Healthy ways to satisfy your sweets desire. Plus, recipes that are light on sugar, heavy on flavor.
Got a sweet tooth? Blame it on Mother Nature.
Babies are born with a preference for sweet tastes, most likely a survival
impulse passed down through the ages. Breast milk, rich in fat and other
nutrients necessary for fueling an infant's rapid growth, is mildly sweet. (So
is infant formula.) This desire doesn't end in early childhood, however. Most
people continue to love sugary fare, reinforcing their inborn craving.
Beyond enticing newborns to eat, sugar provides calories. Whether the sugar
is from an apple or a candy bar, the body quickly converts it to glucose, a
simple sugar found in the blood that helps energize your cells.
So why all the scorn for sugar? It could be the company it keeps. Most
sweetened fare --- cookies, cakes, and candy --- is also high in fat and packed
with calories that contribute to unhealthy weight gain. Even fat-free
sugar-filled foods, such as jelly beans, provide little more than calories.
Foods rich in natural sugars --- including fruit and certain vegetables such as
peas and corn --- are better for you because they supply nutrients such as
vitamins, minerals, and fiber while satisfying your sweet tooth.
How much sugar is OK to eat? The World Health Organization suggests that
healthy people limit added sugar intake to 10% of total daily calories. On a
2,000-calorie diet, that translates into a maximum 50 grams of added sugar a
day (12 ounces of regular soda supplies 35 grams; one teaspoon of table sugar
Your sugar allowance includes the added sweeteners in processed foods that
don't seem sweet, including bread and cereal. Knowing your sugar allotment
helps with label reading. You'll find that the sugar content (most often added
sugar) of processed foods is listed under "carbohydrate" in the food
label's Nutrition Facts panel.
Once you cut back on the sweet stuff, you may be able to get by with even
less. Try these strategies for giving sugar the slip:
- Make your own. Skip store-bought flavored yogurts in favor
of mixing 8 ounces of plain low-fat yogurt with fruit, a teaspoon of low-sugar
fruit preserves, honey, or molasses. Wean yourself and your child off
higher-sugar brands by mixing low-sugar selections into the same size bowl. Aim
for no more than 4 grams of sugar per serving of cereal.
- Go whole. Indulge in whole-grain graham crackers and fig
bars instead of store-bought chocolate chip and cream-filled sandwich
- Use less. Use one-quarter to one-third less sugar in quick
bread and muffin recipes.
- Make the switch. Consider substituting artificial
sweeteners for some sugar, but don't go overboard. Baked goods and candy with
the likes of aspartame and sucralose are not calorie-free.
As those of you who consider dessert a primary food group know all too well,
balancing healthy foods with a desire for sweets is challenging. The following
recipes offer nutritious ways to get your sugar fix.