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!!

Sugar Busting

Looking around the blogosphere, it seems like sugar is on everybody’s lips… and no, I don’t mean they all just ate powdered donuts (please don’t do this).  I guess what I should say is that sugar is on everybody’s mind; according to a growing number of doctors and research scientists, sugar is also on our hearts, our arteries, our cancer cells, our livers, our EVERYTHING.  If you didn’t watch it, or haven’t seen it on some other blog since Sunday, here’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s story on sugar as a toxin.  This is 60 Minutes, folks.  Not a guru in Big Sur (no offense, California because I love you, this was useful as hyperbole only) describing his cosmic understanding of sugar.  This is a conventional news outlet running a story on what many doctors think is the biggest health problem in the United States.

If you have the stomach for it, the 60 Minutes website has a few links to off-air conversations about sugar.  The lead doctor interviewed, Robert Lustig, also has a longer documentary about the toxicity of sugar in the diet.  There is a shorter version, with the a great explanation of the science for non-science folks by Underground Wellness. If you find ANY of these remotely convincing, you’ll be wanting to decrease your sugar intake pronto. So, we’ve decided to become a little more focused (say WHAT?!) in our posts for the next several days to offer some simple strategies to cut sugar in your diet. Not enough on their own, but baby steps are, in our collective experience, a good place to start.

So we began our Sugar Busting Series this morning with Big Sis’s post about the ease and wisdom of brewing iced tea for the road when traveling rather than guzzling sugar poo from a convenience store. In a perfect celebration of the upcoming calvacade of candy that is Easter in the U.S., we will be offering several more posts about increasing the natural sweetness of a less sugary life.

The Habit-Driven Holiday

So I attended the twins’ pre-K Easter party today.  Mercy.  I actually really enjoy rooms full of pre-schoolers because I’m weird like that.  I do have to admit, however, that my enjoyment becomes somewhat strained when we give them all a plate full of “treats” to eat and then set them loose on the world.  The volume increase alone can be staggering.  In my attempts to reinforce my kids’ good eating habits I usually feel like a Scrooge at all holiday affairs.  Don’t get me wrong, I let them partake, but do a fair amount of talking beforehand and whatever meal they have before an event like this is exceptionally nutritious and my expectations for their participation in consuming that meal are very high.  While the table of offerings at their parties have, thankfully, decreased a bit since the parties at the beginning of the year, it is still chock full of nibbles that my kids don’t usually get (including candy) and each of these parties includes some kind of take-away that also includes candy. …  See, you’re even thinking I sound a little mean.  And maybe I am, but I just don’t think a 5 year old needs to consume the sugary equivalent of a King Sized Snickers bar (and even I can appreciate the wonder of a King Sized Snickers bar) as an afternoon snack to celebrate Easter.

So in my concern about these dietary issues, I’ve assumed that I am alone, that the other parents think this is fine and dandy, and that I am the only one who thinks this whole equation doesn’t add up.  But today I listened.  Each of the parents that came to help was coaching children to take some of the healthy choices, pushing grapes and carrots and popcorn, eagerly offering water over juice boxes, placing limits on the time and amount of take away candy consumption that would occur.  Sighing and shaking their heads as they watched the escalation begin.  So I left wondering why, if we all think this is a bit much (as we seem to), we continue to do it this way?  These kids are 4 and 5 year olds; wouldn’t now be the easiest time to train them NOT to expect all of the junk?  Wouldn’t now be the time to develop family and community traditions that don’t require us to walk around harping after our children and thinking we didn’t pull it off anyway at the end of the day?  Let me be clear; I am not suggesting that we stop having parties.  And you should know from my earlier posts that I am also not suggesting that we ban chocolate.  I just want to explore the scale.  So many of our daily dietary choices are based on habits, and often on habits that are not particularly healthful.  Do we continue to binge and to teach our children to do the same out of habit?  And do we then grimace at the amount of noise and the tears that follow 40 minutes later when they crash?

Lest you all think that you should send my children Easter treats in the mail, I should tell you that next weekend, they will get Easter baskets and that those baskets will have some candy.  A chocolate bunny, some mini chocolate bars, and some lovely white Jordan almonds.  No high fructose corn syrup (which wasn’t THAT hard to do) and none of the food colorings that are on the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s “Food Additives to Avoid” list (this was harder).  Their baskets will also have a small toy (thank you Legos).  As for eggs we will, at some point, be dying eggs…  I have yet to decide HOW we will be dying them as all of the “kits” also include “Avoid” colors.  I am sure, however, that I will be able to convince my children that any method we choose for coloring eggs is fun.  What 5 year old doesn’t want to do a messy art project as a family?

Should you do what I do?  That’s not what I’m saying.  Is all candy bad?  I have NO idea (except about chocolate, which is good, plain and simple).  I do know that for ME responsible parenting means trying to bring as many days as possible into some kind of alignment with my fundamental beliefs.  I fundamentally believe that the additives in much of our food are cumulatively harmful; I actively stress the importance of teaching our children to eat better than we do.  Celebrating a holiday does not mean giving up who I am, and who I want us to be.  Separating our harmful habits from our cherished traditions may well help us to enjoy our holidays and celebrations even more, as ourselves, and as who we want to be.

So that’s my plan for the upcoming holiday. What’s yours? Is it what you want it to be? Are you celebrating by habit or by design? And, more selfishly, if you do something cool and food safe with eggs, do tell. Yes, there are millions of things out there on the web… Which are your favorites?