If you haven’t seen the documentary “Fed Up”, make time and see it. It’s on Netflix and is worth viewing. Katie Couric does an excellent job digging into the obesity epidemic in the US. I was blown away by this documentary, at times just ticked off feeling let down by our society. It’s a must watch to truly understand just how we’ve been brainwashed all these years about weight and weight loss.
Three things struck me while watching this:
1. Katie says she has been doing the news for over 30 years and is still talking about weight issues in the US after all this time. In three decades the obesity epidemic in the US has actually only gotten worse, not better. As a society continue to get heavier and heavier – even though we have more ways to work out than ever before. More gyms and more work out studios. Heck, we even have reality TV show about weight loss.
2. Sugar could be the core issue of the obesity. Sugar is in everything that is packaged nowadays. Pick up and read the label of granola for example. Sugar is the second ingredient in almost all granola on the shelf. But wait…isn’t granola healthy??
3. In order for manufacturers to get on the ‘low fat’ bandwagon and not jeopardize the taste of their overly processed food, they added more sugar to their product and lower the fat content to still stay within the calorie count. Products on the shelves got worse. Check out this from webMD on all the sugar hidden in packaged foods that are probably in your pantry right now: webmd.com/diet/ss/hidden-sugar-slideshow.
My opinion of sugar – it’s evil! I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s something that I’m addicted to, and I have a really difficult time managing if I eat white table sugar or even brown sugar. Studies have shown that it is more addictive than cocaine. COCAINE! And yet, we continue to allow manufactures poison us with their over-sweetened products. This is why it’s so important to eliminate processed foods from your house. Read the labels. You’ll be shocked to find the ways of how they are hiding sugar by simply changing up the name: Fructose, Sucrose, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Maltose, Glucose and Galactose are just a few.
I do have the occasional cup cake, however. Cutting out sugar to this degree has done the body good. I don’t have sugar cravings, nor do I have blood sugar spikes, my skin is so much clearer – less patchy and overall I just feel better. So yes, I do have sweet things in my life and have found NATURAL ways of substituting sugar (I have stayed away from artificial sweeteners – it’s just a personal preference) and here they are:
- Organic Raw Honey. This is nature’s candy, right? Not to mention it’s full of antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and carbohydrates. I consider honey a superfood! It’s even used in alternative health remedies. Honey can be used in things like salad dressings, cakes, overnight oaks and even marinades. My Mom literally buys it for me by the 1/2 gallon because I use it so often. Use 3/4 cup of honey in place of 1 cup of sugar.
- Agave Nectar. This is made from the agave cactus, and the taste and texture is similar to honey. I discovered this a few years ago when I decided to give up white table sugar. This syrup comes in many levels of from light to dark. It does have a slightly richer flavor, so use sparingly. Use 2/3 cup of agave in place of 1 cup of sugar.
- Bananas. The riper they get, the sweeter they get. This fruit can be used in things like bread and cakes. I even make popsicles and ice cream out of them. You can mash them to give breads or muffins not only sweetness but texture or blend in with your wet ingredients to add in the sugar.
- Dates in particular make really great sugar substitutions. They are packed with antioxidants and are low on the glycemic index. You can blend them into smoothies, mash them into batters of cakes or brownies and add them into overnight oats or even chia pudding. The flavors are subtle, with just the right amount of sweet. Try taking the pit out and replacing with an almond for a sweet and healthful snack.
- Applesauce. Apples have a natural sweetness to them just like bananas. They are full of fiber and the phytonutrients in apples can help you regulate your blood sugar. If you’re not making your own applesauce, be sure to select one that has NO ADDED SUGAR. Applesauce can be used to replace sugar in any baked item. Whole apples are a great substitute for dessert. An average size apple is only about 95 calories, and with 7,000 varieties worldwide your bound to find one you love. (My recent favorite is Jonagold).
- Maple Syrup. This comes directly from a plant’s sap and contains over 50 antioxidants. This is the REAL stuff, no Aunt Jemima here!!! Maple Syrup can be used as you would honey or agave added to a variety of things from homemade granola to brownies. Use 3/4 cup in place of 1 cup sugar.
- Cinnamon. I love cinnamon and have been adding it to everything recently. Its spicy taste helps trick your palate from thinking something isn’t sweet enough. Add it to coffee or overnight oats. It has a subtle sweetness and has been known to reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects and fight bacteria webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-cinnamon. What’s also great about cinnamon? There are only 6 calories per teaspoon!
- Balsamic Glaze. This is perfect instead of adding frosting or whip cream to fruit or cakes. Simply boil balsamic vinegar for 15 minutes in a small heavy saucepan; reduce to a simmer and cook until thickened and syrupy. Remove from heat, add pinch of salt and let cool. Ta dah! You can also add this to meat protein for added sweetness.
- Coconut Nectar. Love this stuff. When a coconut tree is tapped it produces a nutrient-rich “sap” that exudes from the coconut blossoms. This sap is very low on the glycemic index and is full of minerals, 17 amino acids and vitamins. Coconut Nectar is similar to maple syrup and honey when cooking. I use it when making granola or nut bars.
- Dried Figs. These little suckers are full of fiber, low in sugar and are packed with vitamins. They are so versatile and think about it…we’ve been eating them in Fig Newtons since we were kids! Try soaking in water to plump up and blending to add into any recipe – including smoothies and cakes. Slice thinly and add to salads or chia puddings. They have the perfect amount of sweetness.
There it is. My favorite TEN sugar substitutions just in time for summer!