While we're working to avoid added sugars this month, our goal in this challenge isn't to "demonize" a single ingredient. It's to discover how we're overconsuming added sugars — largely through sodas as well as processed or packaged foods.

It's true that sugar has now taken over for fat as the ingredient that everyone loves to hate. But Dr. Samar Malaeb doesn't recommend thinking about our food that way. "It's not that one thing is extremely bad and one thing is extremely good," said Malaeb, an endocrinologist and nutrition expert with University of Minnesota Health. "It's the general pattern of the diet."

When fat was the "bad" ingredient, we turned to highly processed, refined sugars and grains to avoid fat — something experts now say was a mistake. So a good goal is not to think of all sugar as "evil," but to simply be more aware of the added sugar in our diets and find ways to make healthful changes while still enjoying the natural sugars in fruit, vegetables and dairy.

Join us for the Star Tribune Sugar-Free Challenge. The goal is to avoid added sugar in February, take stock of how much you're consuming and make healthful changes. The Star Tribune is hosting a Facebook group to offer support, tips, facts and fun daily challenges. Join us at http://bit.ly/sugarfreestrib.