What do bread, plain yogurt, salad dressings or pasta sauces have in common? Sure, they’re all food items that most of us are consuming but there’s something else. In most cases, they all contain added sugar. The debate about sugar is not an old one - we’ve seen it on the news, read about it even in lifestyle magazines how sugar has the power to not only make us gain weight but also to make us age faster.
Figuring out where sugar is hiding isn’t all that simple though, as it carries many names. To name a few, sugar can also be called high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar (or nectar), caramel, cane sugar...and the list goes on. You might wonder why agave, maple syrup or coconut sugar made the list? Simply because sugar is sugar - no matter where it comes from. The only difference is that maple syrup or raw honey are not refined like white sugar or corn syrup, for example.
Studies have also shown that maple syrup or raw honey both contain higher levels of beneficial antioxidants and honey is known for its anti-inflammatory powers, so there are some benefits to using these as sweeteners. However, at the end of the day, sugar is sugar - no matter how you put it.
As adults, we are all guilty of snacking on chocolate, cookies or puddings and it’s all fine if done in moderation. Chances are having kids changes your relationship with food as you’re trying to set your child up for a healthy life, feeding foods in its natural state. Manufacturers of children’s foods all claim their products are healthy and nutritious but can you really trust them?
We are here to tell you that you can never be sure what you’re buying unless you start questioning the ingredients. How many times have we reached for either plain or fruit-flavoured yogurts, thinking that we’re doing something good for ourselves or our little ones instead of opting for the chocolate pudding next to it? Turns out that most yogurts are full of added sugars, some of them containing even as much as four tablespoons of sugar. In a small container!
Stop buying sugary fruit drinks or sodas: We all know that Coke, Pepsi and fruit punches are filled with sugar but even 100% fruit juice can contain added sugar. Juicing fruit removes all fibre from it, leaving you with nothing but fruit sugar. We recommend making delicious smoothies that are packed with vitamins and fibre while tasting satisfyingly sweet.
Start cooking: Nothing compares to a home-cooked meal. You are in control of what goes into your dish and even if you’re not a fan of cooking, it's important to show your little one how food is prepared and what it is made of. Select one day a week on which you can batch cook dishes for the freezer. You’ll be surprised how much it helps to have healthy food options at home.
Read the labels: We can’t stress this enough but reading the labels on packaged food items is the only way you gain control over making the right choice at the supermarket. We all shop in the convenience aisle and it’s simply unrealistic for most of us to make everything from scratch. Educating yourself and being on the lookout for added sugar, artificial flavouring, or added sodium will make it much easier for you to choose well.
Learn to use fruits as sweeteners: Chances are a store bought cake will always have way more sugar than necessary. Once you start making your own food, you will realise that a lot less is actually necessary to create delicious cakes and desserts. You will over time get used to it and your taste buds will change, too. It’s quite shocking how we are so used to the level of sweetness in our foods. Cakes, for instance, can be sweetened using apple sauce and banana bread won’t usually need a lot of sugar if you use super ripe bananas. Just think of the quality of sugar you are consuming. Sure, a ripe banana is high in sugar but the nutritional value of a banana versus a tablespoon of white, refined sugar is much better.
Developing a healthy relationship with sugar starts early and keeping the upper hand when it comes to sugar consumption is only really doable if you prepare meals by yourself. Now, we know all too well that there are never enough hours in a day and sometimes, cooking is simply impossible. For those days short on time, we love Ella’s Kitchen with their range of organic baby foods.
Do you have any tips on how to avoid sugar? We’d love to hear!