Give Me Some (Healthier) Sugar!

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Baking season is upon us, my friends, and in the next 4-6 weeks many of us will be whipping up holiday cookies, cupcakes, breads, cakes, pies and whatever else we can think of. Yes, yes, I know some of you bake all year long, but it is just too hot here in the summer for me to invest much time in baking. Come fall, though, look out!

The world of baking has changed so much from when I was a child. The range of flours, oils, butters, and sweeteners available now is astonishing. Some of us are working on gluten-free, vegan or whole food recipes, and I can’t wait to see what everyone is creating! One ingredient that has vexed many of us is sugar. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to reduce our sugar consumption. But we all occasionally want a little somethin’ somethin’. No form of sugar is “health food”, of course, but some forms are better than others. So what are they and how can we use them to our best advantage?

I was working on research about sugars and sweeteners, when I came across a blog for Small Footprint Family. Their blog post on sweeteners contained so much wonderful information, I decided to just feature their post as it is and use my energies elsewhere (like finding more pumpkin recipes on Pinterest).

In our house, we use maple syrup, coconut sugar (LOVE it!), honey, dates and molasses as sweeteners, but I always have a backup stash of unbleached, organic cane sugar. We do not buy bleached sugars, chemical sugar substitutes or corn syrup and now I’m even more glad of that.

What should you do? Hey, your pantry, your rules, and I am not here to judge. But information is your best friend when shopping for any kind of food and this blog has lots to offer, including some types of sweetener that were completely new to me. Check it out!

Click HERE for their blog post!

Get those muffin pans and cookie sheets ready! Baking season is just around the corner!

Interested in reducing your sugar consumption? Here are a few tips:

  1. Make your own treats. I’m preaching to the choir for anyone reading a food blog, but really, when you make your own treats you can control not only how much sugar you use, but also what kinds of sweeteners.
  2. Read the label, read the label, read the label. Our national sugar dependency is not the result of mom (or dad) making cookies. It is all the hidden sugar in processed foods and it is everywhere (have you looked at your toothpaste label?). If you are buying foods labeled as “low fat,” chances are they are also “high sugar”, although the marketing people won’t tell you that. Fat is a flavor conveyor and when fat is removed, companies use excess salt and sugar to make up for the loss of flavor.
  3. Be patient with your taste buds. Reducing sugar (or salt, for that matter), may seem weird at first. Your taste buds may be set on “fructose jolt” and lower sugar foods may not taste as flavorful. It takes about 28 days to make a behavioral change, so give your body and your taste buds a chance to catch up!

The Not-So-Sweet Side of Honey

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Think you are avoiding high fructose corn syrup and toxins by sweetening your whole food recipes with natural honey? You may be surprised to find that what you are eating is actually NOT pure honey, but ultra filtered, diluted honey mixed with high fructose corn syrup and other additives. Not only that, your “honey” may include carcinogens and heavy metals. Yes, even if it says “honey” on the label.

Why?

The FDA requires that any substance labeled as “honey” include bee pollen. That is the only way to ensure that the honey is pure and that it came from an identifiable source. The problem is, the FDA doesn’t test any substance labeled “honey” to make sure it actually includes pollen. Well that just makes sense, right?

So companies outside the U.S. have been taking honey, ultra-filtering it (removing most of its healthy benefits), adding all kinds of filler junk and selling it to U.S. grocery chains in those cute little bear bottles as honey. This is especially concerning for pregnant women and small children, as it takes less toxic materials to impact small, growing bodies.

In 2011, Food Safety News tested more than 70 brands of honey for pollen. This is what they found:

•76 percent of samples bought at groceries had all the pollen removed, These were stores like TOP Food, Safeway, Giant Eagle, QFC, Kroger, Metro Market, Harris Teeter, A&P, Stop & Shop and King Soopers.

•100 percent of the honey sampled from drugstores like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS Pharmacy had no pollen.

•77 percent of the honey sampled from big box stores like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Target and H-E-B had the pollen filtered out.

•100 percent of the honey packaged in the small individual service portions from Smucker, McDonald’s and KFC had the pollen removed.

•Bryant found that every one of the samples Food Safety News bought at farmers markets, co-ops and “natural” stores like PCC and Trader Joe’s had the full, anticipated, amount of pollen.

And if you have to buy at major grocery chains, the analysis found that your odds are somewhat better of getting honey that wasn’t ultra-filtered if you buy brands labeled as organic. Out of seven samples tested, five (71 percent) were heavy with pollen. All of the organic honey was produced in Brazil, according to the labels.

So what is a honey-loving family to do? Here are some steps you can take to make sure that the honey you buy is actual honey and not Chinese high fructose corn syrup:

  1. Purchase your honey from a local farmer or at a local farmer’s market.
  2. Ask farmers about how they process their honey. You should buy raw or minimally processed honey if possible.
  3. Purchase your honey from a health food store (Whole Foods or Trader Joes, for example)
  4. If you purchase at the grocery store, buy honey labeled as organic.
  5. Avoid purchasing honey from a drug store or major discount store.

For more information and a list of products that were tested and did not contain pollen, click HERE.

A Salad a Day

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We made this salad with local produce from our farmer’s market last week!

I’ve blogged before about our Saladpalooza nights, our salads in Paris, and my daughter’s desire for her school to have a salad bar in the cafeteria (still hasn’t happened). Seems we’re all about some salad. Well, I saw a tweet this morning about Whole Foods and their new challenge to get everyone to eat a salad a day (yes, this is a tad self-serving since they have a salad bar, but still a good idea).

To promote this initiative, Whole Foods will be blogging recipes for salads every day and will commit to helping schools get salad bars in their cafeterias. Now that we have loads of fresh greens and spring vegetables in our local farmer’s markets, this is a great time to start rethinking your salads! You can read more about the Whole Foods Salad-A-Day Challenge HERE.

We have salad wraps planned for tonight and a version of our Parisian salad on tap for tomorrow! Let’s go, salad!!!

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