Posts Tagged ‘ sweets ’

Lessons From A Day of No Sugar

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Table-SugarWe did it! We survived a day of no sugar. Inspired by Eve Schaub’s new book Year of No Sugar, several of my colleagues and I shunned the sweet stuff on Wednesday, part of a national #NoSugarChallenge. That meant no table sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, or any sugar in packaged foods. Sweet fruit and vegetables were still on the table.

While Eve and her family gave up sugar for an entire year, one day seemed like a manageable goal. But, for many of us, it was a tougher challenge than we anticipated, primarily because sugar is in so many foods—80 percent of products found in the supermarket in fact.

• Learn more about identifying added sugar and cutting processed food from your diet.

Here are our reports on what was easy, what was hard, and what we learned:

Laura Fenton, Lifestyle Director – So, I failed straight off the bat: I forgot it was no-sugar day and poured myself a bowl of cereal for breakfast (looking at the label after work, I saw that the brand contains both honey and molasses, a.k.a. sugar). But once I got to work and remembered my mission I had a steely reserve to resist sugar, including: Bagels, cookies at my cube mate’s desk, and jelly beans at my other cube mate’s desk. When I went for lunch, I actually looked at the label for the salad dressing to make sure it was sugar free (it seemed to be!) and said “no thank you” to the roll that was offered with my salad that was likely made with sugar.

Alexandra Johnston, Assistant Photo Editor – I thought by biggest struggle would be handling my after-lunch sweet tooth, but my sugar-free banana chocolate “ice cream” was amazing and it actually felt very indulgent. The rest of the day proved to be more difficult. I didn’t realize how many condiments and packaged ingredients actually had sugar in them. While I won’t be making this a permanent change at this time, it did open my eyes to the problem and I will be checking the labels more closely in the grocery store from now on.

Rheanna Bellomo, Editorial Assistant – I made it through breakfast, lunch, and dinner by making all my own fresh food (nothing processed) and snacking on a mango in the afternoon. What I found so funny was that once I settled in for the night with my book, the challenge completely slipped my mind and I had a piece of chocolate. It was so mindless! That’s what really stuck with me: the need to be more thoughtful about food.

Karen Cicero, Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor – It was a lot harder than I expected—and we are really careful about added sugar to begin with. Breakfast was easy (eggs & fruit), but when packing lunch, I remembered that our whole-wheat bread has one gram of sugar per slice and the peanut butter has a gram per serving. I couldn’t do much about that last minute so Katie had three grams of added sugar in her lunch. I had a salad for lunch, and made my own balsamic vinaigrette so it would be sugar-free. But I blew my sugar-free day when I mindlessly tried a piece of a granola bar that came in the mail for an upcoming story—that was about three grams of sugar. For dinner, we had whole-grain pasta with a fresh sauce I made with heirloom tomatoes and red onions. Overall, it was a really good reminder about how pervasive added sugar is in foods that don’t taste at all sweet, and how deliciously sweet and satisfying fruit is. I’m going to try to do it once a week–a la Meatless Monday, maybe this is Sugar-Free Sunday. Starting the week after Easter, of course!

Allison Berry, Editorial Assistant – My goal of cooking vegan was unsuccessful (I didn’t realize how complicated some of the recipes could be!), but I was able to eat vegan for the day, which I loved! The hardest part was passing up a morning bagel and cream cheese, but I was surprised to find that during the workday especially, my sugar-free snacks of fruit, almonds, and tea kept me going between meals. After dinner did get hard for me, seeing as a lot of the snacks I go for after dinner have added sugar in them. If definitely opened my eyes to what even having a cookie after dinner can do to your sugar intake. The habit I’ll definitely continue is snacking on almonds and fruit through the workday. I bought a 1 bag of almonds at the drug store and they’ve kept me full and lasted all week.

Sherry Huang, Features Editor – The two toughest times of the day were the afternoon (when I usually eat a sugary snack) and the evening (when I usually have dessert after dinner). After eating a few Craisins by accident (shoot, added sugar!), Jenna rescued me with a no-sugar-added protein bar for a snack. Dessert was a little pitiful – plain saltine crackers and natural peanut butter. I did feel slightly more alert and energetic throughout the day, so that was a bonus. Overall, the challenge was slightly easier than I anticipated, in part because it was just for one day, and there were no tempting treats lying around the office! I do confess to waiting until midnight to eat some cake, but I’d be willing to try avoiding sugar for a few more days…but maybe not consecutive ones.

