DETROIT LAKES, Minn. -- A Detroit Lakes native has turned her diagnosis of severe diabetes into an opportunity to live the sweet life, penning blogs and a cookbook as America’s favorite “No Sugar Baker.”
Jayne J. Jones, a 1992 Detroit Lakes High graduate who now resides in Sarasota, Fla., is making a name for herself with her fun personality and tasty collection of sugar-free recipes. From cookies to lasagna, she covers it all in her new book, “The No Sugar Baker’s Cookbook of Healthy Living and No Regrets.”
Her blog, found online at nosugarbaker.com and on the No Sugar Baker Facebook page, has more than 100,000 followers and growing, and her live Facebook cooking demos on Saturdays typically get about 40,000 views.
It’s a career turn she never expected, born from a new lifestyle she never thought she’d embrace. Growing up in Detroit Lakes, Jones said she was accustomed to a traditional Minnesota diet of gooey meals and desserts such as tater tot hotdish and toasted nut rolls. She loved eating decadent kinds of foods and she loved making them.
“Cooking and baking used to be my thing,” she said. “I used to make these huge cheesecakes layered with candy bars on them. I used to flaunt it!”
That all abruptly changed in the fall of 2019 when, during a family vacation around her 44th birthday, she started having flu-like symptoms. She visited a local urgent care, and went home thinking it was just a minor stomach infection. A week and a half later, she still wasn’t feeling any better. She had been craving soda “and downing it” for days, she said, and then one morning started vomiting nonstop for hours. Her husband, Chris Beehler, took her to the emergency room.
After running some tests, the doctors came back with frightening news: Jones’ blood pressure was dangerously high and her glucose level was around 600 mg/dl -- for reference, “you want to be batting 100,” according to Jones. “My A1C was off the charts.”
She was diagnosed with severe diabetes, and told she was probably only minutes away from having a stroke. Her vision was affected, and she lost her eyesight for more than two weeks.
If she didn’t change her habits, her physician told her, she’d likely be dead in four years.
That shook her to her core.
“When a doctor lays his eyes on you and says, ‘Listen, I don’t care how arrogant and cocky you are, if you don’t figure this out in four years, you’re going to die,’ that scares the living daylights out of you,” she said, tears coming to her eyes at the recollection. “I value life more than anybody. I love every single day.”
The diagnosis surprised her, angered her, and aroused feelings of guilt.
“I felt very alone when I first got diagnosed,” she said. “I felt like I did this to myself, by being overweight… And I had to throw everything in my kitchen away. I was so mad.”
She later learned that she’s far from alone: 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes. She also learned that it wasn't all her fault -- genetics plays a big role. She had missed the earlier warning signs -- swollen feet, frequent thirst, stomachaches, the urgent need to 'go' -- attributing it all to other, less serious things.
Once the diagnosis sunk in, it didn’t take Jones long to formulate a new plan for moving forward: “I went home, rolled up my sleeves, and eliminated all sugar from my diet,” she said. She was determined to not have to go on insulin.
All fruit, flour, potatoes -- anything sugary or carb-heavy -- had to go, and she also started an exercise regimen. She researched recipes and ways to supplement or replace traditional ingredients in familiar foods. Her family -- husband Chris, their daughter Emily Beehler, and Jones’s parents, David and Margaret Jones, became her devoted taste testers.
Her plan worked. In less than five months, she had lost 60 pounds, her vision was back to 20/20, and she was completely medicine-free, all due purely to her lifestyle changes.
The “No Sugar Baker,” a persona coined by her daughter, evolved out of this new lifestyle. It started with a few simple food pictures Jones posted on Facebook one day. Those generated some interest in her recipes, and before long, there was a recipe blog, a website, livestreams and, most recently, the cookbook.
It's all happened within just a couple of years, but Jones says “the timing hasn’t felt fast” to her: “It’s happened naturally.”
Publishing the cookbook wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar endeavor for her, as she previously published a series of hockey-themed children’s books. That “Drop the Puck” series is available for purchase on Amazon.
A rural health policy worker by day, Jones has an impressive background in law and government. She has a law degree from William Mitchell College of Law and has worked as a lawyer, an executive assistant to Minnesota Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum, in administration for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and as a professor of political science at Concordia University, St. Paul.
This newest chapter in her life, becoming the “No Sugar Baker,” Jones said, is one she never intended to write, but is nevertheless enjoying. Her parents have told her that, “if it helps one person, you’re doing the right thing,” she said, "and I hear from a lot of people that they’re feeling healthier, so I know I’m making a difference.”
Try two of Jones’ favorite recipes -- for peanut butter chocolate chip bacon cookies and zero pasta lasagna -- shared below, with her permission. Copies of her cookbook are available on Amazon or the No Sugar Baker website.
The No Sugar Baker’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies
5 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup natural artificial brown sugar
1/2 cup natural based artificial granular sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (I use fresh, sugar free peanut butter, deli-made)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1-1/4 cup flour (almond or all-purpose)
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cooked and crumbled bacon
3/4 cup dark sugar-free chocolate chips
In mixing bowl, combine peanut butter and artificial sugars and mix until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla, mix again. In separate small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
Add to first mixture and combine well. Add in chocolate chips and bacon.
Make round balls and place on sprayed baking sheet. Flatten dough with fork and top with extra bacon and salt.
Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes, until light golden brown.
No Sugar Baker’s Zero Pasta Lasagna
Ingredients for the “Noodles”:
8 oz. cream cheese
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tsp. italian seasoning
Ingredients for Lasagna Filling:
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. italian sausage
1 jar Rao tomato sauce (low carbohydrate)
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Melt the mozzarella and cream cheeses together. Stir until smooth and add in beaten eggs and Italian seasoning. Blend until evenly mixed. It should have a thick liquid consistency. Pour cheese batter into prepared baking pans. Use a spatula to spread batter across pans. Bake for 20 minutes. Set cheese noodles aside to let cool.
2. While noodles are cooling, prepare your meat sauce. In a large skillet, add onion, ground beef and Italian sausage. Cook on medium heat until meat is browned. Drain excess fat from pan. Add in Italian seasoning and tomato sauce.
3. Reduce to low heat and cook at a simmer. Next, evenly slice your cheese dough into thirds. Add a thin layer of meat sauce to the bottom of the pan. Add first noodle layer over meat sauce. Mix the cottage cheese with the parmesan cheese. Add 1/2 of the remaining meat sauce across first noodle layer. Spread an even layer of the cottage cheese mixture across. Repeat with second noodle, meat sauce, cottage cheese mixture, and mozzarella. Add third noodle. Top with remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle on remaining mozzarella. Bake lasagna at 350 for about 30 minutes. Let lasagna set for 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!