Category Archives: Sugar addiction

Grocery shopping, healthy and quick

We would all be healthier if we read and understood nutrition facts labels. On the other hand, we would also be healthier if we just avoided most processed foods. Regardless of how healthy processed foods appear on the nutrition facts label, they all contain sodium or sugar to make them taste better.

If you don’t want to spend time deciding which processed foods are the least harmful each time you shop for groceries, try these tips:

  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and fresh fish and meats are located.
  • Stock up on fruits and vegetables, like carrots, grapes, apples, oranges, bananas, celery, cucumbers, yams and squash.
  • Avoid most processed meats, which are usually high in sodium.
  • Select lean cuts of meat and plan to eat sensible portions a few times each week rather than every day.
  • Skip margarine, pudding and sugar filled yogurt found on the perimeter.
  • Purchase cheeses naturally low in fat, like Swiss and Parmesan, and plan to use sparingly.
  • Venture down aisles with single ingredient items: rice, dried beans, 100 percent whole grain oats, healthy oils.
  • Learn to cook with spices and herbs.
  • Purchase whole grain pastas and breads.
  • Low-salt canned tomatoes and beans are also good.  But be wary of the trade off when a canned item states low fat on the label. Sodium is usually increased to compensate for the loss of flavor when fat is reduced or eliminated. To lower the sodium in canned beans, drain the liquid and rinse in water.

Consider eating healthy an investment: You can spend more time and money now to purchase healthy foods, or pay more later in increased health care costs.

Heart-healthy desserts

Fruits are ideal as main ingredients for heart-healthy desserts because they are naturally sweet and make it easier to eliminate or cut back on additional sweeteners. Here are a couple of ideas from EatingWell to get you going:

Baked apples

This quick and easy baked apple dessert serves two and calls for one teaspoon of honey, which could just as easily be left out.  Also, consider preparing several servings in advance without the yogurt and freezing. Thaw and add yogurt when you’re ready to serve:

Ingredients

  • 2 apples,cored
  • 4 teaspoons dried fruit, chopped, such as cranberries, raisins or dates
  • 4 teaspoons toasted nuts, chopped, such as pecans, walnuts or almonds
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine fruit, nuts, honey and cinnamon; spoon into the apples. Place the apples in a small baking dish and pour apple cider around them. Cover with foil. Bake until tender, about 45 minutes. Serve topped with yogurt.

Nutrition per serving: 165 calories; 4 g fat (0 g sat, 2 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 35 g carbohydrates; 1 g protein; 4 g fiber; 2 mg sodium; 215 mg potassium

Cocoa-Nut Bananas

Now, for the chocolate fix, this recipe calls for three simple ingredients and requires no baking. As shown here, it serves four but could be increased easily to serve many more.

Ingredients

  • 4 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons toasted unsweetened coconut
  • 2 small bananas, sliced on the bias

Preparation

  1. Place cocoa and coconut on separate plates. Roll each banana slice in the cocoa, shake off the excess, then dip in the coconut.

Nutrition per serving: 80 calories; 1 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrates; 1 g added sugars; 1 g protein; 2 g fiber; 5 mg sodium; 274 mg potassium.

Visit EatWell’s website has additional heart-heathy dessert recipes.

Uncovering my addiction to sugar

Several years ago, I gave myself a pat on the back after giving up sugary carbonated beverages. I’d consumed one to two carbonated drinks a day for most of my life. That’s over twice the American Heart Associations (AHA) daily recommended limit of 100 calories.

Following that success, I believed anything was possible, so I began to gradually eliminate processed foods from my diet. All the while, I continued to eat deserts regularly, add sugar to my tea , coffee and cereal — and even increased the “dosage” a little. I was convinced that this small amount of sugar was negligible compared to the sugar I once consumed by drinking sugary carbonated beverages and eating processed foods. One day, while placing a new 5-pound bag of sugar into my grocery cart, I realized that I had begun purchasing that much every two to three weeks. I didn’t know that the AHA’s recommended daily limit for added sugar for women was 25 grams or less, and that I was consuming up to 57 grams daily. When sugar was concealed within the processed foods I ate, it had been easy to ignore. But staring down into my grocery cart, I knew that a 5-pound bag of sugar every two weeks was too much for one person.

Several months ago, in a last-ditch effort to reduce my risk for heart-disease, I stopped adding sugar to my food, I’ve avoided eating processed foods, and I have deserts only on occasion. I finally understand that my craving was never for carbonated beverages, a particular processed food, or even deserts, but rather for the regular sugar fixes those foods had been providing me all day, every day for many years.

Raisin bran and other sugary cereals

An article about sugary cereals caught my attention this week. The story’s online thumbnail paired an image of a bowl of raisin bran cereal with the title, “Best and Worst Breakfast Cereals.” I thought raisin bran was one of the healthier choices. It’s only wheat flakes with a little fruit, right?

Alternatives to sugary cereals

The story, posted by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding, a Yahoo! Health Expert, reports that a one-cup serving of raisin bran contains 19 grams of sugar. As an alternative, the writer suggests substituting Kellogg’s All Bran, which contains only 7 grams of sugar, and then adding a tablespoon of your own raisins for a total of 13 grams of sugar — 6 grams less sugar than raisin bran.