Ruthie Fierberg, Editorial Assistant – It took some planning, but turns out I have a good amount of meal options that I typically eat anyway that are sugar-free. The main component of my meals didn’t deviate from my norm (eggs over spinach with some nuts for breakfast, a salad with black beans and an apple for lunch, banana for an afternoon snack, chicken and rice and a small salad for dinner with blackberries for dessert). What DID surprise me is how many of my condiments had sugar in them. I couldn’t have my usual salad dressing – I opted for lemon juice instead – and I couldn’t have barbeque sauce on my chicken – that actually has a LOT of sugar in it. I think in the future I will pay more attention to the “sugars” listing on nutrition labels and opt for things with less sugar, but I have no plans to go sugar-free for good. I like my whole wheat pastas and multigrain breads and even that barbeque sauce. The challenge was certainly interesting and eye-opening!

Madeleine Burry, Associate Managing Editor – The best part of the sugar-free day was the need to be thoughtful about what I eat: Does that salad dressing have sugar added? What about that bottled tomato sauce? I prepped for the day with lots of tiny containers of fruits and veggies (apple slices in one, cut up cucumber in another, and grapes in the last little tupperware), and was able to escape the kitchen without trying the cookies temptingly laid out on the counter, and make it through the treacherous three to five p.m. window, when I’m most vulnerable to lure of the sugary snack. Will I quit sugar forever? No way! I quit sugar for a month once, and midway through, life felt dark and dreary. A little sweetness is a good thing, and sometimes an apple just doesn’t cut it. But I will definitely try to be more mindful when eating, especially about the presence of sugar in foods I don’t think of as being sweet (like ketchup, instant oatmeal packets, dried fruit, and salad dressing).

For my part, feeding my daughter sugar-free meals turned out to be the toughest challenge. She usually has a low-sugar cereal for breakfast, but we decided on eggs and whole grain crackers for breakfast—not something I’d want her to have everyday. I left a list of sugar-free snacks for the babysitter, and it was a little humdrum: dried plums, more crackers, fruit, milk.

Participating in this challenge made me realize just how hard it is to not eat sugar throughout the day, especially for kids. Since all the grams of sugar – in cereal, chocolate milk, yogurt, and granola bars – add up, even if I feel like I’m feeding my daughter a “healthy” diet, it is still very sugary. My new goal is to step up my game and find some delicious, sugar-free options for her everyday diet.

Could you or your kids ever go sugar-free—even just for a day?

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Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Sugar on wooden table via Shutterstock

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Parents Tackles A Day of No Sugar

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Zero. Zilch. Nada. Today, a few of us here at Parents are going sugar-free. That means no table sugar in our coffee, honey in our tea, or syrup in our oatmeal. It also means saying no to any processed foods that contain sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, fructose, evaporated cane juice, agave, or molasses, just to name a few of sugar’s aliases.

But, just because we’re saying no to a lot of foods, there are many others we can still say “yes” to including naturally sweet fruits and vegetables.

Many of us are also enlisting our families in this experiment. We were inspired by writer Eve Schaub’s new book Year of No Sugar, in which she, her husband, and her two small children cut out sugar – for a whole year. Schaub has declared today, Wednesday, April 9, the Day of No Sugar Challenge.

Why are we doing this? We each have our own reasons, but the fact is that Americans are drowning in added sugar. According to Robert Lustig, M.D., about 80 percent of items in grocery stores contain added sugar. We now consume an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, about double what we should be eating.

• Learn more about identifying added sugar and cutting processed food from your diet.

Here is what my colleagues are saying about giving up sugar tomorrow:

Ashley Oerman, Assistant Editor: I’m doing this because I think I might actually be addicted to sweets. I think it would be a great exercise in impulse control (a study I just read said this could be genetic. I blame my ice cream-aholic dad).

Sherry Huang, Features Editor: I have an irrational fear that I am addicted to sweets or the taste of sweetness. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I crave is something sweet. When 3 p.m. rolls around, I need a sweet snack, and after dinner, a meal is never complete without dessert (who cares about a cheese plate?). I would like to make (more of) an effort to curb the craving and resist my pull toward eating an excess of sugary, processed foods so I can start to gravitate toward more healthy, natural foods.

Karen Cicero, Contributing Food and Nutrition Editor: For my daughter, no chocolate milk in her lunch—water instead. No cookie or small piece of candy after dinner; it will be fruit! And I’ll be sure to make dinner since you don’t know what’s in the restaurant food!

