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the haas machine: March 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Thinking about cutting back on sugar?

We've been on a fun. healthy journey of trying to cut out as much refined white sugar as possible & it's shocking to me to find that sugar is lurking EVERYWHERE now that we're reading more labels. It's been hard to cut processed white sugar because so many of the convenient foods contain so much of it, but I'm trying to simplify the things we eat, eat more "whole" foods, & stop purchasing the things that contain white sugar.

The USDA recommends that a person who consumes a 2,000 calorie diet should not consume more than about 40 grams of refined sugars per day. I challenge you to keep track of how much refined sugar you eat in a day... it adds up very quickly (just as a side note, I really like two programs to help track food: Spark People & Lose It. I've used Spark People for some time now, but just recently stumbled upon Lose It & really find it helpful it so far).

It's been tricky to discover just how much sugar is OK to eat. There's no established RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) for sugar, because as far as it's known, we don't need sugar for nutrition. All foods have some natural sugars, but sugar itself—the white or brown stuff we put in our cookies, is a purely optional taste sensation. The USDA recommends that sugar make up no more than 8% of the daily intake of calories, but most American adults take in twice that much. It's an easy thing to do when a single can of pop contains more than 10 teaspoons of sugar!

I've been reading this book called, "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan & found this staggering:

"An American born in 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes in his lifetime; the risk is even greater for a Hispanic American or African American. A diagnosis of diabetes subtracts roughly twelve years from one's life & living with the condition incurs medical costs of $13,000 a year (compared with $2,500 for someone without diabetes). This is global pandemic in the making, but a most unusual one, because it involves no virus or bacteria, no microbe of any kind-- just a way of eating. It remains to be seen whether we'll respond by changing our diet or our culture & economy. Although an estimated 80% of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented by a change of diet & exercise, it looks like the smart money is instead on the creation of a vast new diabetes industry" (page 136).

So we've been cutting back & like I said, it hasn't been easy, but the more research I do, the more convinced I am that we do not need white sugar in our diet. And I'm actually discovering that I don't miss it at all. In fact, I've been enjoying some of the new products that I am purchasing to replace some of our other sugary ones:
We really like this peanut butter. It's a great natural peanut butter that doesn't get too hard to spread on bread if you don't stir it very well. It has 1 gram of sugar (no added sugar) & the ingredients include: peanuts. Yep, that's it! The way peanut butter should be. Even though other peanut butters contain only about 2-5 grams of sugar per serving, there are other ingredients in the peanut butter that don't need to be! Check out the ingredients below the Smuckers (even the "natural" Skippy has ingredients like: roasted peanuts, sugar, palm oil, & salt).
This is our new #1 choice for yogurt. You really need to check out the sugar content of your favorite yogurt because I'm guessing it's higher than you think (check out the Yoplait below the Fage). We've recently discovered that Greek yogurt is actually more healthy for you than "regular" yogurt. Our Mediterranean friend—which is strained extensively to remove much of the liquid whey, lactose, & sugar, giving it its thick consistency—has about the same amount of calories, but double the protein, & half the sugar. We buy the plain variety & then add a tiny bit of honey for us or a bit of pureed blueberries or strawberries for Ruby. It's a bit more expensive than other yogurts, but so worth the splurge. We are going to be using Greek yogurt for a substitute for other dairy products that don't have much nutritional value (like sour cream).
Mmm, almond milk (unsweetened, of course!) I have been using this in my smoothies, but look forward to using it in more baking adventures that call for milk. Did you know that a cup of skim milk has 12.3 grams of sugar in it? It's no wonder that baby cows (& other baby mammals) can grow so quickly by consuming it... just food for thought.
Make sure that all your frozen/canned fruits have no added sugars in them. I have been buying some frozen fruits since they aren't really in season for my smoothies. I can't believe how much sugar is in these canned peaches.
I love Diet Coke. It's actually one of my favorite drinks, but I'm trying my best to give it up. The aspartame in it just freaks me out & I know it's not good for me. But I still like a fizzy drink every now & again, so we now try to stay stocked up on mineral water. There is no added sugar, caffeine, calories, etc. & it tastes wonderful when I need something other than water to drink.
Honey is delicious & we have been using it as a substitute for most of the white sugar that we're purging. It's still sugar (because at the end of the day, sugar is sugar), so you have to just use it in moderation. I have used it in my muffins, cakes, brownies, granola, granola bars, bread, & on yogurt or in my tea. Scrumptious.

