12/21/2011 08:01 EST | Updated 02/20/2012 05:12 EST

The Spell Cast by Sugar



There was a video posted on YouTube, by comedian Jimmy Kimmel where he asked parents to tell their kids that they ate all their candy and videotape their reactions. In a funny, mean way, every kid burst into hysterical tears. We watch it, and we may think it's a little funny (and yes, mean), but there is so much truth in there that it's scary.

Some of us get hooked as kids and we stay on the substance all the live long day -- until we grow old enough to add caffeine to the mix. Getting off processed or even natural sweeteners is one big challenge!

You have a little, you want a little more, and then you find yourself needing your daily fix, whether it be in your coffee or tea, soft drink, muffin, breakfast cereal, bread, pasta sauce, salad dressing, fruit juice or after-dinner cookie. Sugar is in so many things, and we are consuming more than we think.

The average person in the U.S. now consumes roughly 135 pounds of sugar per year, according to some experts. A person's weight in sugar?

Granted, white sugar is more refined than some of the others, but brown sugar and "sugar in the raw" is not much different. And then we get into the "healthy" sugars. What is your sweetener of choice? Honey? Maple syrup? Molasses? Cane sugar? Date sugar? Beet sugar? Palm sugar? Coconut sugar? Agave?

We love the taste of sweetness. Sweets are the flavour of the heart. They make us feel good, and often when we are tired and crave that sweetness, foods that are high in sugar can give us a quick burst of energy. We are so hooked on the sweet taste that there are massive industries built up around this addiction. And then we have the more natural versions like xylitol and stevia. I use stevia on occasion, but am still suspect of both for these reasons: 1) I don't trust foods that start with an "X" as in xylitol; and 2) stevia is a concentrated white powder than comes from a very green leaf.

But we like to have our cake and eat it too. We are hooked on sweets and we want to find healthier sweetener options.

Meghan's 10 Best Baking Tips for Cutting the Sugar

  • Use naturally sweetened apple sauce in place of some of the oil and sweetener.
  • Speaking of natural sweetness, anything with coconut in it will also help add the sweetness.
  • Any recipe that calls for white sugar, cut the amount in half and replace with a natural sweetener.
  • Use low glycemic dried/powdered fruits such Lucuma Powder or banana sugar (which is a little harder to find).
  • Mash up banana and include in place of some of the oil and sweetener.
  • Use pureed sweet potato to add moisture and sweetness.
  • Eat less sweet foods! Obvi. The less sweetened foods you eat, the sweeter things like apples and oranges taste.

And to get you thinking, here is one of my favourite low sugar treats...

Just Sweet Enough Cookies

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup organic cane sugar, maple syrup or 1/3 cup cane sugar and 1 mashed banana (see notes below)

2 eggs (see notes below)

2 cups ground almonds

1 cup spelt flour or brown rice flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 tablespoons vanilla

1/4 cup flaxseeds, ground

1 cup finely grated vegetables of choice ( zuchinni, carrot, yam or a mixture all work well)

  • Set oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine melted oil and sugar/syrup.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  • Shape into small cookies.
  • Bake no more than 15 minutes.

The cookies should be soft and stay softish for several weeks in an airtight container and freeze well.