Healthy Food Bites To-Go: The Sugar Issue

So much has been written about the downside of sugar from a health perspective. Documentary films including Fed Up and more recently That Sugar Film expose the compromising impact our candy-coated food supply has on our ability to thrive daily. Refined sugar is masking a significant problem. It is hijacking our health in the short term and being linked to long-range lifestyle diseases including heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes down the road.

According to the American Dietetic and Diabetic Associations, increased consumption of refined sugar is the leading cause of degenerative disease. Possible negative health affects with lesser-known connections to sugar include insomnia, manic depression, mood swings, hyperactivity, headaches, skin breakouts and ADD/ADHD. The body pays a heavy price for this opiate-like substance that triggers the pleasures center of the brain.

Sugar Shocker

The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar per day (approximately 160 pounds per year) from sugar-laden offenders such as sports drinks, energy bars, pastries, candy and foods with hidden sugar in them. These may include: ketchup, French fries, spaghetti sauce, pretzels, salad dressings, BBQ sauce, bottled juices, flavored yogurt, granola and conventional peanut butter.

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Know the Names of Sugar

  • Be your own food detective and read ingredient labels. Know exactly how many pumps of syrup are in your morning coffee drink? Does sugar loom in the salad dressing you are about to pour over that virtuous salad?
  • Be aware of the common names for sugar: Agave, Barley malt, Brown sugar, Cane syrup, Corn syrup, Date sugar, Dextrose, Fructose, Fruit Juice, Honey , Invert sugar, Lactose, Maltodextrin, Maple syrup, Molasses, Raw sugar, Sorghum, Stevia, Sucrose, Turbinado Sugar, White Grape Juice Concentrate

The Sweet Truth

It’s not that we just like sugar. We are actually addicted it.

Like heroin, cocaine and caffeine, sugar is an addictive, destructive drug, yet we consume it daily in everything from cigarettes to bread. – William Duffy, author of Sugar Blues.

A revealing article from exposes surprising foods with more sugar than a classic Krispy Kreme Donut which contains 10 grams of sugar.

A 15.7 oz bottle of no sugar-added Blueberry Pomegranate Naked Juice is not really naked. It is dressed in 32 grams of fruit sugar. Yoplait 99% Fat- Free Blackberry Harvest yogurt, at 26 grams of sugar is the equivalent of 2.5 donuts. Check out the grams of sugar on the ingredient list of your bottled pasta sauce at home. Prego Mushroom Sauce turns out to be a bit of a sugar bomb.

That bowl of Kellogg’s Raisin Bran in the morning and the honey-coated, chocolate dipped ‘benevolent’ bar downed between classes can contain sugar grams in the double digits! The goal here is not to discourage a morning breakfast routine or between class snack habit. It is rather to ensure that we are making fully informed food choices that satisfy timely health goals – clear thinking, weight-loss, a positive mood and lasting performance.

How vigilant are you about monitoring the amount of sugar that passes through your lips each day?

“There are 80,000 food items in America; 80% of them have added sugar.” – Robert Ludwig, Professor of Pediatrics, U of Ca., San Francisco (from the film Fed Up)

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How much sugar is in that drink?

  • Red Bull 7 tsp.
  • Simply Orange 10 tsp.
  • Classic Sports Drink 10½ tsp.
  • Vitamin Water 8 tsp.
  • POM Juice 15½ tsp.

Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages may be the single largest driver of the obesity epidemic according to a 2009 study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Why We Crave

I grew up eating Duncan Hines brownies made from a mix. Today I go online and search brownies made from sweet potatoes, beets and black beans made with alternative flours, not refined white flour. My brownies are sweetened with fresh Medjool dates, toasted nuts and raw cocoa powder that are packed with flavor and leave me with sustainable energy, rather than fostering a desire to slip under my desk to steal a nap. The key is having an open mind, a plan of action when sweet cravings strike and a spirit of playful experimentation. This can actually be fun.

Upgrading your sweet selections to real food ingredients can go a long way to giving your body the nutrition on which it thrives. Healthier versions of your favorite treats will not only satisfy your sweet tooth but also supply your body with the nutrients it may be missing, thus preventing cravings.

This real food No-Bake Raw Brownie recipe has forever changed my thinking on eating for real energy without giving up my favorite sweet things. I will say that it has required me to put aside my notion of what a brownie should be. Healthy eating blogger Sarah Britton promised to change my life with this recipe. That’s a big promise. Mission accomplished for this brownie lover. So here I pay it forward and hope that you will feel equally indulged.

No-bake, refined sugar-free Raw Brownies with Superfood Icing: Raw Coconut Cacao Butter from Artisana Foods:

The Raw Brownie


  • 2 cups whole walnuts
  • 2 ½ cups Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 cup raw cacao
  • 1 cup raw unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
  • ¼ tsp. sea salt


1. Place walnuts in food processor and blend on high until the nuts are finely ground.
2. Add the cacao and salt. Pulse to combine.
3. Add the dates one at a time through the feed tube of the food processor while it is running. What you should end up with is a mix that appears rather like cake crumbs, but that when pressed, will easily stick together (if the mixture does not hold together well, add more dates).
4. In a large bowl (or the pan you plan on putting the brownies in), combine the walnut-cacao mix with the chopped almonds. Press into a lined cake pan or mold. Place in freezer or fridge until ready to serve (it is also easier to cut these when they are very cold). Store them in an airtight container.

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Craving-Busting Foods to Stock at Home

If you desire the myriad benefits of the white sugar-free life — weight loss, more energy, better sleep and less scattered thinking, keep these mineral-rich foods on hand. Magnesium, calcium and zinc are said to help control stress levels which can trigger sweet cravings. Begin to retrain your palette with naturally sweet foods. Nutrient dense options packed with fiber go a long way toward preventing swings in blood sugar and impulsive sugar purchases.


Baby carrots are a good grab-and-go item with plenty of magnesium, potassium and fiber.

Unsalted Nuts

Almonds, cashews, pecans and Brazil nuts are high in magnesium. Almonds are a great source of non-dairy calcium.

Pumpkin Seeds

These nutritional giants are packed with zinc and magnesium.

Frozen Fruit

Blueberries, mango, banana and grapes can be cut up and frozen fresh or purchased from the freezer case of most markets.

High Cocoa Content Dark Chocolate

Look for bars with over 70% cocao. They contain magnesium, zinc, antioxidants and iron.

Baked Sweet Potatoes

For a sweet healthy fast food option, bake a potato with your evening meal and save it for the next day. Reheat in the AM and carry it with you. Sweet potatoes naturally bust sugar cravings.

Leafy Greens

These are perhaps (and surprisingly) one of the most important foods for conquering sugar cravings. They calm and nourish the body on a deep level, disabling the need for sugary sweets. Greens are loaded with calcium. They contain small amounts of magnesium, and protein too.

Start today to become more aware of your cravings. They are the body’s way of signaling that something may be missing from your diet. Then, upgrade the composition of your sweets by selecting real, whole food ingredients in order to shift into a state where you begin to crave foods that truly energize you. Let’s not sugarcoat it.

Lately, I like to open my peanut butter jar and sprinkle into it a handful of toasted pecans and broken dark chocolate. Once a day I dip a teaspoon into it with a tall cup of tea to keep sweet cravings at bay.

What works for you? Email us at with your craving-busting idea and you may get featured in a future issue!

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