Sugar Free not Taste Free

Sweet things give me pleasure, they’re a little treat in the day and I don’t want to live without them. But there’s no denying that as a nation, we have a problem with sugar: the average American consumes around 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. It’s predicted that 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes by 2020—that is a terrifying statistic.  Many studies show that sugar can damage our hearts, makes us fat, sap our brain power and it may even be linked to cancer. Yikes.

Unfortunately, many artificial sweeteners—such as aspartame and high fructose corn syrup— cause digestive problems and are also linked to weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Natural sweeteners (like honey and maple syrup) although delicious alternatives for baking, still disrupt blood glucose levels.

So what’s the answer? I think it’s an ingredient called Xylitol—a clever sweetener found in fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that looks, and tastes like sugar, but doesn’t raise blood glucose levels. You may not have heard of it but it’s already extracted from trees and corn on an industrial scale (also nice to know that corn Xylitol is particularly sustainable as it comes from waste corn husks). You can replace Xylitol for sugar 1:1 in your every day baking. Check out the baking aisle in stores like Whole Foods and you find a bag sitting there. For over two years now Xylitol has been my sugar bowl and no one can tell the difference because the taste is just like sugar. I love the stuff and I am on a mission to save our collective sweet tooth by introducing more folks to it.

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When I first discovered this (awkwardly named) sweetener I decided to make a healthy candy with it. That candy became Cracked Candy—it tastes like sugar candy, has only natural flavorings and is safe for teeth (thanks to Xylitol and its decay stopping powers).

There are a few things you can do to limit the sugar at home and keep things tasty:

  • Turn on the tap. I water down fruit juice for my kids and they only get one cup a day. They don’t notice the difference in taste
  • Danger, Danger Dried fruit. Most brands add extra sugar – around 24g in total, so I am now more sparing than before. Just a small handful mixed with nuts.
  • Label geek. I read labels more closely now: Granola bars can have12g of sugar and so can sauces and salad dressings. I’m make my own when I have the time or at least buying reduce sugar versions. I found this article helpful: Low sugar granola bars .
  • Beware the Energy drinks! They can have whopping 85g of sugar. It’s not just the caffeine that makes you feel wired! Here are some low sugar natural energy drinks.
  • Yikes! Frozen yoghurt. This one caught me out; it has just as much sugar as ice cream. Consider it a dessert not a healthy snack. I mash fruit to mix with plain, whole milk yoghurt and sometimes some cream to make a great ‘liquid ice-cream’. I add a dash of honey sometimes and freeze it if I’ve made too much. This is a good way to use up slightly sad looking fruit too.

The powerful thought that Type 2 diabetes and child obesity are both preventable is currently driving me to make a few more conscious decisions about what is going in the shopping cart. I am all about living a life without compromise and I reckon that by being a bit more aware, I can remove excess sugar from my family’s diet…without them noticing!