Sweetie, Let’s Talk: How to Become a Sugar Sleuth

Ask yourself this: What holds you back from eating a consistently healthy diet and moving closer towards your health goals?  I know my answer and I am pretty sure I know yours too.  Yup, SUGAR!  It’s that sweet tooth.  Especially around that time of the month when the evil sugar monster rears its ugly head and holds me down and tells me if I don’t eat chocolate now, I will literally die.  Oh yes, and alcohol, which is also a form of sugar.  And which in turn causes an aftermath of not sleeping as soundly, craving unhealthy foods, not wanting to move, and generally making me feel like total shizzle.

I am done sugarcoating anything.  Our food supply in this country has a big sticky problem. 

These words below all have one thing in common.  Can you guess what?

Agave, anhydrous dextrose, barley malt, beet sugar, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carbitol, carob syrup, coconut sugar, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, date sugar, diastalic malt, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, glucose, grape syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, hexitol, honey, inversol, isomalt, lactose, liquid fructose, malts, malt syrup, maple syrup, maltodextrin, malted barley, mannitol, molasses, nectars, pancake syrup, pentose, raisin syrup, raw sugar, refiner’s syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, sucanet, sucrose sugar, syrup, treacle sugar, turbinado sugar, white sugar, xylitol, zylose.

Yup, they are equal sugar.  These “hidden” sugars are in MOST of the foods you buy in a package.  Let’s discuss!

Our food is laden with sugar but we are bullied by the words and claims on the packages that appear healthy so we buy them, overeat them, become addicted to them, and then buy them again and again.  And let’s not even get started on our kids and their sweet tooth.

A love for sugar, however, does not make you a weak person with a lack of willpower.  The fact is, sugar is addictive, and we are all addicts.  Your brain releases that same feel good dopamine response both by taking certain drugs AND by eating simple sugars.  So the more we partake in either, the more we want.  The difference is, we don’t need to do drugs but we do need to eat.  Added sugars and sweets are presented to us constantly.  It’s like here’s a supermarket full of drugs..have at it!

Let’s learn what is in your food first by becoming your own nutrition detective.  The solution is right under your nose if you want to learn.

Read the ingredients on a label FIRST.  If you see any of these words that mean sugar or don’t understand an ingredient, put it back on the shelf and explore further.  Of course we are still going to buy some sweets and snacks in bags and boxes that contain sugar, but I just want you to become an informed consumer because the food companies want you to remain naïve.  Then you will continue to buy their “healthy” products while they get richer and we get sicker.

So what sweets should you eat to begin to improve your health?  Look outside kids!  Anything that grows on a tree, bush, plant or in the ground is automatically nutritious (aka fruits and veggies).  Then keep some quality dark chocolate in your house that contains at least 70% cacao because that is real chocolate unlike a Hershey bar which is the same as candy.  Top a sweet potato with yogurt and cinnamon.  Bake an apple and sprinkle cinnamon on top.  Spread a banana with a crunchy nut butter.

If you love dessert like I do, you begin to really appreciate a homemade cookie, brownie, cupcake or pudding.  Those packaged mini muffins and donuts, and even Oreos and Chips Ahoy don’t even tempt me because anything that can sit on a shelf for 20 years just isn’t part of my diet anymore.  My kids don’t understand that yet.  In fact, they think the complete opposite because a supermarket is a colorful fun place with lots of pictures of marshmallows and kid-friendly giveaways on boxes.

Strive to live in the best of both worlds.  Focus on mostly fresh real foods that grow outside.  If you imagine the perimeter of the supermarket, stick with those foods and then go into the middle aisles for healthier boxed and bagged items and obviously a few sugary treats.  But check ingredients first and become the sweetest food detective you can!  Ok, honey?

Laura Burak, MS, RD, CDN

Laura Burak

Hi, my name is Laura Burak and I am a registered dietitian, a foodie, a wannabe chef, a yogi and a mama in the Long Island suburbs outside NYC. I have been passionate about delicious, fresh food from an early age and began cooking healthier meals for my family when I was a teenager.

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