Monday, August 01, 2011

On Sugar

I know that sugar isn't particularly healthy, but I don't know that I believe that it is the devil.  Eating a lower sugar diet makes sense, but I also know that it is the latest health demon.  Remember when fat was determined to be the cause of all heart disease and obesity and the shelves were full of low-fat and nonfat offerings? When cholesterol numbers were obsessed over with the goal being as low a number as possible?

I'm not saying that I think people should eat sugar morning, noon, and night.  I think moderation is good in all things ~ I seek balance.  And overall I think that our health and weight issues are mostly related to activity.  We don't get the kind of activity that we used to get before the information revolution and two-car households becoming the norm, and the kind of activity that many of us try to get to make up for that (three times a week spinning, stepping, running, etc.) just isn't enough.  it isn't that our bodies can't tolerate sugar (did you know that breast milk is mostly sugar?).  Unhealthy bodies have difficulties with all sorts of macro and micro nutrients, not just sugar.

I use sugar in my cooking and baking at home and I don't worry that my kids are getting too much sugar.  They aren't drinking soda or punch and they aren't eating candy, not on a regular basis anyway.  I don't buy packaged cookies or snack cakes.  Their meals consist mostly of legumes, fruits and vegetables, and potatoes or a cooked grain.  There isn't any sneaky HFCS or other sugars snuck in there because I don't cook from packages.

When they were younger it was easier to give them very little (or even zero) sugar but it isn't so easy now.  They want sodas, slushies, popsicles and ice cream just as much as any other child.  I understand it because I did too when I was a child (and it wasn't restricted in my childhood home).  We could fight about it, but I think it works better to give them alternatives that taste great and eliminate the worst food offenders such as HFCS, artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives.

Instead of soda we drink sparkling water (we have a SodaStream) mixed with a small amount of juice.  Slushies from pureed fruit and juice can be made in the ice cream maker or they can be made in a blender.  Popsicles are a snap with an ice pop mold and some pureed fruit.  Ice creams and sorbets are easy at home as well with an ice cream maker. I make all sorts of sorbets with fresh, frozen, or canned fruit depending on the season.

When I bake I am less likely to make a traditional cake or cookies and instead I make muffins or "lunchbox" cakes with fruits and/or vegetables.  Using pureed pears or bananas means I can lower the added sugar content without sacrificing flavor.  I save cookies, brownies, and frosted cakes for special occasions.

My boys drink water (and J-Baby occasionally drinks almond milk) for most meals, with lemonade or an agua fresca being a special treat.  The eat a green salad or other raw vegetables daily.  We choose home-popped popcorn instead of chips.

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