A recent documentary is once again making a stand amongst social media. A documentary I have yet to see but I know it revolves around sugar and how much of our food is soaked in it. It should be simple, right? Just cut out added sugar, avoid buying processed foods, build a small barn out back and grab myself more tower gardens. Well, I think for most people, it is not a “simple” switch. To avoid a long research project, I am just going to talk about some strategies I use to reduce sugar as well as what I choose when it does come down to a choice. In the end, you can decide, truly, is there a better choice?
As I sit here in my daughter’s room, I think about it: Sugar. It is truly everywhere in her world. The fruit I served at breakfast, the bread she has in her lunch, the cake at the party, an incentive for a fund raising challenge at school, at the door of her dance studio and even the cookies I made earlier this week. Thinking logically and knowing there are always going to be choices in her big world, I have to remember that through my personal choices here at home and other moments we are together, she will ultimately choose what she feels is right for her when she is not around me. Which, really, is the best I can do as a mom, right?
Let’s start with baking. I absolutely love to bake and this has naturally come from my beautiful mother. She had always baked for my brothers and I and I am grateful that she was the type of mom who would simply add goodness into her brownies or cookies. The sugar she used, yes, was granulated, but she off-set that by using whole grain flours, oats and reducing the amount of sugar the recipe would call for. Not to mention, when you are baking at home, there are so many additives that are avoided just because it does not require a “shelf-life.”
Today, I choose to use honey as my sweetener. I love honey because not only is it natural (grab the raw honey!) but I love playing a part in supporting our amazing bees. Now, I do have to say, I use organic Florida Crystals as well. I will use this when I am following a recipe I have never made so that I am able to see what it is like in an unaltered state. After that first attempt, I will then go on to experiment with honey or maybe even agave.
Sweet spices are one of the best ways to avoid sugar yet still attain a sweet flavor. You can experiment with ones such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, ginger and anise. I recently found a great herb at the farmers market called Citrus Thyme. There is such a great sweetness to it that I have added it to my flavored waters and even scrambled eggs. So head to your farmers market this weekend because you never know what great cooking additions you will find.
How about fruit? Well, if you truly must choose the one with less sugar, then try some of these: apples, blackberries, cantaloupes, cherries, kiwis, blueberries, apricots, honeydew melons and raspberries. Remember to always follow the servings rules because if you eat more than a serving, well, you are eating more natural sugars than you likely intended on.
Sugar in our schools is absolutely outrageous. I am happy to say, I feel that this may one of the more successful years our school will have with eliminating sugar in the most rediculous situations, such as using it for a treat because of good behavior or as a reward for the most “box-tops” brought in. We all know the better choice here is simple praise. Let your children see and hear your joy over good behavior and fabulous grades (they are always listening!) Make your stand at your school and begin to gather more parents so the district knows you’re serious about a change in the reduction (or complete elimination) of sweet rewards.
On that note, I feel I must let you know that there are other countries who are ahead of us Americans on that crazy game. Recently I listened to a podcast where they interviewed someone in the UK. She went on to explain how they just do not have candy as a reward. They reward their students with Golden Time. This time is accumulated by good behavior and the students are able to choose their own special activities at the end of the week.
The question is, what is the better choice when it comes to sugar? If and when you can: avoid it. When you are using it for baking, try using raw, local honey (if it is local it will help with allergies). In everyday choices in food, we should always reach for foods that only contain one ingredient: itself. It is not an easy task, but when you begin to see and feel the difference in yourself, it will be well worth it.
Check out this website that contains a list of high-sugar foods. How much sugar are you eating everyday?