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Avatar universal

Cutting Sugar and Preparing Healthier Meals?

Lately, I've been doing a lot of reading ( maybe too much) online about sugar; how it affects our health, and what we should be limiting ourselves to daily. After about an hour or so of reading, I was shocked by how little sugar we should be consuming daily compared to how much we actually eat/drink without intentionally doing so. For many years now, I thought I was doing a fine job by not allowing junk food (soda, cookies, cake, candy, etc.) into my family's daily diet. Now after looking through my dry goods pantry, and reading through all of the food labels, I'm blown away by how sugar (in sizeable amounts) is in just about everything :(  granola bars, organic juice boxes, low fat salad dressings, sauces...
Here's my dilemma: in my quest to prepare healthier meals, my family (a.k.a. my 3 kids) have been complaining that my cooking tastes bland and boring, "but not too gross to eat" ~ sadly, I have to agree w/ them...

My question(s) is: what ingredients can I use as a substitute for sugar when cooking meals that call for salad dressings or pasta sauces? I do a lot of home prepared cooking w/ veggies from my own garden, so if anyone has any suggestions for recipes or cooking tips, I would appreciate the comments.

Thanks!
4 Responses
Avatar universal
Check the following community Healthy Cooking!
http://www.medhelp.org/forums/Healthy-Cooking/show/280

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), Americans consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar daily. The term “sugar” in the AHA’s calculation refers to added sweeteners including sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, maltose and several more; it does not include natural sugars found in foods like fruit, milk and beans. Table sugar’s caloric contribution may be small when used in moderation, but it can play a role in obesity and dental problems.
agave nectar,  It is a natural sweetener that ranks relatively low on the glycemic load scale and although it provides as many calories as sucrose (table sugar), it is much sweeter so you can use less of it say one-quarter of a cup to substitute for one cup of sugar in most recipes.
http://paleofood.com/recipes/sauces-homemadetomato.htm

http://www.paleoplan.com/recipes/paleo-salads-recipes/

http://www.paleofood.com/salads.htm
Avatar universal
Keep in mind, agave nectar has a very strong taste.  Stevia contains no sugar, but this plant, while very sweet, also has a strong taste.  Barley and rice malt syrup are good as well, but, again, the flavor is quite different than sugar or honey.  You have to learn to use these things.  My own preference is to keep sugar to dessert -- you gotta have fun in life.  But for main courses, there's no need to cook with sugar to have taste -- sweet isn't the only taste in the world.  You need to learn how to use spices and prime ingredients to flavor your food.  For example, organic produce is generally much more flavorful than chemical farming because organic farmers usually have to go back to older seeds that were bred for flavor as well as durability and the like because they can't compensate by using weak modern seeds fortified with chemicals.  So the food is naturally sweeter.  Spices such as cinnamon and licorice and anise are naturally sweet, and in small quantities can liven up a recipe.  I never add salt or sugar to cooking, but instead use organic foods and other spices for flavor.  
Avatar universal
Thank you very much for the links ~ I suppose I should've posted over in the Healthy Cooking forum.  
I wasn't able to check out the medhelp cooking link, but I was able to go to the Paleo site, which really impressed me btw.  I signed up for the trial recipes, and I'm planning to use one of them (Spicy Chicken and Artichokes) this afternoon!  Also, I really liked the ideas for their dressings...
I'll be looking into the agave nectar, it's something that I'll have to put on the next shopping list...
you're always very helpful :)
Avatar universal
You're absolutely right, I do need to educate myself about using alternative spices. Fortunately, I have a very productive garden and green house, so that I don't have to rely on supermarkets/stores for vegetables and many herbs.  I also agree that sweeteners should be saved for desserts, most of the time.  I used to use a few tablespoons of sugar along with cinnamon, when making a pasta sauce, only to help mellow the flavor of the garlic and onions ( for the children's sake) ~ now I've dropped the sugar completely, and cut back on the garlic...
I'll have to do a family taste test with the agave nectar, stevia, & the syrups ~ I try to keep an open mind w/suggestions when it comes to trying new ingredients...
Many thanks again!
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