Like many families, we try to minimize the amount of processed sugar we eat. But, it is lurking everywhere, and we are eating far more processed sugar than our grandparents did. How to combat this trend that seems to have sneaked up on us?
A few ideas: First, let’s read the ingredient list and nutritional information on labels of every single food item we put in our carts. That sounds like a lot of work, but as we get familiar with our favorite foods, the task will become less daunting.
But we need to know exactly what is in our food, and you might be surprised by what “healthy-sounding” foods have processed sugar or other weird ingredients and chemicals hiding in them. Remember that sugar can have lots of different names, such as “syrup” or “sucrose” (the suffix “ose” usually means sugar), so the sugar gram count can be helpful.
Second, buy more foods without labels. When we buy whole foods and then cook them ourselves, we know exactly what is going into them. Third, favor sugar from natural, unprocessed, whole sources. While fruit-sweetened foods still have sugar, it’s not a highly-processed derivative, and it brings with its sweetness a full set of other nutrients. Bananas, apples and dates bring vitamins, minerals and fiber along with their sugars. Try recipes using them as sweeteners.
Last, keep production of treat items in-house, meaning make less healthy items homemade, so you can control what goes in. Craving brownies? Make them at home, so at least you see exactly what is going into the recipe, and you can even search online for slightly healthier version if you want. At minimum, you’ll likely be skipping a host of flavors and preservatives than if you bought a store-made brownie sitting on the shelf for days or weeks.
My banana oat morning mini-muffins don’t use any white processed sugar, and yet are just sweet enough to scratch the sweet-tooth itch. I usually bake a batch or two and freeze them for a quick breakfast or snack on-on-the-go, or to add a treat to their lunchbox or to a family Sunday brunch. They’re small so they thaw in minutes. As a bonus for our family, I can easily make these little guys gluten-friendly for my intolerant daughter since there’s no wheat flour in the recipe — I just use gluten-free oats.
BANANA OAT BREAKFAST MINI-MUFFINS
Servings: 26 muffins
Start to finish: 40 minutes
1/2 cup (gently packed) pitted dates
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or other oil or butter)
2 medium bananas, ripe, roughly chopped
2 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups rolled oats (gluten-free, if making gluten-free)
3/4 cup almond flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Nutrition information per serving: 68 calories; 30 calories from fat; 3 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 17 mg cholesterol; 55 mg sodium; 8 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 2 g protein.
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