Polka Dot Cottage: Let’s talk sugar.

Let’s talk sugar.

Posted January 26th, 2010 by

My friend Robin passed this video along.  It’s an hour and a half lecture, which I thought at first would be too long to sit through, but it really sucks you in.  Listen to it in the background while you fold laundry, eat your lunch, or whatever mindless tasks you have to do today, and then come back here because I have questions…

Ok, so let’s assume you buy the premise that sugar is a poison, and suppose you are like me – someone who doesn’t particularly have a sweet tooth, but who loves her daily can of Dr. Pepper and who has noticed over the last several months that there is sugar in everything you buy.  I’ve been trying to limit our intake of high fructose corn syrup, replacing it with items said to have pure cane sugar instead.  But if I am to understand Dr. Lustig’s point correctly, that is not acceptable either.

Did I misunderstand this?  And if I did not, what is a person to do, when every product lining the supermarket shelves has some form of sugar listed on the label?

I enjoyed watching this lecture, I feel I learned something valuable (did you know that soda is as dangerous to your health as the same quantity of beer?), but I was so hoping that he would spend some time talking about alternatives.  He never really touched on artificial sweeteners (which, I can’t imagine could really be any better for you than the sugars) and unless I was confused, he really didn’t say what we should be eating instead.

Essentially, passing on the soda and the fruit juices is an excellent (albeit entirely difficult for us) first step.  And I suspect packaged convenience foods have to be the next to go.  That’s another step that’s going to hurt a bit.  Ok, a lot.  I’m embarrassed how many mornings I just put prepackaged snacks in the kid’s lunch boxes.  I’ve replaced Pop Tarts and Cheeze-its with Nature’s Path Toaster Pastries and Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies, but is that not good enough?

I make my own bread (when I remember to do so) and feel really good about the health factor of the resulting sandwiches, but there are still Bunny Fruit Snacks and Nature’s Path Chocolate Chunk Cookies thrown in there to fill out the meal.

I guess what I am asking is this:

  • What are some examples of healthy convenient lunches for picky eaters?
  • What kind of snacks can I keep around the house that are good for nibblers?
  • What healthy make-ahead snacks keep well?
  • While fructose and sucrose are to be avoided, is there any kind of sugar on a package label that is OK?
  • How do you avoid sugars in your diet without feeling deprived? Or resorting to artificial sweeteners?

I suspect I just have to do more making from scratch.  I’m glad I watched this before I headed out food shopping today.  I am going to be paying more attention to the labels, and will probably have more to say once I return.  I’m looking forward to reading your viewpoints, especially those of you who already live healthy lifestyles and have a little knowledge about this kind of thing.

Me? I’m relatively new to this “eating well” thing, and there’s a definite learning curve to it all!

[edited: I should mention that I don't have plans to go completely sugar-free. I've always felt that moderation is key. Besides, Neil read this post and then called me from work to say that if I take away his sugar, he's taking away my internet connection, LOL! Penny commented with a link that gives another perspective.  You should read it, if you're interested in this stuff.  Frankly, it all makes my head spin, but in a good way - in a wanting to learn more way, as opposed to a bury my head in the sand and hope it all goes away way.]

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  • Penny says:

    I don’t avoid sugars. I have a candy dish in the living room full of good dark chocolate. Making such things forbidden doesn’t really help, in my experience. Moderation really is sufficient for most things, for most people.

    As for healthy snacks to keep around? Unless you’re allergic, you can’t beat nuts–walnuts, almonds, cashews. We eat a lot of those. All kinds of fruit (winter strawberries are in season here right now. YUM). Frozen green peas (don’t laugh, my little brother would walk around with a bowl of frozen green peas, eating them like popcorn–he only liked them frozen, not cooked). Edamame. Grape tomatoes. Cheese (I know, fat, horrors, but it’s protein and it’s not full of sugar).
    .-= See Penny’s latest blog post: Burns Night =-.

  • Penny says:

    PS–here’s the Junkfood Science take on the science of sugar:
    http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2007/05/science-of-sweets.html
    .-= See Penny’s latest blog post: Burns Night =-.

    • Lisa says:

      Very interesting link. Of course, it just confuses the issue in my mind even more, and underlines the idea of moderation being key. I’m going to edit the post and add the link, for those who don’t read through comments.

  • Kim McCaffrey says:

    With 4 little ones, I have been trying to watch our food intake for a while now. I agree with moderation, and cooking at home more and eating out/packaged less. But for easy healthy snacks I have bananas, clemintines (worth every penny if the toddler can peel it himself!), and I have nuts in the shell out in the open. The older kids open them for the little ones.

