Feature post Nutrition

How to kick the sugar habit

Easy tips for reducing the amount of added-sugar in your life

Do you wish you could slash your sugar consumption? Now is the time to rethink your sugar habit, as we approach Halloween and the holiday season. This is when many of us, in the spirit of the season, inhale mini candy bars and treat ourselves to seasonal-flavored espresso beverages. And with Halloween just around the corner, check out how much sugar is lurking in those traditional treats your kids might be scooping up with this handy chart. But the secret in curtailing your sugar habit might not be in abstaining from all sugar, but rather in understanding the different kinds and the hidden sources of sugar you’re consuming. 

Eating three times the recommended amount of sugar

First, it’s important to know a few statistics: According to newly issued guidelines from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (expected to take effect in December), Americans should consume less than 10 percent of calories in their daily diet from added-sugar in foods (about 6 percent), down from the 10 percent previously allowed. It’s something we covered in this Smart LifeBites story. That translates into even less than than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added-sugar for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women, American Heart Association has recommended. Meanwhile the AHA estimates the average American consumes 77 grams of added sugar a day, more than three times the recommended daily average. 

Types of sugars to avoid 

Not all sweeteners are created equal. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that our bodies turn into glucose to use for energy. But here’s the catch: Your body processes natural and refined sugars differently. While there are many kinds available, the thing to remember is to try to limit the amount of refined sugars, or sucrose, which come from sources such as sugar cane or sugar beets. Also steer clear of highly processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup. And just because something comes with the word  natural on the label doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Dr. Andrew Weil states on his site that he used to be a fan of Agave Nectar. This is a syrup from the agave plant that ranks low on the glycemic index. This index  ranks how fast a food with sugar makes your blood glucose rise two hours after consuming it. The reason Agave ranks low on the glycemic index is that it contains a high level of fructose, even more than corn syrup. 

Agave nectar is not as healthy for you as once thought.

How sugar affects our bodies 

Consuming foods and drinks with fructose traditionally gives consumers a fast spike of energy, which doesn’t leave you feeling full. Eat too many of these foods on a regular basis and your body will experience inflammation, as fitness expert Chris Freytag discusses in this story. Research links too much fructose consumption to obesity and a high risk of liver damage, cancer, heart disease and diabetes, among a host of other diseases. 

Three Mini Twix bars (considered one serving) contains 15 grams of sugar, nearly an entire day’s recommended allowance.

Labels are making it easier to spot added sugar

The good news is the FDA is making it easier for consumers to make informed decisions about what they eat. New labeling from the FDA breaks out added sugars on the Nutrition Facts Label, so that manufacturers can no longer hide this data. By some estimates, 68 percent of all packaged goods and drinks contain added sugar, some don’t even taste sweet. One strategy to take back control of your diet is to eat fewer processed sweetened foods to make room for the select sweet treats you intend to eat occasionally. 

BBQ sauce, nut butters, beverages  

Common culprits include: sauces, salad dressings, nut butters, bacon and ketchup. Other things to watch out for include plant-based milks, such as almond or soy milk, baked goods and chicken stock. Sodas, pre-mixed ice teas, coffees, sports drinks and other beverages are also classic offenders. For instance on BBQ sauces, a 2 tablespoon serving of Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce contains 70 calories, with 17 grams of sugar (of which 16 grams are added sugar.) The brand has just introduced two No-Sugar version that have 15 calories and only 1 gram of sugar (no added sugar).  Stick with the classics when you pick a nut butter. Most contain up to 2 grams of sugar in addition to the 1 or 2 grams of sugar that occur naturally in the nuts. Steer clear of specialty nut butters. For example, MaraNatha Dark Chocolate Almond Butter  has 7 grams of added sugar. Cookie butters are even worse: Biscoff Creamy Cookie Butter Spread contains 11 grams of all added sugar. Good natural brands of nut butter include:  Justin’s Classic Almond Butter, Adams 100% Natural Peanut Butter or Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter.