Ruthie Fierberg, Editorial Assistant: So I’m a pretty healthy eater anyway – lots of fruits and veggies. I’d say it’s most likely going to affect breakfast the most – since I won’t be having cereal or oatmeal and probably opt for something more protein-y like eggs. In general, it will be tough not to eat processed foods. I sometimes eat a frozen meal or a veggie burger or salad with salad dressing for lunch, so I’ll have to check on that. But I really don’t eat too much sugar, so I’ll be surprised if one day of this is crazy challenging. (Famous last words.)

Laura Fenton, Lifestyle Director: A sugar-free day wouldn’t be a big challenge for most of my meals, but it would be difficult for me to pass up on treats, if they came in my path. I almost never say no to a cookie or a sweet, if it’s offered. [And, here at Parents, they’re offered a lot!]

Allison Berry, Editorial Assistant: Since I’ve always been curious about going vegan, I’m using this as a chance to try a couple of sugar-free vegan recipes I’ve pinned! Fingers crossed the goodies in the Parents kitchen don’t get the best of me…

Alexandra Johnston, Assistant Photo Editor: I’ve always been pretty good about not adding sugar to drinks or fruit but boy do I have a chocolate sweet tooth. Especially after lunch and dinner, I always love a bite (and sometimes more) of chocolate to feel like I’ve completed the meal. Tomorrow I’m hiding the cookies and candy and trying a Pinterest recipe of a frozen banana mashed with a bit of cocoa powder. I’m hoping the result will curb my appetite for chocolate!

Personally, I am going to miss sugar in my coffee the most. And, I’m nervous about finding a sugar-free breakfast my 8 year-old will like (I’m thinking of giving her a smoothie with milk, Greek yogurt, unsweetened almond butter, frozen grapes, and a banana). But, I’m excited to choose from all the delicious, sugar-free foods at our disposal: hummus and veggies, apples with unsweetened peanut butter, roasted sweet potatoes, pasta with quick homemade marinara, and chicken noodle soup, just to name a few.

Tomorrow or Friday we’ll report back and let you know how we survived our day of no sugar.

Will you say no to sugar with us today? Give it a shot, and let us know how you’re doing by tweeting us @parentsmagazine using the hashtag #NoSugarChallenge.

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Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Year of No Sugar book cover courtesy of Sourcebooks, Inc.

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Could You Give Up Sugar for a Day? Join Us As We Try

Monday, April 7th, 2014

A couple years ago writer Eve Schaub, her husband, and their two small kids stopped eating sugar — for a whole year. Not only did this mean no cookies, candy, or ice cream, they also discovered that many of their favorite everyday foods contained hidden sugars including some brands of bacon, crackers, yogurt, salad dressing, pasta sauce, chicken broth, tortillas, and even ketchup.

Schaub learned that the sweet stuff is everywhere, often lurking on food labels under names like high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, brown rice syrup, cane sugar, fructose, dextrose, glucose, evaporated cane juice, or molasses.

She chronicled her family’s journey in the upcoming book Year of No Sugar. And, now she’s organizing an event for the rest of us to test our sugar-free mettle, for one day only (phew!). Schaub has declared Wednesday, April 9, the Day of No Sugar Challenge. Several of us here at Parents are going to participate, and we’d love to have as many of our readers as possible join us.

But, first of all — why give up sugar at all?

To be clear, not all sugar is “bad.” Natural sugars in fruit and vegetables are fine. Because your apple contains fiber that counteracts its sugar content, your body remains balanced. But, dig in to packaged applesauce with its heaping teaspoons of sugar, and your body must produce insulin to battle it. All too often, this can lead to a number of problems ranging from sluggishness and irritability to diabetes and heart disease.

The World Health Organization recommends limiting daily sugar intake to 9 teaspoons for men, 6 teaspoons for women, and 4 teaspoons for children. A typical breakfast of cereal and juice can rack up 11 teaspoons—that’s nearly four times the amount your kid should have in an entire day! Clearly, we need to cut back.

On top of this, sugar does not satisfy hunger. Instead, it can make you hungrier (or “HANGRY”) and more moody once your blood sugar drops.

So how did sugar get in virtually everything we eat in the first place?

Sugar used to be a condiment, sprinkled lightly onto food. Now, sugar has become our food. According to Robert Lustig, M.D., about 80 percent of items in grocery stores contain added sugar. This is because a majority of the food we eat is processed, which requires refined sugar to be palatable.

