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There are plenty of reasons for American families to put the brakes on sugar consumption. Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, liver cirrhosis and even dementia have all been linked to diets overloaded with the sweet stuff, much of it added to processed foods and sweetened beverages. Still, cutting back can be daunting. Pawlet, Vt.-based writer Eve Schaub and her family found out how tough when they went (mostly) sugar-free for 12 months. She recalls the challenges and victories in the new book Year of No Sugar: A Memoir. Schaub spoke with USA TODAY’s Michelle Healy:

Q: Your daughters, Greta and Ilsa, were 11 and 5, respectively, when the family initiated this project three years ago. Their initial response?

A: They burst into tears. They very quickly realized that this was going to affect so many different parts of their lives. Ilsa immediately asked about her birthday and Halloween and the Easter Bunny.

Q: Parties and holidays, especially those focused on kids, are typically laden with sugary treats. Your daughters still participated?

A: After careful consideration, we decided on the Birthday Party Rule for the girls. If they were at an event where everyone around them was having a sugar thing, cake, dessert, what have you, the decision whether or not to have it was totally up to them. That was helpful for me in a lot of ways: One, the guilt factor. But I also asked them to tell me if they decided to have the cupcake at the party. I ended up hearing about sugar coming at them from way more places than just the here and there birthday party.

Q: You built in two other exceptions — a sweet family dessert once a month and allowing each family member one personal exception. Why?

A: It seemed key since this was about taking away power and autonomy. The exception gave everyone a security blanket so they could still have that sense that they hadn’t totally abandoned everything. We each chose something pretty mild, considering. I had a glass of wine in the evening; my husband Steve, diet soda, which of course, brought a whole separate set of things to worry about. I talked the girls into jam because I thought we could get a lot of mileage out of it, whether on peanut butter sandwiches at lunch or on toast in the morning.

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