    For bag lunches and school snacks (many I will prebag ahead of time and keep in a huge tin), we use lightly salted home popped popcorn (kids love it, sliced apples or pears, pretzles, more bananas and clemintines, and home baked goodies. (but you will see whole grain goldfish, cheese it’s,and go-gurts[for the one that never eats dairy but will eat these.])

    Some people slice carrots, celery, or cucumbers but that isn’t me.

  • Molly says:

    Wow, this is good stuff.

    Seriously, sugar in moderation isn’t bad especially if it is cane sugar or natural sugars found in FRUIT (not processed juices).

    There are very little you can buy in a normal grocery for snacks that are HFCS free…very difficult.

    But, you also have to watch the hydrogenated oils (still watching this, so not sure if he covers those…since they aren’t sugar BUT another corn product)

  • Kim says:

    What I try to do is eat real foods only.

    Avoid anything that has been processed.

    Fruits and real fruit juices have natural sugars – not added.

    I will NOT eat artificial sweeteners at all! I uses to use Splenda – not even that much – 2 tsps per day in coffees.
    I started getting horrible dizzy spells all the time – it finally clicked that it may be the Splenda, so cut that out – within 2 days most of the dizziness was gone.

    I just try to limit the amounts of real sugar I do eat.

    Go to 5 different doctors, get 5 different opinions.

    Ideas: fresh fruit & veggies precut if necessary,
    cheese sticks,
    homemade muffins (you control how much sugar), yogurt (plain – add maple syrup or all fruit jam), popcorn, crackers & meat slices, pickles…
    .-= See Kim’s latest blog post: Weekly Update =-.

  • Francie Owens says:

    Two weeks ago I bought the Belly Fat Cure book by Jorge Cruise after reading an article about it in the Costco magazine. It has you limit your sugar to 15 grams a day. It was much easier than I thought (I love sweets!) and I lost 4 pounds and 2 inches from my mid section in the first week. There is a detailed description in the book of bad sweeteners and good sweeteners. I would highly recommend the book. As far as good sweeteners go, I use Stevia which is an herb that is 300 times sweeter than sugar. There are also some sugar alcohols that are acceptable.

    My biggest eye opener was the hidden sugars in fruits and other healthy foods. A cup of milk has 12 grams of sugar. My very healthy husband usually takes a big salad to work along with 4 kiwis and two oranges and was amazed to find that the fruit was adding about 50 grams of sugar to his diet every day.

    I’m working on the healthy lunch thing for my kids too. It is really hard.

  • Kitter says:

    Great thread! Michael Pollan’s latest book “Food Rules” is wonderful – and covers many aspects of healthy eating in a quick little (as in cute!) book.

    My quandary is this: while I agree with the “all things in moderation” approach, I have little to no self control when it comes to sweets. I don’t eat 2 cookies, I eat 5. Yet I feel SO much better (mood, energy, physically – everything) when I eat little to no sugar. I’ve given it up entirely before (felt great), and will do so again… once I have the conviction!

    Good luck with your healthy eating quest, Lisa! It can be mind-boggling, but so interesting… and so worth it!!

  • Jennifer says:

    I have hypoglycemia and am not supposed to eat much sugar at all because it often makes me feel dizzy and sick. But I love sweets! And baking! So I do two things:

    -I try to use agave syrup as a sweetener whenever I can. It is healthier than sugar and has a low glycemic index so it doesn’t make my blood sugar spike and crash.

    or

    -If I do eat something with sugar in it, I make sure that I eat it after a sensible meal. My body is already nourished so I’m less likely to eat an unhealthy amount of sweets.

    I agree with you about moderation. It’s just finding the way of eating that is right for you and makes you feel healthy.
    .-= See Jennifer’s latest blog post: Classic Vegan Chocolate Cake =-.

  • Elaine says:

    My daughter’s best friend is a serious Type 1 Diabetic. So my last couple of years – Type 2 runs in my family a lot – I’ve learned a lot MORE about sugars and carbs.

    The kid doesn’t have to miss her sugars, she has to watch how many she eats and makes sure it plays well with her other intakes. So she CAN have a couple chocolates from the box on my counter but has to balance the intake against how many carbs (and when she and her family are being on the ball, also against her other food choices for the day to make sure there’s enough nutrition in there) that is and how hungry she’ll still be if her snack is only 4 small chocolates and a handful of chips.

