Giving Hidden Sugar the Boot

More Sugar Than A Twinkie

We all know, when we look at that darling chocolate bunny with his sweet little food coloring eyes, that we are staring at the face of sugar. We probably don’t always realize just how much sugar is in many of the other foods that we eat. Hidden sugar is something that deserves a great deal of conversation because SO many of the processed foods available in American supermarkets are chock full of sugar. Big Sis gave you a list of the names of sugar so that you can start to look for it on labels. The nice folks at Huffington Post have put together a short list of foods that have more sugar than a Twinkie. That’s right a Twinkie, the centerpiece of the Twinkie defense, a junk food diet that interacted with depression in such a negative way that the accused was driven to double murder. In case you are too young to remember this, the accused was found to be incapable of premeditation because of his psychological condition, which had something to do with Twinkies…. No, I am not making this up.

Regardless of how you feel about the Twinkie defense, I think we can all agree that Twinkies are clearly on the high end of the sugar scale. The foods in the Huffington Post list have MORE. And they are (in no particular order): single serving yogurt cups, tomato sauce, granola bars, fat-free salad dressing, muffins, canned fruit, pre-packaged smoothies or smoothie mixes, and…. if you don’t guess it I’m going to be mad…. boxed cereal!!! Now, it is important to point out there are likely examples within all of these food categories that have less sugar than a Twinkie; the point here is that one might not expect to find that much sugar in these foods and yet many brands DO have an extraordinary amount of sugar in them. Check that label, and as the article points out, be sure to look at the serving size. If you use a quarter cup of tomato sauce on your pasta, I say you’re missing out on some tomato goodness. How much sugar would be in YOUR serving rather than the one the manufacturer analyzed?  One solution to this particular hidden sugar problem is to read labels carefully and choose brands accordingly. The other solution is to make some swaps.

We’ve already covered cereal (mix it, raw oatmeal, Crock Pot oatmeal, cold overnight oats). You also know that you don’t need smoothie mixes because you can make your own flippin smoothies, thank you very much; and Big Sis gave you a superb dressing recipe. But WAIT you say, that is not FAT FREE dressing, and the one in the article is FAT FREE. OK, we’ll have a discussion about diet food at some point, but in the interest of giving you a swap that will fit that particular constraint AND drop your sugar, I’m going to give you another dressing recipe. Here it is:

FAT FREE SALAD DRESSING

  • Rice Vinegar
  • Soy Sauce

Yep, that’s it. No, it doesn’t matter what brand. Yes, you can use Bragg’s Aminos instead of soy sauce (and I would encourage that). Procedure? Bring the bottles to the table and shake a little of each on the salad. Done. Fat free dressing for less than a penny. No sugar. No, well, hardly anything really. NONE of the 8 skillion ingredients in most dressings. So if you haven’t taken a step yet, please, this is a baby step that does a lot. AND it saves you money – all the cheapskates say “Holla.” “HOLLA!” Pardon, there’s an active audience in my head.

Alright, so of the eight more sugary than a Twinkie foods that Huffington Post identifies, we’ve got three covered; I’ll give you one more today so we can call it half done. Deal? For our final trick today, we’re going to get you off candy yogurt. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can, as I mentioned in the beginning of the article, do a lot of label checking and simply find the one with the lowest sugar content. If you’re already there, or you are committed to a particular kind of yogurt, you’re going to want to choose Plan B – the mix it plan. Sound familiar? It’s exactly the same thing you can do to wean yourself or your children off of sweet cereal. So get the kind you or your kids like, and if you usually get yogurt cups because of a mobility situation, get yourself some kind of container that will seal in yogurt. There are plastic re-useable deals with screw on lids OR save a few condiment jars and use those.  Mix that stuff. If you can, stop buying the mini containers of yogurt. Buy big ones; tell them it’s cheaper (which it IS) and slowly increase the ratio of plain yogurt to sweetened yogurt poo. Find a comfortable mix or take it all the way and eat it plain with a little fruit. Delish.

There 50% of that nasty sugar list done.  Baby Steps all over the place.  Wahoo!!

Reducing Sugar One Teaspoon at a Time

All of this health information and all of this negative focus on sugar may leave you feeling a little overwhelmed… or maybe throwing your hands up and saying, “What can I do?  Bad and nasty sugar is everywhere!!!” (And I like it!!)  Well, I like it too, but I used to be so inundated with it that nothing tasted sweet to me unless it was ridiculously sweet.  You may find that cutting the sugar out a bit at a time will not be missed as much as you think.