Compare the alternative

Let’s compare apples to apples — or should I say, “flakes to flakes”? Manufacturers aren’t required to separate sugars added to improve taste from naturally occurring sugars on the nutrition facts label. So how much sugar listed on Kellogg’s Raisin Bran’s nutrition facts label is from the raisins, and therefore naturally occurring, and how much sugar has been added to improve taste?

Remember, the nutrition facts label for Kellogg’s All Bran states 7 grams of sugar, and according to the ingredient list, the only ingredients other than added sugar are whole wheat and wheat bran. But let’s face it, whole wheat and wheat bran processed into flakes is going to need a little help to taste good.

I’ll assume a serving of Raisin Bran also has one tablespoon of raisins. Subtract 6 grams of sugar found in one tablespoon of raisins from 19 grams of sugar found in one-serving of raisin bran and you’re left with 13 grams of sugar — 6 grams more sugar in one serving of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran (without the raisins) than found in one serving of All Bran flakes.

What’s “added sugar” and what’s the daily limit?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends eating no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of discretionary or “added sugar” for women and 9 teaspoons for men. AHA defines discretionary and added sugars as “sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. It does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those found in milk (lactose) and fruits (fructose).”

Discretionary sugars – use them wisely

A single serving of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran contains slightly more than half my daily limit of discretionary sugars. All Bran contains a little less than one-third, but I don’t like All Bran, even with the added raisins. I prefer to enjoy my discretionary sugar, so after careful analysis, I’ll skip All Bran and occasionally have a bowl of raisin bran.

Study links sugar to heart disease

A study published yesterday by the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) concludes that a correlation exists between dietary added sugars and blood lipid levels among U.S. adults.

The culprit: added sugars

The study defines added sugars as caloric sweeteners added to processed foods by manufacturers or added to prepared foods by consumers to make foods more desirable. Sugar added to oatmeal, tea and coffee; sugary drinks, such Coke and Pepsi, and most processed foods meet the description of “dietary added sugars.” Although complex carbohydrates found naturally in fruits and vegetables, such as corn, beets and bananas, ultimately break down and become chemically similar to added sugars, they are not the same as dietary added sugars.

Trans fats and cholesterol have been known to increase the risk of heart disease by collecting along artery walls and eventually hardening into plaque. Although exactly how is not understood, it’s been known that excessive carbohydrate consumption causes a lipid profile that correlates with increased risk for heart disease.

A balanced diet is essential

That doesn’t mean carbohydrates can be eliminated from your diet to reduce your risk of heart disease; they are essential for good health for the energy and nutrients they provide. Added dietary sugars increase total carbohydrate consumption to unhealthy levels without adding any nutritional value. The answer is to eat a healthy diet with balanced portions of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Added dietary sugars upset the balance because they increase carbohydrate levels and they lack nutrients.

Sugar under a different name

Check the sugar listing on the nutritional facts panel and read the list of ingredients for processed and packaged foods. It’s surprising how often added dietary sugar can be found — it’s even in ketchup and mayonnaise. But it’s not usually listed as “sugar” in the ingredient list. This About.com article has a handy list words for added dietary sugar to lookout for in ingredient lists:

  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Rice Syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum or sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Xylose

Fix for a random sugar attack

I was prepared to write an inspiring post about food labels tonight, but instead, all I could think about was my little stash of left over Easter candy.  I’d reserved just a few pieces of candy to ration over the coming weeks. Actually, I’d reserved a canister full of little candy bars, and I ate six last night. Yes, I’m addicted to sugar.

Signs of addiction

Before beginning this blog a few months ago, I was adding sugar to as many foods as I possibly could. I told myself, “I don’t have a weight problem. One teaspoon of sugar in my coffee can’t hurt.” Later in the day, I’d tell myself, “Just one cookie. Okay, maybe two.”

A heaping teaspoon of sugar has about 25 calories, but consider this: I was adding three teaspoons to my oatmeal every morning, three to a mug of coffee, and eating the equivalent of one desert every day in the form of a very large chocolate chip cookie, several scoops of ice cream or a couple of cup cakes.

Coming out of denial

I’ve had high triglycerides for over a year now, and sugar is supposed to contribute to the problem. That’s why I decided to write about heart disease. I knew I’d have to walk-the-talk and tackle my sugar addiction. I try to eat sweets only on special occasions now. And I’ve eliminated added sugar from my diet in all other forms, which has turned out to be a lot of items. It’s amazing how many food labels list sugar or its equivalent as an ingredient.

Honestly, it’s been much easier than I expected. I sweeten my oatmeal with dried fruit and I don’t even like coffee with sugar anymore. The mayonnaise and salad dressing  in my refrigerator that I’ve recently discovered have added sugar may eventually need to be thrown out, because I’m not eating them.

Kicking the sugar habit

During tonight’s random sugar attack, I couldn’t help remembering how sluggish I felt when I ate sugar all day. I didn’t know I was feeling sluggish; it felt normal, because I’d been eating sugar every day most of my life. I have so much more energy lately that it surprises me, and it feels better than a sugar high ever did.

Tonight, instead of eating candy, I ate a desert bowl full of dried apricots and yummy walnuts, and then I filled it up again. It worked. The craving is gone and I don’t want the candy anymore.