When Dylan and I began eating healthier we became much more aware the sugar hidden sugar in variety of foods. I say hidden not because the manufacturers lie about the sugar, but because most of us simply don’t stop to think about how much sugar is in certain foods. For me the biggest surprise was condiments and salad dressings. I had an idea there might be sugar in them, but I never stopped to think about how much! I’m certain I would have reduced my sugar intake sooner, if I had only known how easy it is!
Here are a few of my favourite tricks:
- Buy plain yogurt and stir in fruit. We use either fresh fruit or frozen fruit that we have thawed. If this is a little too tart for you, add some cinnamon and/or a teaspoon or two of honey or maple syrup.
- Love ice cream? Take 3/4 of a cup of plain yogurt and 0.5-1 cup of frozen fruit and blend, adding unsweetened almond milk if needed to reach the desired consistency. Again you may need 1-2 tsp of a natural sweetener, particularly if you are used to high-sugar foods. Another fun option to replace ice cream is Chunky Monkey Ice cream. Frozen banana + PB, cocoa and a splash of almond milk. Top with about a teaspoon each of chopped nuts and chocolate chips and you’ve got the tastiest healthy alternative to ice cream ever dreamed up!
- We used to really like ranch dressing on salads and veggies, but we hate all the added junk found in the store bought variety. I found a great substitute on Pinterest one day; 1 cup of plain yogurt (I’ve used Greek and regular), 1-2 tsp each of garlic and onion powder, 1 tsp of salt, 0.5-1 tsp each of pepper, parsley, and dill. Voila! Since you’re using plain yogurt you not only skip out on a bunch of additives but this is fairly low-fat and contains protein! We also use even healthy dressings much more sparingly than we once did. A nice salad with a variety of vegetables, and maybe a little cheese has a tonne of flavour even without dressing.
- Cut out the ketchup. Yes, even my ketchup loving husband has all but removed this nasty stuff from his diet. Alternatively we use mustard, or make a clean ketchup from one of the many recipes available online. And, on rare occasion he will indulge in about 1-2 teaspoons of Heinz if he really feels it would enhance his meal. Since our consumption of ketchup has decreased to nearly nothing we don’t sweat that at all. We’ve curbed our usage enough to truly enjoy it when the meal truly calls for it.
- Learn to bake with alternative sweeteners like honey, maple, and molasses. I was going to write up all the pros and cons, and how to use them but it was getting a bit verbose. See the table below for a summary of the information I’ve gleaned from a variety of sources (including the containers in my cupboard and this website http://dish.allrecipes.com/baking-with-sugar-and-sugar-substitutes/ )
Sweetener Amount needed to replace 1 cup sugar Benefits Calories per cup Important Notes Sugar Easy, cheap
Maple 3/4 cup Distinct flavour
Reduce liquid by 3 tbsp Honey 3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp Distinct flavour
Reduce liquid by 2 tbsp, add pinch of baking soda to neutralize acidity Molasses 1 1/3 cups B vitamins
Reduce liquid by 5 tbsp, add 1/2 tsp baking soda to neutralize acidity. Do not use to replace more than 1/2 the sugar Apple Sauce 1 cup Apple goodness!
Reduce liquid by 1/4 cup per cup of applesauce
As you can see, you aren’t saving calories by using a sugar alternative in most cases. For instance, 3/4 of a cup of honey is pretty well the exact same calorie count as 1 cup of sugar. However, you can also often reduce the sugar in your baking pretty significantly without altering the taste or quality too much. The addition of cinnamon and/or vanilla will allow you to reduce the amount of sweetener used, as they also enhance the flavour. Overall, while I have been using a lot of sugar substitutes lately, I am still on the fence as to how necessary this is. After all, baked treats should be eaten in moderation anyway. Even if I use real sugar, I would rather send my kids a homemade cookie than a granola bar because I know exactly what is, and is not, in my cookies.
- Cut out the sugar filled drinks. Pop, iced tea, specialty coffees, juices (especially fruit punch or cocktail), hot chocolate, need I go on? Take a look next time you grab one of these treats at just how many grams of sugar are in a serving.
- 80/20 my friends, 80/20. If you manage to eliminate most of your hidden sugars by eating less pre-packaged/store made foods, you likely have already put a big dent in your sugar intake. And food is meant to be enjoyed, so we try for 80% clean, good food. That way, when we DO enjoy a baked treat, or a lovely latte, it tastes soooo good, guilt free. Guilt free because I know that my special treat is a treat, not a cheat, and also not just another sugar-filled indulgence.
Be on the lookout for my next recipe, which will be sugar-free chia jam! It’s super quick and easy, and cheaper to make than most jams are to buy!