Simple Ways for Cutting Out Refined Sugar

The first step I took to have better nutrition was to cut back on refined sugar. That was going pretty well- or so I thought. I started reading about "hidden sugars". These sugars are found in all sorts of foods.

To find hidden sugars, look for words on the ingredient list that end with -ose.Glucose, sucrose, fructose, levulose, cellulose are all forms of sugar. Also, look for corn syrup and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). Sucralose is another name for Splenda, which is an artificial sweetener.

Most all of these sugars (with the exception of Splenda) occur naturally in the foods we eat. The problem is when we tamper with the sugars and refine them. This separates the "sweetness" from all the other vitamins and nutrients with which they naturally occur .

For instance, fructose (also called fruit sugar) occurs naturally in fruits and some vegetables. When it is refined, the fiber and other good stuff is lost. By itself, it is very hard on the liver. The liver is the only organ that possesses the chemical needed to break it down. When too much fructose is consumed at one time, there is a 'back log' of it in the liver, which may eventually stress the heart and raise blood pressure.

When you eat an apple, you are consuming small amounts of fructose along with other natural sugars and flavors. However, when you take in fructose in its refined state, as in sweetened tea, you need more of it to taste the sweetness because their are no other natural sugars present. In moderation, fructose is okay. It doesn't spike blood sugar as much as refined sugar, so is generally considered safe for diabetics. Eating too much of any type of sugar is a bad idea, even natural sugars. I found there weren't many convenience foods without added sugar. Virtually no condiments such as salad dressings, BBQ sauce, and ketchup. GRRR....

What to do? I try to keep a well stocked pantry. I may have three or four bottles of ketchup or steak sauce. (Well, I used to, anyway)! I couldn’t afford to throw groceries out! I have a family to feed. I decided that while there were still some good tasting condiments in my pantry, I would experiment with recipes. By the time we ran out of bottled BBQ sauce, I would surely be able to find a recipe my family enjoyed. So, that’s what I did.
Here are some other strategies that proved helpful to me. At the time of this writing, it has been 2 1/2 months since I’ve had a bag of refined sugar in my pantry!

*Reduce sugar in recipes gradually. For instance, we love sweet iced tea. I cut back on the white sugar 1/3 cup at a time. When my hubby commented the tea wasn’t sweet enough, I added 1/3 cup back in. We went from 2 cups (no joke) sugar per gallon of tea to 1 1/3 cups. That equals a savings of 2/3 cup sugar a day, or about 20 cups a month! Wow! ( Now I sweeten our tea with agave nectar.)Note: Some recipes need the called for amount of sugar to have the correct consistency or tenderness. Always reduce sugar in baked goods very gradually, and expect less servings as the sugar is reduced.

*Substitute flavors. I’m going to use the tea as an example again (We love tea!). I add one chamomile tea bag to my pitcher of tea. This gives the tea added flavor. I find I can use less sweetener this way. Try this with peppermint, orange, or other flavors. Switching from vanilla to almond extract also adds a bit of extra sweetness to desserts. You can also add cinnamon to your coffee grounds before brewing.

* Serve fruit for dessert. Homemade whipped topping makes it extra special. Make sure any canned or frozen fruit is packed in fruit juice and has no sugar added.

* Instead of adding sugar to your child’s hot cereal ( Malt-o-Meal, Cream of Wheat, oatmeal, etc.), add frozen fruit. This does triple duty: 1) It cools the cereal, 2) sweetens the cereal, and 3)it provides an extra serving of fruit for the day.

* Try to use unrefined sweeteners as much as possible .The less refined a sweetener is, the more nutrition it usually offers.

* Don't confuse the terms unrefined with organic. Unrefined means in a natural state; not processed. Organic means to be grown and processed free of chemicals. Although organic is good, you can spend big bucks on organic sweeteners and still be buying refined, nutritionless sugars.

* Use fruit to sweeten baked goods. I use 1/4 cup apple juice concentrate with 1/2 cup raisins (golden raisins for light colored baked goods). I heat them together for three minutes, then puree in the blender. I replace part of the recipe's liquid with this puree. I've also used dates here instead of raisins. This is the standard I use for one batch of muffins.

* Keep notes. I jot down notes in the margins of my cookbooks. When I'm creating new recipes, I keep notes right on the paper. This lets me know what I've already tried and what improvements need to be made. I also write down who likes (and who didn't) the dish. If one substitution doesn't work, try another. Your notes will help you keep track of what works and what doesn't.

* Frozen juice concentrates are my "secrets". They add sweetness and keep baked goods moist. They're great in smoothies. Use them to make flavored teas. Heat them and thicken with cornstarch for glazes and pancake syrups. Be sure to buy 100% unsweetened juice, not cocktails or juice drinks. Apple juice is what I use mostly, but I have also used orange and pineapple on a limited basis. I'm sure white grape juice would work as well, but I haven't experimented with it yet.

* For sugarless lemonade, juice three medium apples and 1/2 lemon. I do not like apple juice, but I love this lemonade! My kids beg for it in the summertime!

* Eat more fresh fruit throughout the day. This will help satisfy your sweet tooth and your brain will receive the signal that you've had your "sugar fix".

* Don't cut out all refined sugar at once (unless your Dr. tells you to). If you eat a lot of sugar, you will have withdrawals if you try to quit "cold turkey." Sugar actually gave me headaches. When I decreased my sugar intake, my headaches decreased, also.

* Don't go postal if someone gives your kids sugar. If you forbid it, your kids will want it all the more. I'm pretty watchful at home, so when we are out, I don't feel guilty about splurging. After all, there's only one first soccer goal scored in a lifetime. Why not celebrate with ice cream for the gang?!

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