One of the best examples of this is flavored yogurt. Often considered a health food, yogurt can actually be pit of hidden sugar. Traditional yogurt is strained, sour milk—it’s supposed to be tangy. “Who gave us the notion to add fruit-flavored syrups to make it sweet? The food industry, which wants to sell more,” says Dr. Lustig. “No doctor would suggest that.”

Learn more about identifying added sugar and cutting processed food from your diet.

I’m already thinking about what my 8 year-old daughter and I will eat on Wednesday. Surprisingly, I think breakfast will be the toughest challenge. With no honey or maple syrup, oatmeal just won’t be the same. The vast majority of packaged cereals are out. Virtually any bread I buy at the grocery store has sugar in it, so no toast. I will probably make us a smoothie with milk, banana, unsweetened yogurt, frozen fruit, and unsweetened peanut butter. Eggs are another possibility.

Does this one-day experiment seem like more trouble than it’s worth? For a minute. But, then I remember that sugar doesn’t really belong in every single food we eat. I’ve come to crave the taste so much that any meal without something sweet seems like it’s missing something. I want to prove that I have power over my cravings. Because, really, we should be able to make it through just one measly day without sugar. Right?

Would you ever give up sugar, even just for a day? If you’re game, join us on Wednesday: Tweet to @parentsmagazine using the hashtag #NoSugarChallenge.

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Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid
Nutrition Labels: 3 Things To Avoid

Image: Year of No Sugar book cover courtesy of Sourcebooks, Inc.; close up on fruit salad via Shutterstock

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Valentine’s Day Treats for the Whole Family, Including Yourself!

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Is there any better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with food? Some have even said the stomach is the way to the heart, a mantra we embrace. Just in time for the holiday, here is a list of treats that you can give to others… or yourself. We won’t judge.

For a special candy treat, try Lake Champlain’s Friendly Frog Valentine Chocolates set. Kids will enjoy the fun heart-shaped gift box printed with their very own frog prince. Six assorted chocolates await inside, two of each flavor including chocolate, peanut butter and caramel. ($11, LakeChamplainChocolates.com)

For a unique twist on traditional holiday candies, Harry & David is offering a set of I LUV U Valentine Praline Pops. The pralines are made with caramel using whipped cream and pecan pieces. Each pop is individually wrapped, so you can divide between three loved ones. (Or between two loved ones and, um, yourself.) ($19.95, HarryAndDavid.com)

For a more traditional approach to a Valentine’s Day treat, Ghirardelli Impressions is the way to go. Each milk chocolate square is printed with a white or dark chocolate heart in the middle. In addition to the regular-size bags, Ghirardelli is also offering new mini bag for only $1 — perfect for giving to school friends. (Ghirardelli.com)

For a vegan option, Farm Sanctuary offers up this “Milk” Chocolate Heart. But wait, there’s more! The heart opens up to reveal even more organic vegan treats inside. Not only will the gift spread your love to your kids, or even yourself, you’ll also be helping abused and neglected farm animals through the purchase. Eating chocolate while helping cute animals? That’s a win-win. ($18, FarmSanctuary.org)

The Chew co-host and Top Chef alum Carla Hall is ready to share her little bites of love with everybody. The Carla Hall Petite Cookies are bite-sized treats in sweet and savory varieties including Mexican chocolate chip, almond ginger cherry shortbread and Harissa spiced nuts. The cookies also make great little snacks for dolls and tea parties. ($8 and up, CarlaHall.com)

For the height of decadence, Ike’s Cookies offers a box of Lover’s Gold. Because, seriously, what says “I love you” more than gold? Each order comes in an elegantly packaged box of 15 dark chocolate cookies wrapped in 23-carat gold leaf. As you bake them (instructions included) the cookie expands to create a crinkle effect, but instead of being covered in powdered sugar, the cookies are covered in gold. Yes, edible gold. The cookies, made from organic and locally sourced ingredients, are easy to make and come out chewy and delicious. It may be a little extravagant, but Valentine’s Day only happens once a year, right? ($48, IkesCookies.com)

Not in the mood for store-bought products this year? No problem! You can also try some of our homemade Valentine’s Day sweets and candy recipes, perfect for telling someone special how much they mean to you.

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Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches
Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches
Valentine's Day Treats: Waffle Heart Sandwiches

Fine me on !