Here are some suggestions for cutting the pernicious sugar in your life.  (I will be employing the thesaurus function as I describe sugar in this post – just a warming.)  As Little Sis suggested in Lessons From the Cereal Aisle, you can work on a single item at a time (like cereal).  Set a goal for how much destructive sugar you are comfortable having in your bowl.  One teaspoon?  Two teaspoons?  One teaspoon is about 4.5 grams of nasty sugar and two teaspoons is about 9 grams, so if you are comfortable with 9 grams of insidious sugar in your cereal, make sure all of the cereal in the house is less than 9 grams for the amount you would have in your bowl.  (Often serving sizes are very small in the nutrition information)  I can’t say that I’ve ever been satisfied by 1/2 cup of cereal in the morning!

You can do this with other items as well.  Find flavored or fruited yogurt that has less harmful sugar than other brands.  This is very difficult, although Greek yogurt tends to have less.  We used to buy a brand called Cascade that had 16 grams of appalling sugar (still almost 4 teaspoons!) which was the lowest I could find at the time.  Try the mixing approach that Little Sis suggested for cereal.  Mix half plain and half flavored or fruited yogurt to cut the dreadful sugar in half.  Even better, buy plain and fresh fruit, dried fruit and/or nuts, cinnamon or vanilla.  Cinnamon is naturally sweet and can also be used on cereal to reduce the need for ghastly sugar as a sweetener.  And if you need to add some terrible sugar to make it palatable, I bet you can get away with less than the 5 – 8 teaspoons found in most 6oz. containers of yogurt.

Look at the beverages you are drinking.  This is a huge place to reduce your horrific sugar intake.  Please stop drinking soda, vitamin water and other sweetened beverages.  Really.  There is 10 and more teaspoons per can of soda.  I know, it’s easier said than done… here are some things to try:

  1. Cut back.  Just reduce by one a day for a set period of time.  Then reduce by another.  If you’re only drinking one sweetened beverage a day (and personally I think this includes juice as well), then cut it in half.  Something of a waste of money, but hey if you replace the other half with water at least you’re not spending more!
  2. Mix it.  Especially juice is easy to water down a little – or soda water down which gives some nice bubbly as well.  Can’t say I’ve tried watering down soda, but if you want to make a smaller serving seem bigger, serve it over LOTS of ice.
  3. Find something new.  Water is your best choice, but if you find some herbal tea that you like, you can make a big batch, refrigerate it and drink that instead.  It will have some flavor.  If you have to add a teaspoon per 8 or 12 ounce serving you are still cutting back.

Find substitutions for the cruel sugary things in your life.  Here is a recipe we are using to replace granola and energy bars which can also be loaded with spiteful sugar.

LEMON KISSED CASHEW HEMP BARS (Raw, vegan, gluten and soy free)
Makes 12 bars (6 for a more generous snack)

  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 cup pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup hemp seeds (I used pumpkin seeds as I didn’t have any)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest

Place the cashews in a food processor and process till ground up.  Add the dates and hemp seeds and pulse repeatedly.  Then, add the lemon and lemon zest and leave the motor on until the whole thing has formed a big, uniform, sticky ball.  Take a large sheet of saran wrap and place it over the bottom of a small baking dish. Press the mixture down into it, till it’s even in thickness.  Cover with another sheet of saran, and freeze for at least 30 minutes.  Unwrap the “dough,” lay the rectangle flat on a cutting surface, and cut into 12 bars.  Wrap up individually and store in the fridge or freezer till ready to eat. I’m not sure how long they’ll keep, but I suspect up to two weeks is perfectly fine, and longer if you freeze them.
I got this recipe from a great site called choosing raw : http://www.choosingraw.com/sweet-snacking-lemon-kissed-cashew-hemp-bars/

A few other places to reduce the amount of icky sugar in your diet:

  1. Reduce the amount you put in coffee.
  2. Substitute cinnamon sugar that is mostly cinnamon and used sparingly for jelly or jam.
  3. Eat a piece of fruit instead of drinking a glass of juice.
  4. Check labels and buy brands with less wounding sugar or make your own.

If you try to change your whole diet in a week you will more than likely go back to your old ways, or miss them terribly.  I have found that I do not miss my old diet because I feel better – so give yourself some time to make and FEEL changes.  You might even see changes in the mirror and on the scale.  For more info on changing your diet one teaspoon or one change at a time see Baby Steps & Baby Steps Add up to Big Healthy Steps.