Shredded carrots will naturally sweeten everything from a tomato sauce to a smoothie!

Add natural sweeteners to your food 

Making cookies, pancakes or cakes? Try experimenting by substituting half to a quarter of the amount of sugar/fat with mashed bananas or unsweetened applesauce. See our Halloween Whoopie Pies Recipe below. Tomato sauces often contain sweeteners. Look for new, unsweetened varieties or try making your own with canned or fresh tomatoes, simmered with shredded carrot to sweeten it. Dates are a great source of fiber, as well as  a natural sweetener. Try adding chopped dates to baked goods. 

 

Skip the fat-free yogurt 

Did you ever notice that whole milk and 2 percent milk yogurts tend to have less sugar than fat-free versions? Instead of opting for a flavored low-fat yogurt, next time select one with more fat. Try a  2 percent Greek yogurt (for its added protein), and add your own honey or other natural sweetener, along with whole grains and fruit. The small amount of added fat will help you feel full longer. Want a little extra crunch to your parfait or trail mix? Add freeze dried Crispy Fruit (which contains no added sugar) along with nuts and unsweetened coconut or cacao nibs. Making a smoothie? Instead of fruit juice, use fresh or frozen fruit and unsweetened plant-based milk. Instead of sweeteners, try tahini or another unsweetened nut butter. 

Once you’ve taken stock and excised all the unnecessary added sugars from your life, there’s more room for those occasional holiday indulgences. Life is sweet; enjoy it! 

–Patty Yeager

Halloween Mini Whoopie Pies

DifficultyBeginner

What better way to combine the superfoods power of purple potato powder into a spooky Halloween-themed treat. These tasty mini whoopie pies are big on flavor without the added sugar and fat you'll find in store-bought cookies.

Yields34 Servings
Cook Time10 mins
 1 ½ cups Flour
  cup Cacao Powder
 1 ¼ tsp Baking Powder
 ¾ tsp Salt
 1 cup Unsweetened applesauce
  cup Vegetable oil
 1 Large Egg
 ½ cup Granulated sugar
 ¼ cup Honey
 2 tsp Cold coffee
 1 tsp Vanilla extract
Filling
 1 cup Marshmallow CremeTry using a brand like Z-Mellow Sugar-Free Marshmallow Creme.
 ¼ cup Butter, softened
  cup Powdered Sugar
 ¾ tsp Vanilla extract
1

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, cacao powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together applesauce through vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir till just combined.

2

Using a tablespoon, scoop 2 tb.-sized cookies onto a silicone baking mat, making 34 cookies. Bake until cookies are cooked through for about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Filling & Assembly
3

Melt butter and combine with powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in sweet potato powder coloring. Beat until light and fluffy. When still warm, spread 1 tsp of filling onto cooled cookies and let set.

Ingredients

 1 ½ cups Flour
  cup Cacao Powder
 1 ¼ tsp Baking Powder
 ¾ tsp Salt
 1 cup Unsweetened applesauce
  cup Vegetable oil
 1 Large Egg
 ½ cup Granulated sugar
 ¼ cup Honey
 2 tsp Cold coffee
 1 tsp Vanilla extract
Filling
 1 cup Marshmallow CremeTry using a brand like Z-Mellow Sugar-Free Marshmallow Creme.
 ¼ cup Butter, softened
  cup Powdered Sugar
 ¾ tsp Vanilla extract

Directions

1

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, cacao powder, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together applesauce through vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir till just combined.

2

Using a tablespoon, scoop 2 tb.-sized cookies onto a silicone baking mat, making 34 cookies. Bake until cookies are cooked through for about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Filling & Assembly
3

Melt butter and combine with powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in sweet potato powder coloring. Beat until light and fluffy. When still warm, spread 1 tsp of filling onto cooled cookies and let set.

Halloween Mini Whoopie Pies