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Can’t Stop Thinking About Cupcakes

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

I’m finding it hard to focus at the moment. Not just because it’s Monday morning but because I’ve just spent some time on Nicole Friday’s site, The Cupcake Craze, and all I can think right now is Must…have…chocolate souffle cupcake…)

Like me, Nicole is a mom of two children, ages 6 and 3, who lives in New Jersey. (Those are her boys, Ellis and Edison, at right.) But unlike me, she’s a fabulous baker with her own catering business–just check out the slideshow of scrumptious desserts she’s created. I asked her to share some of her best baking-with-kids tips, and she happily obliged:

1. What’s a home-run flavor combo for kids?

Oreo Cookies & Cream is definitely a hit!  Anything chocolate works with kids, especially a supersize cupcake—chocolate cake with cookies & cream frosting and topped with an Oreo cookie. Simply irresistible!

2. How old were your boys when you started baking with them?

Ellis was 2 (he’s now 3 ½) ; Edison was 3 (now 6).

3. Any fun kitchen missteps you can share?

Oh yeah. Edison added a bowl of eggs–including the shells–to the batter and turned on the mixer. There was no picking out those shells—another batch into the garbage!  Another time, I had cupcakes for an event resting on the counter and Ellis, who was 2 at the time, stuck his fingers in all the cupcakes. (Luckily I made it to the event with  a new batch of “hole-less” cupcakes.)

4. What’s the best task for little ones brand-new to the kitchen?

The key is to start off small,  doing pretty much anything that doesn’t involve fire or hot or sharp things. So you can try beating eggs, adding and mixing pre-measured ingredients, licking the bowls clean. That’s a popular one.

5. Do you have favorite gadgets for kids?

Use a mini ice-cream scooper to fill the liners and a plastic spoon to spread the frosting (though fingers work too!). The picture above shows my boys doing just that.

6. Is there any such thing as a “healthy cupcake” that kids will love?

Yes. It’s all about the ingredients and the size:  I choose mini-cupcakes and sneak veggies and “good stuff” into my cupcakes all the time, especially when my kids are on a veggie strike.  Some ideas and healthier choices include:  applesauce, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, raisins, cranberries, apples, blueberries, strawberries, bananas.  Instead of butter, use canola oil; opt for white-whole wheat flour or whole-wheat flour; use non-fat ingredients such as sour cream, buttermilk, and cream cheese. You can even skip the frosting and dust with powdered sugar.

7.  Care to share a recipe?

Here you go!

Candied-Yamberry Cupcakes by Nicole Friday

Yield: 24 mini cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 pound (2 medium) sweet potatoes

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon coarse salt

1 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

¾ cup canola oil

¼ cup sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¼ cup applesauce

¼ cup dried cranberries

½ teaspoon orange zest

Preparation:

  1. Boil sweet potatoes over medium-high heat until the center is soft and the skin begins to peel.  Remove from water, set aside and let cool.  When cool enough to handle, scrape skin from the potatoes and mash until smooth.
  2. Preheat oven 350°F.  Line muffin pans with paper liners.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Set aside.
  3. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, applesauce and sweet potatoes.  Reduce speed: add flour mixture.  Stir in cranberries by hand, until combined.
  4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups filling three-quarters full.  Bake approximately 25-30 minutes, rotating pans halfway through and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Transfer pans to rack or counter to cool before removing cupcakes.
  5. To finish, top cupcakes with mini-marshmallows mounds.  Using a small kitchen torch, brown marshmallows all over and enjoy!

(Note from Nicole: If you don’t have a torch, use the broiler. Works magically–just keep a close watch, otherwise you’ll have super-toasted marshmallows. Or take the no-frosting route and just dust the cupcakes with powdered sugar. Still yummy!)

 

 

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Bite-Sized Bliss

Monday, November 30th, 2009

6a00d8341c30cf53ef0120a6d23e40970b-250wiI have a huge sweet tooth, but I have an even larger sweet and salty tooth. Which is why I knew I was in for a new addiction when a box of Chipn’etzel cookies landed on my desk. The bite-sized treats have pieces of pretzel and potato chips mixed in with them, and are hand-dipped in dark or white chocolate. The result is a dangerously delightful mixture of sweet and savory that will have you reaching for another…and another… If you’re a fan of chocolate covered pretzels, these crunchy cookies are for you. They might just become my go-to gift for holiday parties this year. Because if you can’t fight the addiction, spread it, right?

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