Edited on 7/3/2011: Much more up to date with my current nutritional knowledge now!
The main gripe I have with other people’s cooking (and eating out in general) is the massive (unnecessary) addition of sugar to every dish. I have no problem with healthy fats (possibly the most important part of my diet) and I love my protein (in moderation), but excess sugar is something I just cannot stand (mentally or physically). One of my goals for this blog is to offer healthy alternatives to the standard American sugar-laden diet. We don’t have to resort to unhealthy choices just to make dishes more appealing. Healthy fats, fresh ingredients, and creative spice combinations will give any dish the spark it needs. Sugar is not necessary. Some of my favorite low- and no-sugar recipes are at the bottom of this list.
How to Reduce Sugar Intake: 10 Healthy Tips
- Use fruit instead. I like adding mashed bananas or applesauce in place of a processed sweetener like sugar or honey.
- Use a sugar substitute. There are plenty of natural zero-calorie sweeteners out on the market now. My favorite is NuNaturals stevia. They have a whole line of sugar-free (and zero calorie) sweeteners for baking, adding to coffee, in packets, etc…
- Reduce flour in baking. While flour is not sugar, it’s a highly processed grain. Instead, use half flour and half oatmeal. For every 1 cup of flour that you replace, use 1 heaping cup of oatmeal. You cut calories, increase fiber, and reduce the processed carbohydrates. You can also experiment with low-carb flours like almond or peanut flour. I don’t think it matters much if you choose to use white over whole wheat as long as you keep your intake low. I personally prefer the taste of whole wheat bread simply because I think it has more flavor!
- Add spices. When you cut out sugar, you can add spices and herbs to give the dish more flavor. Curry, cumin, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, oregano, basil, and ginger are just a few that I’m fond of.
- Experiment with potatoes and squash. Instead of grains, try white or sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or – my favorite – kabocha. Squash are especially delicious as French fries. Mashed squash (any type – butternut, acorn, carnival, etc…) is also delicious. Top it with a spot of butter for added flavor. If you’re watching all carbs, a good substitute for mashed potatoes is mashed cauliflower. Try it with ground cumin.
- Reduce pasta eating. Like flour, pasta is not exactly sugar – but it is a highly processed carb. I have two great substitutions here – the first is spaghetti squash. I make an amazing version of Eating Well’s Spaghetti Squash stir-fry, substituting seitan for the pork. The second is a Japanese product called Shirataki Noodles. Made from some kind of yams, these noodles have zero calories and zero carbs
- Eat rice, but in moderation. If you usually use rice as the base of a meal, try substituting lettuce or vegetables instead. Make lettuce wraps with stir-fried tofu – you’d be surprised at how much more you enjoy the flavor of the tofu on its own. I like both white and brown rice and I usually make them with some butter or bacon fat for some extra flavor and healthy lipids.
Some Delicious Low and No-Sugar Recipes
- Butternut Squash Fries
- Low Sugar Black Bean Brownies
- Carrot Burdock Kinpira (macrobiotic)
- Oat Bran Mini Scones (macrobiotic)
- Okonomiyaki (Japanese frittata; also good for dinner!)
- Best Coconutty Butternutty Rice Ever
- Asparagus and sesame salad
- Crunchy Asian Cole Slaw (my favorite coleslaw)
- Easy Tuna Salad
- Easy but impressive fruit salad
- Grilled Portobello Kale Salad
- Hijiki salad
- Mom’s black bean salad
- Butternut Squash and Carrots with Delicious Basil
These tips on how to reduce sugar intake are simple, I think. I only listed a few recipes, but just about everything I make is low or no sugar. Check out my stir-fries, ratatouille, leek soup, spring rolls, and some Delica salads for more light ideas. And here is my recipes page.