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:


  • 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!!

Baby Steps Add Up To Big, Healthy Steps

As the sister who both helped and hindered Little Sis’ foray into healthier eating, I must confess that although Little Sis’ words regarding Baby Steps might have helped me chill out a little earlier, either age or cumulative eye rolls from my victims have tempered my assumption that everyone wants to know my opinions about food.  Indeed, I have a joke with a friend (who has eluded my nutritive grasp for many years) that one reason I became a nurse is that I have a captive audience for dispensing nutritional advice.  That is a delightful perk of my profession, however, I tend to leave my friends alone now….. unless they ask!

Baby Steps is a solution that I have used personally and professionally as a move for positive change.  In all honesty, all of the lasting nutritional changes that earned me the title ‘health whack’  from my 11 year old son have started as Baby Steps.

And so I offer here a baby step that is very much in keeping with the positive intentions of many of you to eat more healthfully, and / or lose weight.  The Salad.  The wonderful, crunchy, healthy, raw, make-it-the-way-you-like-it-all-you-can-eat-salad-bar Salad.  So where is there a Baby Step needed with salads?  It’s all in the dressing baby.  You can dress it up, but you can no longer call it a healthy alternative if you’re smothering it in chemical goo.  That’s right… go ahead and roll your eyes (I’m used to it) – chemical goo.  Check out the label on your favorite salad dressing.  Does it say, oil, vinegar and perhaps a few spices or mustard?  I bet it has some ingredients you can’t pronounce.  AND it has cheap oils that have been refined and thereby block the absorption of nutrients like vitamins A, K, E and choline.  So there goes a bunch of the nutrients from your lovely salad.  And I bet a bunch of the ingredients are vague.  When the ingredient is vague, it’s possible that they don’t want you to know what the actual ingredient is… like HIDDEN Valley Ranch dressing listing vegetable oil as the first ingredient.  What kind of vegetable oil?  What has been done to that vegetable oil?  These are questions that an ingredient label SHOULD answer…, but that is a future and very angry post.

So the baby step is to make your own salad dressing.  You can pour a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar right over the salad – no fuss, no muss.  Rachael Ray recommends squeezing fresh lemon juice over the salad.  There is the incredibly simple approach.  If you want to mix ahead of time, the basic salad dressing mix is 3 to 1 oil to vinegar – be it balsamic, apple cider, lemon juice, red wine, rice or a combo thereof.  Now… if you want to get a little fancy you can then add some dijon mustard, or a pinch of salt and/or oregano, plain yogurt or tahini.  You may have to experiment a little to get it the way you like it, but if you add a little at a time and then taste it, you can always add more.

Here is a more complicated dressing that my family (including my 11 year old son) likes a lot:

1 cup olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce or Bragg’s liquid aminos
1 tsp honey
0-2 Tbsp water (taste it first and see if it’s too strong and then temper with a little water)
Put all in a jar that is at least 14oz, with a good lid and shake it up.

Now go enjoy a goo-free, crunchy, wonderful, colorful, tasty salad (I love nuts on mine) and know that baby steps add up to big steps and add up to a healthier you!