Eating too much sugar is terrible for our bodies, which as you might remember was the subject of last month’s blog. Scientists say that excess sugar turns to fat in our liver making it a major cause of obesity, as well as diabetes and heart disease. Nonetheless many people are resigned to their sugar habit. “I know it’s bad for me,” several Bar Method students told me when we were discussing the subject, “but I’m just addicted to sugar.” I get it! If you’re a sweet tooth, cutting down the sugar in your diet is not easy, especially when it comes to pervasiveness of sweet snacks like Jamba Juice, energy bars, flavored yogurts, “health” juices, and just about anything from Starbucks.
Don’t get me wrong! My intent is not to scold people who eat a lot of sugar (which is most of us). In this blog, I want to explore the possibility that snacks could be both delicious and low in sugar. It would be well worth the effort, because we now know that eating low sugar foods makes it easier for us to lose weight, gives us increased energy, and is kind to our internal organs. Unfortunately, this project was going to be easier said than done due to my culinary skills being pretty much zero. My husband and I have been together for five years, and whenever it’s been my turn to prepare a meal, I’ve chosen a reasonably healthy restaurant and ordered takeout. Therefore, in order to give you some authentic healthy snack ideas, I reached out to the local community of nutrition experts and was fortunate to receive an offer of help from Norae Ferrera, RD, who gave me five recipes for low sugar snacks. Norae is a San Francisco-based dietitian with the American Dietetic Association and, like most of her peers, wholeheartedly endorses a low sugar diet. In fact, she made sure to let me know that experts (such as the American Heart Association) do not recommend a diet of up to 10% sugar.
“Actually,” she said, “the true recommendation is NONE. 10% is an upper intake limit but no one actually needs added sugar. There is no physiological need for it, as our bodies can break down complex carbohydrates to create the exact sugars we do need. It is in no way essential in our diet. Carbohydrates, yes, but not sugars, per se.” Norae’s endorsement of a NO-added sugar diet made me all the more curious to find out what her healthy snacks would taste like, so I decided to try them out. I went to four stores to find all the ingredients, not minding the effort since I figured I was making up for decades of NOT shopping for food. Once I had everything, I made the snacks. Then, like a judge on “Master Chef” (a show my husband watches), I tasted each one. The following five snacks from Norae all contain less than 300mg of sodium, less than 5g of sugar, and less than 250 calories. I’ve ranked them from five to one, ending with my favorite.
Snack #5: Smoothie: 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 1/4 cup raspberries, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1 scoop pure rice protein powder and ice as desired: I’d never heard of rice-based protein powder and was eager to try it. Soy-based protein powder, the kind you find at Whole Foods, has always been hard for me to digest, and I love the taste of rice. Even so, I found this snack to be bitter, particularly so when I bit down on the raspberry seeds. My guess is that the raspberries were the cause of the bitterness, so a few days later, I tried the same recipe with half a frozen banana and no ice. This blend was delicious. However, it wasn’t the original recipe, so this snack remains bottom on my list.
Snack #4: 2oz light tuna canned in oil, 1 slice sprouted wheat bread (the kind with 0g sugar and minimal sodium) This combination tasted good but seemed simply like a tuna fish sandwich. The oil in the tuna did add flavor and fullness. I plan to further experiment with the tuna on different whole breads.
Snack #3: 5oz plain Icelandic yogurt with 20 unsalted Almonds In preparation for trying this snack, had to find out what in the world is “Icelandic yogurt.” It turns out to be a type of yogurt, not a brand, just as Greek yogurt is. According to Wikipedia, Icelandic yogurt originated in Iceland and is also called “Skyr.” It is strained yogurt made with skimmed milk and has a “slightly sour dairy flavor with a hint of residual sweetness.” After going to a few stores, I found some Icelandic yogurt at Whole Foods and bought two brands, Siggi’s and Småri. Indeed, this yogurt is thick and rich like Greek yogurt. Beyond that, the two brands differed. Siggi’s was a bit sour, while “Småri” was creamy and did have that “residual sweetness,” surprising considering that this stuff has no fat and just the natural sugars from the skim milk! With the almonds it tasted delicious.
Snack #2: 1/3 cup hummus with sliced sweet bell peppers, carrots and/or cucumbers They even add sugar to hummus these days, but Safeway did have a sugar-free brand without a huge list of added chemicals. The sliced sweet bell pepper was my favorite dipping veggie. Of course this snack is a mainstay of parties. Even so, it worked for me as a non-party-day treat.
Snack #1: 1/2 cup sliced strawberries and 2 Tbsp unsalted natural almond or peanut butter Even at my age, new experiences are possible, and this snack gave me one. The strawberries cut the stickiness of the almond butter (which was unsalted with no other ingredients), and the almond butter added a decadent richness to the strawberries. Uuumm!! As a group, I appreciated these snacks because they were all filling, especially the last one. The little bit of almond butter stuck to my ribs for hours, causing me not to think about food until dinner when I started to feel pleasantly hungry. If you get a chance to try these low sugar snacks for yourself, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did 🙂