Last week I talked a bit about carbohydrates and how they get a bad rap even though they are part of a healthy diet. It is all about the kind of carbs you choose. Loaded baked potato with sour cream, butter and bacon? Bad! Baked potato topped with Greek yogurt? Good! Bread made with white, enriched flour? Bad! Bread made with whole wheat flour? Good! Today I want to tackle another staple of our diets: sugar.
The simple truth is we eat way too much sugar. You can put the blame partially on the substance itself because studies show it is 8X more addictive than cocaine. Let that sink in. You eat sugar, you crave more sugar just like a coke addict craves cocaine. In 1822 the average consumption of sugar per person was 6.3 pounds a year. In 2012 that rose to a whopping 152 pounds! The recommended daily amount of sugar we should be eating is 6 teaspoons/day for women and 9 teaspoons/day for men. Manufacturers make it a little harder to figure that out because they list sugar by grams not teaspoons. Just remember the number 4. 4 grams of sugar is roughly one teaspoon of sugar. So that translates to 24 grams/day for women and 36 grams/day for men.
Unfortunately, food producers put sugar in products to make them taste “better” (and keep us addicted?). It takes a lot of due diligence to stay within the recommendations. It’s not just in obvious products such as cookies and candy. Tomato sauce, ketchup, cereal, crackers, peanut butter, etc. The list is endless. My sister and I made a surprising discovery this weekend. She is very vigilant about what she feeds her family and herself. She was going to buy Wegmans Organic Super Yogurt that claims to be full of pre- and probiotics and Omega 3’s. We looked at the label closely. A 1/2 cup serving has 10 grams of sugar! That is 2 and 1/2 teaspoons! We read the ingredients and sure enough, sugar is the second ingredient. Even more surprising to me is that it is not vegetarian! Fish oil and gelatin are listed and their sources: anchovy, sardine, tilapia and beef. Beef?! In yogurt?! I digress. I went and looked at Chips Ahoy cookies. A serving size of 3 cookies has 11 grams of sugar. Only one more than in a serving of the yogurt. (Granted, they also contain many other unhealthy ingredients that yogurt does not have, but today I am focused on sugar). She ended up with plain greek yogurt which contains only 3 grams of sugar in a half cup serving and sugar is not listed as an ingredient. She can add a spoonful of jam (picking one as carefully as possible) and enjoy a tasty breakfast or snack.
The bottom line is we need sugar just like we need carbs and once again it is about the kind you choose.
My husband has a sweet tooth and we wanted to find a way to feel indulgent but still be healthy. We have turned to dates! Medjool dates are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. They do not contain fat, cholesterol or sodium. However, they are calorie dense and have a lot of sugar, so we are careful! One or two provide all the benefits as well as satisfying the desire for something sweet. I have found many recipes that use them in place of refined sugar and the results have been delicious! One recipe is for cinnamon rolls. There is no sugar in them, only dates! Another recipe I want to share is so incredibly easy that my husband whips it up on his own. They are no-bake cookie bars made with only 5 ingredients. Yum!
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Raw Bars (Gluten-Free and Vegan )
from Beard & Bonnet
1 cup medjool dates, pits removed and quartered
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup raw pecans (we use walnuts because we like them better!)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or vegan chocolate chips (we use Ghiradelli Bittersweet chips)
1 Tbsp. g-free vanilla extract
In the bowl of your food processor, mix together the nuts and the dates. Process until the pieces are all uniform in size and a sticky dough has formed. Add the vanilla extract and process well until combined. Add the chocolate chips and pulse just until incorporated.Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and pour the dough out onto it. Shape the dough into one large rectangular brick and refrigerate until firm, about 5-10 minutes. Slice the bar into desired shapes.*You can also roll this dough into balls straight from the food processor. These raw bars should keep in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for a few weeks or up to a month in the freezer.