As a dietitian and an avid baker, I often get asked: “How do you balance your nutrition background with your passion for baking?”. I tell them that it is all about balance.
No one is perfect and there should be no expectation that just because my professional background is in nutrition, that I do not eat sweets (yes people do think this!). Thus, this is my first post in a new section of my blog that will go over ways to eat in moderation so you can include dessert in a balanced diet!
First up is how to cut added sugar throughout the day to save it for dessert! Many of the foods we eat on a daily basis are loaded with added sugar. The goal of this post is to show you some easy ways to reduce your daily intake of added sugar so you can enjoy dessert (obviously my favorite meal of the day!).
So we are all on the same page, added sugar is defined as sugar that is not naturally found in foods. For example, the sugars in fruit are naturally found in the food while the sugar in Frosted Flakes is mostly added sugars.
One thing to note, the grams of sugar on a nutritional label are not only added sugar. They include natural sugar. But, in foods with low levels of natural sugars, like grains, we can assume that the majority of the sugar is added sugar. Another way to tell is by looking at the ingredients list. The higher up sugar is on the ingredient list, the more added sugar there is in the food product.
On an ingredient label, common other names for sugar include: high fructose corn syrup brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup, malt syrup, evaporated cane juice, molasses, cane sugar, and brown sugar.
1 teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams of sugar. As you will see, some of these foods we eat on a regular basis are loaded with teaspoons upon teaspoons of sugar!
I have broken up my tips based on each meal, so let’s start with breakfast!
Skip the breakfast pastries, even the low-fat muffins. These are essentially cakes disguised as a breakfast food. Filled with sugar and simple carbohydrates, stick to a more filling breakfast foods and save the cake for dessert instead! Although a low-fat muffin may seem healthier, in reality, it often has a similar number of calories and sugar than its full-fat counterpart.
For example, at Dunkin’ Donuts their regular blueberry muffin has 460 calories and 43 grams of sugar while their reduced fat blueberry muffin has 410 calories and 39 grams of sugar. I would argue that the difference in calories and grams of sugar are minimal and that the daily morning muffin or breakfast pastry should be skipped altogether!
Be wary of processed peanut butter and opt for natural nut butter instead. Nut butter, especially peanut butter, is a sneaky place where there are added sugars. Opt for natural peanut butter, which is widely found in most grocery stores. Not only is natural peanut butter less processed, but in my opinion, it tastes better!
Add your own flavorings to oatmeal. Instead of buying packages of flavored oatmeal, which have anywhere from 9-22 grams sugar, buy packages of plain oatmeal. This allows you to add your own sweetener and flavorings. Here are a few suggestions:
- Maple Syrup
- Natural peanut butter
- Fresh fruit
- Frozen fruit, thawed
Be careful with low sugar oatmeal products, the sugar is usually replaced by artificial sweeteners. I do not recommend artificial sweeteners unless an individual has a certain medical condition.
Trade in sugary cereals for their plain counterparts. As a child, my parents called cereals such as Honey Nut Cheerios and Frosted Flakes, dessert cereals and for good reason! Loaded with sugar, swap out these cereals for ones with less than 5 g of sugar per serving. Typically these cereals have anywhere from 9 to 18 grams of sugar. I would much rather have a cookie than sugary cereal!
Ditch the granola. Granola is definitely a ‘faux healthy’ food. This means that although it has been marketed as a healthy cereal, it is actually loaded with sugar, fat, and calories. Instead of granola try one of these suggestions:
- Top yogurt with plain oats, a drizzle of honey, and fruit
- Toast whole oats with maple syrup and cinnamon for a crunchy topping
Swap out flavored yogurt for plain yogurt. Traditional flavored yogurt has anywhere from 10 to 22 grams of sugar. That is almost anywhere from 2.5 to 5.5 teaspoons of sugar! I would much rather have that sugar in the form of a cookie. Control the sugar added to your yogurt by adding it yourself! Try one of the following suggestions to plain yogurt!
- Add fresh or frozen fruit. If you add frozen fruit in the yogurt and let it thaw in the refrigerator the fruit juice with mix with the yogurt and add sweetness!
- Combine 1 cup of yogurt and a mashed banana. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight and you will have a delicious, naturally sweetened breakfast!
- Add a few teaspoons of naturally sweetened jam. You are looking for a jam that is sweetened with fruit juice, not artificial sweeteners or any type of added sugar (sugar, corn syrup).
- Stir in a drizzle of honey and vanilla for a DIY vanilla yogurt!
If non-fat plain yogurt (regular or Greek) is too tart (it is for me) try 2% or full-fat yogurt instead.
Lunch and Dinner
Beware of commercial salad dressings, as most of them have added sugar. Use these suggestions to brighten up your salad instead!
- Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add a bit of mustard for extra tang.
- Splash of lemon or lime juice.
Skip the candied nuts or dried fruit on a salad. Whenever you see that something is ‘candied’, think sugar. Instead, opt for plain roasted nuts and fresh fruit.
Opt for steamed or roasted vegetables instead of glazed vegetables. Similar to candied nuts, glazed vegetables mean that they have added sugar.
Look out for added sugar in many processed foods including tomato sauce. Yes, manufacturers add sugar to tomato sauce to sweeten the tomatoes. Look for brands with no added sugar or make your own.
Although I believe there is always room for dessert, if you are looking for a few lighter options look no further!
- Fresh fruit with a dollop of whipped cream
- Angel food cake with fresh fruit
- Cook any pie filling on the stove for the taste of pie without the crust!
- In the summer months, take out the grill and use it for dessert! Some ideas are grilled peaches or any other stone fruit. Otherwise, turn on the broiler and get just as delicious results!
- Make a grilled banana split! Take a banana and wrap in aluminum foil. Place on the grill for a few minutes until soft. Cut open and you will have a sweet and delicious dessert. Add some chocolate chips or chopped nuts for additional texture.
Sugar in coffee and tea still counts as added sugar! Watch the sugar you add to your morning coffee or tea, it definitely can add up.
Ditch the daily soda habit. For a bubbly alternative add seltzer to fruit juice for a light and delicious fruit spritzer.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this post! If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments below and I would be happy to answer them 🙂
Now that I have given you some tips to cut your sugar intake, here are some of my favorite desserts to splurge on!
- S’mores Brownies
- Peanut Butter Blondies with Decadent Fudge Frosting
- Mocha Brownies with Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting
- Blueberry Lemon Hand Pies
*If you have any questions about how sugar intake may impact your medical condition, please consult your doctor*