    Basically, moderation and planning. My daughter gets a packaged snack of some sort in her lunch most days but the rest tends to be more basic food. I don’t have a big sweet tooth so skipping candy and such doesn’t bother me much. The family whines sometimes though :)

    My current crusade is salt lol. There’s my fail.
    .-= See Elaine’s latest blog post: One World One Heart =-.

  • terri says:

    We’ve mostly been on a quest to eliminate HFCS (which is harder than I thought it would be) and haven’t worried so much about sugar. One other sweetener that people haven’t mentioned–honey. I have a friend with an apiary, so we get the good stuff. She does a lot of baking with it (including an amazing honey wheat bread), but we just use it to sweeten our tea.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Here’s another question to add to your list – what do you do when your kids reach a certain age and suddenly care very much that their lunchbox contents are different from their friends’ lunchbox contents? Argh. I too believe in moderation (and love to bake and have a serious sweet tooth – so won’t be going completely sugarless) and I do try to avoid processed food in general, but… these are picky eaters in the picky eater stage. It’s embarrassing to have to eat cheddar bunnies when the friends are eating cheezits and to not be able to eat “fruit” gushers and go-gurt or whatever those things are (neither has either fruit or actual yoghurt in them). I find I cave on some things, but hold the line on others. For example, cheezits are allowed, but if you want yoghurt you’ll have to have the real thing. It’s a constant juggling act.
    .-= See Elizabeth’s latest blog post: Can’t blog. Knitting. =-.

  • Jackie says:

    I haven’t gotten a chance to watch the video yet but your post sparked my interest. I have done a lot of reading on food issues. I’m with you on moderation. Changing your diet is a big step and it is unrealistic to change every part all at once. With that said, I highly recommend reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” She writes about her year of eating all locally grown foods. It is extreme but also gives some good ideas for starting out. I found it to be very inspirational and informative without being preachy or condescending.
    .-= See Jackie’s latest blog post: Crochet! =-.

  • Karen says:

    Hi Lisa, Great post and discussion about sugar in foods! When I go food shopping, I try to buy products that have the least amount of ingredients (ones I can pronounce) which pretty much eliminates most processed foods. So, I’m shopping for fruits, veggies, whole grains and nuts, dairy. I don’t eat meat. I usually have one yogurt a day but have changed over from Stonyfield Farms with fruit added because it also has sugar added to plain Greek yogurt and I add my own fruit. Snacks are fruit, nuts, plain popcorn, blue corn chips. As you know, I drink a lot of tea, most of it plain but when I want to sweeten something like Chai, I use agave nectar, It’s really sweet so you only have to use a drop or two. All that said, if someone brings chocolate into work, am I indulging? You bet! but in moderation because if I totally deny myself then I will crave it and that always ends badly. ;-) Bravo to you for getting more health conscious with your family’s eating.
    .-= See Karen’s latest blog post: Saturday Morning Tea =-.

  • Dystini says:

    Last Fall, I also got interested in eating healthier when my doctor said my triglycerides were too high and wanted to put me on a pill for it. I switched from drinking 6-8 cans of soda a day to drinking homemade iced tea. Now I do use sugar, real sugar, in my tea but it’s a whole lot less than what’s in soda.
    After awhile, I noticed I was also having trouble getting to sleep and read something about having caffiene too lae in the day. My tea has caffiene. So after 7pm, I started drinking juice. But I find normal juice to be too sweet so I buy it in concentrate and use about 3 times the water it calls for. It not only lasts longer but dilutes the sugar content.
    I prefer to drink from a bottle so every week to 10 days I drink a soda to get a new bottle. I’ve noticed that on soda days, I feel lethargic and icky and altogether bad. My husband and I were just discussing this last night and plan to try out other bottled beverages, tea, etc. It doesn’t matter to me who drinks it, just that I have a new bottle when I need it. I dislike plain water but he doesn’t mind it so we may go with bottled water.
    I’ve also started avoiding the prepackaged side dishes for supper. I’ve been making soups packed with veggies (purreed to oblivion since I dislike the taste/texture of most cooked veggies) as a side dish to whatever the meat of the day is. When the weather warms up, it’ll be salads and cold soups.
    Between the lack of soda and the increase in veggies, I’ve lost a few pounds without even exercising (that’s a hate of mine I’ve gotta tackle soon, exercising more often)
    Snacks are difficult. I love my Cheetos. So I buy snack packs and I’m only allowed one pack a day. If I buy a big bag, I can finish half of it in one sitting.
    I’d like to find a healthier alternative snack but I can’t eat nuts so I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do. Perhaps I should research that now that I’ve adjusted to the healthier side dishes to supper.

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