Breaking up is hard to do – kicking sugar to the curb
Want to hear something really gross? In 1997, on average, Americans consumed about 154 pounds of sugar a year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. That’s the equivalent of nearly 1.8 million skittles.
Today, we’ve whittled down our sugar intake to about 60 pounds per year, which still sounds like far too much when you consider that it equates to 17 teaspoons per day and nutritionists recommend 13 teaspoons per day.
Dump that extra 4 teaspoons of sugar every day with these yummy alternatives.
Fruit as a sugar replacement
Setting yourself free from sugar is a worthy goal, but sometimes the cravings are overwhelming. So, when you’re on the rebound, try some of these tasty options.
Fruit purees are a snap to make. Figs, for instance, “have the highest combined mineral concentration of any cultivated fruit,” according to Kimberly Stakal writing in Organic Authority. Filled with potassium, calcium and iron, they also provide a fat substitute and natural sweetness to baked goods.
- 8 oz. fresh figs
- ¼ to 1/3 cup water
Place the figs and water in a blender and puree until smooth. To use dried figs, soak them in water until they are soft and then puree as above. You can replace up to half of the fat called for in a recipe with fig puree. Stakal also suggests thinning the puree with additional water and using it in your coffee – like liquid stevia.
Dates are also packed with minerals and a puree made from the fruit can replace up to 1 cup of sugar in a recipe. They’re particularly good for healthy muscle function, an important consideration when you’re working on loosening up those too-tight hip flexors.
- 1 cup pitted dates
- ½ to 1 cup hot water.
Puree the dates with the hot water in a blender until it’s thick (more of a paste consistency). Exercise caution when blending hot liquids. If your blender container is small, puree the dates in batches. Vent the lid to allow steam to escape (cover the opening with a towel to stop the liquid from spraying out of the top.
Our favorite fruit puree is made from bananas. If you’ve ever suffered from foot cramps in the middle of the night, try using banana puree for a week. The puree can be used as a substitute for up to 1 cup of sugar in a recipe.
- 1 cup overripe bananas, mashed
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of water
Puree the ingredients in a blender until the mixture is smooth. Add more water if you prefer a looser consistency.
Substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in an equal ratio in recipes. You’ll need to cut back on the amount of liquid called for in the recipe (typically by about ¼ cup), however. The following recipe makes four servings.
- 5 lb. apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Tiny pinch nutmeg
- 3/4 cups water
- 1 thin lemon slice
- 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
Place all ingredients in a stock pot and place over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and then cover the pot. Simmer for 20 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently, until the apples are soft.
Remove the lemon slice and mash the apples or use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.
Hot and cold
“Heat boosts the sweetness of fruits,” according to registered dietitian nutritionist, Amy Gorin, and she suggests berries as the ideal substitute for sugary syrups on French toast or in yogurt or oatmeal.
2 tsp. grapeseed oil
1 c. berries
Pour 2 teaspoons of grapeseed oil into a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the berries and sauté, stirring often, until they’re soft (3 to 4 minutes, according to Gorin).
Pineapple Cucumber Salad
It’s HOT out there! What better way to cool off than with cucumbers, right? Toss in some pineapple and we have the perfect cure to our scorching summer Vegas days. Thanks to Yogi Mami for this easy and sugar-free Pineapple Cucumber Salad.
- 1 Pineapple, cubed
- 1 Cucumber, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 Lime juice and zest
- Chopped cilantro, handful
- Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and chill in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. If you don’t like cilantro, try tossing in some roughly-chopped mint.
Summer in Vegas is pool season and that means cocktails, and lots of them. Some of our favorite seasonal cocktails are filled with sugary syrup. In fact, “Popular summer cocktails like margaritas and daiquiris can tip the scales at more than 600 calories per serving,” according to Food Network’s Dana White.
Take the mint julep – 1 tablespoon of sugar, typically. Have a couple of those and you’ve blown your sugar budget for the week. Food Network’s Bobby Flay, however, has the cure for that with his 1-teaspoon version.
- 5 mint leaves
- 1 tsp. sugar substitute
- Shaved ice
- 2 1/2 oz. bourbon whiskey
Combine the mint leaves, sugar and a splash of water in a 12-oz. Collins glass. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to crush the ingredients in the glass. Fill the glass with the shaved ice, add bourbon whiskey and stir until combined.
White Wine Spritzer
This light and fresh quintessential summer cocktail comes courtesy of Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis:
- 2 lemons, zested
- 2 small oranges, zested (or 1 large orange, zested)
- 1 bottle Pinot Grigio wine
- 3 cups sparkling water or seltzer
Toss the fruits and zests in a small bowl and then pour it into an empty ice cube tray. Top each cell with sparkling water or seltzer and freeze.
Combine the Pinot Grigio and sparkling water or seltzer in a large pitcher. Add the frozen fruit ice cubes and stir well.
Watermelon Cape Cod
This one is ideal for the non-drinker in the group but is also amazing with vodka.
- Ice cubes
- 1 cup watermelon, cubed
- 2 cups cranberry juice
- ¼ Stevia or other non calorie sweetener
- ¼ cup lemon juice
Fill cocktail glasses with ice. Puree the watermelon, cranberry juice, sweetener and lemon juice in a blender. Strain, then pour ¾ cup of the puree into the glasses. Top with seltzer.
To de-virgin, add vodka.
Recipe adapted from Food Network Magazine.
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