with some corn Chex cereal, unsweetened almond milk, cantaloupe, and hazelnut coffee. I was really missing a big plate of fruit from my breakfast the day before, but I made the mistake of not measuring how much fruit and cereal I was eating.

I gave myself a rough estimate of 22 grams of sugar for this meal, which was almost half of my sugar limit for the day. Yikes—rough start.

salad, avocado
Shannon Carney

After breakfast, I was out for a few hours doing some CPR training and paperwork for my summer camp job. When I got home, I threw together a hodgepodge type of lunch, but it actually ended up being relatively low sugar!

I grabbed a coffee from my local gas station for my drive home, which I estimated had about 3 grams of sugar, and then made a salad complete with veggie burger, celery, green beans, and some chickpea and bean salad. For added crunch and salt, I had some Cheez-Its to complete the meal. This meal rang in at about 7 grams of sugar, which pretty much all came from the fresh veggies.

After lunch, I had a real hankering for something sweet, so I ended up eating three more of my low sugar dried pineapple rings. But, even though the dried fruit was "low sugar," the three pieces alone added up to 7.2 grams of sugar—more than my entire lunch!

potato, chives, vegetable
Shannon Carney

Dinner might not have looked all that pretty, but it was the lowest sugar meal I had during all of Day 2, with only four grams. My mom found this recipe for ranch and cream cheese pork, which she paired with garlic and herb potatoes and green beans.

Overall, it was pretty tasty, but I think the low sugar diet was starting to get to me after dinner. Even though I had been eating full meals and drinking water throughout the day, I felt really dizzy and had a pounding headache. What's that saying? "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?" Yeah, I guess the writer who came up with that phrase knew about low blood sugar.

I tried taking my dog for a walk to clear my head, but felt even worse by the time I got home. I put a quick fix on the problem, by having a serving and a half of Arctic Zero "ice cream" and some dry cereal, which I estimated to be around 8 or 9 grams of sugar, but that forced me over my recommended sugar intake. Can't win 'em all, I guess.

Day 3—??? grams total

Shannon Carney

If anyone needs me, I'll be over here waving my white, sugar-laden flag, because I quit this sugar challenge halfway through Day 3. The started out well enough, so I thought I would try one of my favorite breakfasts: Greek yogurt with lots of chopped fruit and chia seeds.

Though I tried to pick low sugar fruits, breakfast still ended up being almost 19 grams of sugar. Definitely a shaky start. After breakfast, I went to the gym, and then snagged a coffee (3 grams) and a caramel peanut protein bar (6 grams). So, before 10:00 a.m., I was already rocking out at 28 grams of sugar, which was more than half of my day's allotment.  

olive oil, chicken, squash, oil, pesto, zucchini
Shannon Carney

My sister had a half-day at school, so we went to the Olive Garden for a sister lunch. I tried to pick the best option available from the under-600 calorie "Tastes of the Mediterranean" menu, but I also had some coffee, salad, and a breadstick (obviously).

Judging off of the Olive Garden's nutritional info, I stuck to around 8 grams of sugar, but it was super hard to watch my sister eat her chocolate mousse cheesecake for dessert.

After lunch, I ran some errands and decided to grab a snack when I got home. My headache was starting up again, but I was determined to power through. Celery, baby carrots, and powdered peanut butter couldn't be too bad, right? Wrong. This measly snack would cost me 9 grams of sugar.

chocolate, salt, sweet
Angela Kerndl

And that, folks, is where I decided to draw the line. I was going absolutely crazy trying to estimate and count each gram of sugar I was taking in. I felt like I couldn't even eat healthy foods for fear of sugar takeover. You know it's bad when you feel guilty for craving an apple.

Making matters worse, I started reaching for some unhealthy foods purely because I was hungry and they were sugar-free. I have never eaten so many Cheez-Its over the course of three days

All in all, the craziness, restrictiveness, and physical side effects of my reduced sugar intake was not worth my keeping up the challenge. I'd rather have a little extra sugar and some more flexibility in my diet. All I have to say is, I'm certainly not sweet on the FDA's recommendations.