Coconut is another fun substitute for sugar in baking (if you don't mind the taste/texture of coconut). I buy this unsweetened variety that contains just 1 gram of sugar naturally. I have also ordered some coconut oil that I am going to use as a sub in some baking & I'll let you know how that goes.

Other things we've used that I forgot to take pictures of: bananas (used to sweeten up smoothies, muffins, cakes, etc.), demerara sugar (click here for more info on what that is), sucanant (click here for more info on what that is), & maple syrup.

Here is an article from WebMD that also talks about foods that are surprisingly high in sugar
Lastly, here is another article from CBS News on children eating too much sugar.

Some highlights: “‘Whoever is the gatekeeper for the family food supply needs to take a good, hard look at their choices. Obviously, junk foods, cookies, desserts and sodas are high in sugar and non-nutritive calories,’ Heller said.

But added sugars lurk in unexpected places such as dried fruit snacks, instant iced teas, banana chips, fruit punch, boxed dessert mixes, fat-free caramel popcorn, chicken nuggets, ketchup, BBQ sauce, tartar sauce and fat-free salad dressings, she noted.

Ways to reduce sugar intake include buying fewer prepared, frozen and boxed processed foods; making baked goods from scratch and using less sugar; having water, fat-free milk and flavored seltzers on hand; making your own salad dressing; and having cut-up fresh fruit available for desserts and snacks, Heller advised.

She also recommended reading the ingredient list on foods and checking for hidden sugars such as: brown rice syrup, dextrose, fructose, molasses, sucrose, corn sweetener, barley malt syrup, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, cane juice syrup and sorghum.”


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Whole Wheat Carrot Walnut Muffins

I made these beauties last night. They are the perfect "breakfast" when John has to go to work early or when I need a midnight snack. Or more like any time snack. And the best part is that they are made with whole wheat flour & are white sugar free. Oh yeah, & they taste amazing!
Whole Wheat Carrot Walnut Muffins
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
1/4 cup demerara
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup  unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 carrot, grated
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Using butter grease a muffin tin, or line the tin with paper liners. Next, prepare the carrot by chopping it into 1 – 2 inch pieces & pulsing in the food processor. It’s so much easier than sitting there grating the carrot.

Next, combine dry ingredients in one bowl & the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients & lightly mix. Once just combined mix in the carrots & walnuts. (Note: I like to additionally pulse my walnuts in the food processor to make them nice & small.)

Once everything is combined, using a regular sized ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into your buttered muffin tin. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until when tested with a toothpick the toothpick comes out clean.

Recipe adapted from Living Lou


Fruit & Vegetable Smoothie

Let's just get something out there right now--I'm not a big smoothie fan. That probably stems from the fact that I'm not a big fruit fan (shame, I know). I think I can count the fruits I enjoy on one hand. That being said, smoothies aren't my bff. They're usually too fruity & far too sweet for my taste (now if they are made with chocolate, that's another story, but I think they call those malts). So, I kind of feel like a poser sharing this smoothie recipe, but I have to!

Recently, we had a friend stay with us from Duluth & she shared this smoothie recipe with me. She's been on this amazing health journey (my words, not hers) & she's lost some weight & has been making all kinds of healthy life choices, so when she shared this recipe, I listened. I adapted it a little bit to fit our "no sugar" thing, but it's still incredible. It's not too sweet & it's a bit earthy. And best of all, I get 4 servings of fruits, 1 serving of leafy greens, & 2 servings of protein (1 pro-biotic). I wish I would have had this recipe when I was pregnant & trying to cram all that food in (I had a serious log that included daily: 2 eggs, 4 servings of dairy/calcium, 6 servings of protein, 2 servings of leafy greens, 5 servings of grains, veggies or fruits, 2 servings of vitamin c foods, 3 servings of fats or oils, 1 serving of a vitamin a food & they couldn't overlap i.e. milk couldn't count for a protein & dairy!)

If you can't buy the fruits in season, you can play it safe & purchase them frozen. They are picked & frozen in their peak, so they aren't as much of a gamble (one reason why fruits frustrate me!)
What you need (you can obviously swap any fruit/veg, but I like this combo)
1/2 banana
1/4 avocado
5-6 strawberries
1/2 cup peaches
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (we like Fage, but you could also make your own to save $$$)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons ground flax seed (ground flax has higher nutritional value)
2 cups spinach or other leafy green (I've tried kale & swiss chard, too)

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