Let’s talk sugar.
Sugar is a topic that cannot possibly be fully discussed in one blog post. However, odds are, if you are anything like the rest of us American’s, including myself, you’ve probably struggled with weight, body image, food plans, diets, and/or various health issues at some time or another. And that struggle usually forces our attention to look at the amount of sugar, types of sugar and/or quantity of sugars we eat. So let’s talk about it.
First, be gentle with yourself about your desire for something sweet. We humans have a natural “sweet tooth.” It is why mother’s milk has a natural sweetness to it, so babies take to it. There is pleasure and an organic aspect to our desire for sweetness.
However, let’s not confuse sweetness with sugar.
Sweeteners can come in many natural and even healthy forms, such as deliciously ripened fruit, dried fruits, condensed fruit glazes, honey, agave nectar, black strap molasses, and even Stevia.
Sugar on the other hand has been compared, by some, to other addictive white powders such as cocaine, heroin, arsenic, and even anthrax. Sound a bit dramatic? An exaggeration? Perhaps, however, there is proven scientific studies that show that the empty calories of processed sugar spikes one’s blood sugars, creating an endless cycle of cravings.
The problem is sugar is everywhere….sugar is in almost everything we Americans eat these days. From the obvious to the hidden. Desserts, sodas, candy, jellies/jams, and sugary cereals are obvious culprits that add high levels of sugar in our diets. Are you aware though that tomato sauce, ketchup, reduced calorie salad dressings, yogurts, milk, granola bars, sports drinks, peanut butter, pre-packaged oatmeal packs, canned fruits and vegetables, soups, and even breads and rolls are packed with sugar?
Here are a few terms that hide sugar on our labels:
- Barley Malt Syrup
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
- Dehydrated Cane Juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Raw sugar
- Rice Syrup
- Sorghum or sorghum syrup
- Turbinado Sugar
This list is lengthy….and some worse culprits than others. For a person to avoid sugar all together or to eliminate sugar instantly is a set-up for failure. Instead, start slow. Empower yourself with knowledge. Know what terms actually mean “processed sugars.” Read labels.
Make small changes at first. Try to eliminate one obvious sugar from your day. Just one. One soda. One dessert. One “treat.” One guilty pleasure.
By eliminating one obvious sugar from your daily food plan will feel so empowering.
Now, take a look at the hidden sugars you are eating and make one small change in this area as well. Make substitutions:
- Add fruit to your day (replacing the one obvious sugar while avoiding all the cravings)
- Top your cereal with fruit rather than sugar.
- Buy plain yogurt and add honey, for a more natural, healthy alternative.
- Look for nut butters without sugars.
- Make your own smoothies and sweeten with real fruit rather than sugar.
- Switch one soda or sugar drink a day for water or lemonade made with real lemons and Stevia.
- Give alternative sweeteners like agave, molasses or honey a try to see which ones you may like best.
These types of changes are simple and effective. I’ve also included a recipe that is sugar free and gluten free (a topic for future blog) Pistachio Date Cookie Slices that will satiate any sweet tooth.
I’ve learned that I can enjoy honey or fruit to satisfy my desires for sweet treats without having the very uncomfortable and undesirable effects of sugar. It’s about making new healthy habits for yourself.
Leave a comment to what changes you make and how they worked for you!
Gluten Free Sugar Free Pistachio Date Cookie Slices Recipe
1 ½ cups dates, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons water
2/3 cup roasted, salted pistachios, chopped
3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar - optional
1 1/3 cups superfine brown or white rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum
½ teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
¾ cup cold unsalted butter or dairy free butter substitute, cut into small pieces
4 – 8 tablespoons cold water
1 – 2 teaspoons milk (dairy free is fine)
Preheat oven to 400 degree. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
Combine the dates, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in the pistachios and, if you want a sweeter cookie, 2 tablespoons of honey or agave. Cover the saucepan and let the mixture cool while preparing the dough.
Combine the flour, tapioca starch, xanthan or guar gum, salt and butter (or butter substitute) in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the machine running, add cold water, one tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together in a soft but not sticky dough. (If dough gets too sticky just dust it with a little more rice flour.) Cut the dough into two even pieces and roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into 12 by 8 inch rectangles. Place one on the prepared baking sheet.
Spread the pistachio date mixture to within ½ inch of the dough edges. Brush the edges with water and top with the remaining sheet of dough. Press to seal the edges. Score the top into 12 even slices with a knife and glaze the top with milk. Bake for 30 -35 minutes or until golden brown. If desired, brush the top with a tablespoon of honey or agave. Let cool on a wire rack.
Cut into slices and serve.
A gluten free recipe that makes 12
Thought for the day:
“ Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters. ”
— Nathaniel Emmons