Navigating the Different Types of Sugar

One thing I’ve noticed from teaching a nutrition class is that people don’t know much about sugar. Instead of just giving away answers when I teach I like to ask questions to learn what kind of misleading information people have acquired. For example: Fruited yogurt tends to have a ton of added sugar. How can we make yogurt a healthier food? Almost every time someone answers with “Use honey instead of sugar.”

They’re not to blame; commercials and the false advertising that takes over food packages are sneaky with wording and make things sound healthier than they really are. In case you are confused when it comes to sugar, I’ve provided a *sweet* little lesson for you. I could write an entire book about sugar but I’ll just stick with a few key points.

What is sugar?
In a nutshell, sugar is the simplest form of a carbohydrate. When you eat a piece of bread, it starts as a complex carbohydrate but once you break it down it results in sugar. Carbs are not bad; we need them to function. We run into problems with carbs when we eat too many or when we eat processed foods with added sugars.

Added sugar vs. Naturally Occurring
There’s talk going on about giving the nutrition label a face lift and one change that might occur is adding a line for the amount of “added sugar.” Currently, labels don’t define if the sugar is naturally occurring or added. For example, the only ingredient in plain yogurt is milk but you’ll see a number under “grams of sugar” because the naturally occurring sugar in milk is lactose. If the “added sugar” line is added to the nutrition label, it will say zero.

photo source:

Added sugars mean that there was sugar added in addition to the naturally occurring sugars. Think about when you used to make Kool-Aid as a kid- you added sugar to the powdered mix and water. Or when you added a spoonful (or spoonfuls for my childhood) to your Rice Krispies. That’s what I mean by “added sugar.” If you read the ingredient list of fruited yogurts you’ll often see milk, sugar, and fruit. They are usually listed in that order because the ingredient list goes by weight. That means there’s a whole lot of sugar and wee-bit of fruit.

The many faces of sugar
If you read the ingredient list you might find that it’s harder to spot sugar as an ingredient because it’s taken on a million different names.
To name a few different types of sugar:
Sugar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextrose, glucose, evaporated cane juice, molasses, brown rice syrup,  invert sugar… and any of the sugar alcohols like maltitol, sorbitol, isomalt, or xylitol.

Once you start reading ingredient lists you’ll be amazed at how many common products have added sugar like condiments, bread, dressings, or yogurt. I would hope you already know Pop Tarts aren’t a great choice but you’ll find corn syrup, corn syrup solids, sugar, and dextrose all listed in the ingredient list and then wayyyy at the bottom you’ll see some kind of dried fruit.

Artificial Sweeteners
I don’t advise the use of any artificial sweetener. I know the FDA has said some are safe for use but I say our bodies still don’t like them. The only alternative sweetener I recommend is Stevia. Even as you read the word “Stevia” you still might have the wrong products in mind because, again, marketing tactics make things tricky with their false advertising. The product Truvia sounds like Stevia so that’s already enough to throw a lot of people off. The ingredients in Truvia are Erythritol, Rebiana, and Natural Flavors. Let’s learn about these ingredients…

- Erythritol is one type of sugar alcohol made by processing genetically modified corn. Since our body does a terrible job digesting sugar alcohols you can expect some unpleasant gastric distress. Mmmm.
- Rebiana is derived from the Stevia plant and there is such an insignificant amount in Truvia that I’m surprised they can even make the claim.
- As for “natural flavors,” there is no FDA regulation for the term “natural” so your guess is as good as mine.

What I recommend
If you need to sweeten something up, I suggest regular sugar or Stevia. You can swap sugar for a different flavor like honey, agave nectar, raw sugar, or brown sugar but there aren’t any advantages of using these products because they’re all still metabolized as sugar. Start reading the ingredient list; it will tell you far more about the product than the actual nutrition label. The closer you stick to whole foods the less you have to worry about deciphering nutrition labels and ingredient lists. If you need a refresher you can always check out my article on how to eat right.

Ladera Granola Review

Photo source: Ladera Granola

I was recently contacted by Ladera Granola to review their product. When do I ever turn down food? As long as it’s REAL food and not a bunch of processed stuff.

“At Ladera Granola, we believe that nutrition is powerful. Our granola is made from all natural ingredients to provide you with a healthy source of fuel for your active lifestyle and its packaging is 100% recyclable.”

ladera granola

I tried their Almond Pecan granola. Here are my thoughts:

First thought (said out loud in front of Dave):
“Oh my goodness this is delicious.”
If I was blindfolded I would have guessed I was eating the topping off of an apple crisp dessert. I had Dave try it and he agreed it was good. Then I had to refrain from eating the entire bag.

Second thought:
There’s got to be a ton of sugar in this to taste this good.

sugar in granola

Left: Bear Naked Granola
Right: Special K granola

Brown sugar is listed as an ingredient in the Almond Pecan granola so yes, there is sugar in it. In 1/4 cup you’ll find 4 grams of sugar. To give you a better idea of how much sugar that really is: 1 tsp of packed brown sugar contains roughly 4-5g of sugar. If you compare Ladera Granola to other granola brands like Bear Naked (4-7g per 1/4 cup) or Special K (2ish grams per 1/4 cup) you’ll see that it’s an average amount of sugar. When I smelled the bag I knew the granola would be delicious just based on the spices. I think granola products could get away with less sugar, especially if you’re enjoying it with something that’s already naturally sweet like berries.

Other thoughts:
- Be careful with portion sizes. You can easily overdo it. The serving size for this granola is 1/4 cup which is a common amount for granola products.
- I don’t eat granola often because I aim to get the bulk of my carbs from fruits and vegetables (the “c” in PFC). I say that not to bash Ladera Granola, I’m just saying grains in general are very carb dense so it’s easy to overdo it with portions.
- Based on taste, this is a delicious product.

Disclaimer: I was contacted by Ladera to review this product and was compensated in the form of a sample. The article contains my own opinions. 

What’s your favorite way to enjoy granola?


Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Hash

Oddly enough, Dave and I never tried Brussels sprouts until we were married. Now they’ve become our favorite vegetable to enjoy with a meal (our FAVORITE meal to have them alongside is Sam the Cooking Guy’s Black Bean Salmon). The only way we’ve ever prepared our sprouts is by slicing them in half and roasting them in the oven with olive oil and garlic. It’s delicious and easy so we haven’t bothered to cook them a different way. That was until a recipe caught my eye while browsing for meal ideas on Pinterest. I still like my roasted sprouts, but this recipe is delicious. Enough talking, you need to try it.

brussels sprouts and bacon hash

Brussels Sprout and Bacon Hash
Makes 4 servings

1/2 pound bacon
1-2 cups cauliflower, chopped
4 cups Brussels sprouts, chopped
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Brown bacon, chop, and set aside. Saute Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, garlic and onions in the same skillet until tender (~5 minutes). Add rosemary, bacon, and balsamic vinegar.

Recipe modified from Once a Month Meals

Have you found a tasty way to prepare Brussels sprouts?


Gluten Free fruit and nut bread

gluten free fruit & nut bread

Nora is officially one month! That also means that I have gone a month with a max of 3 consecutive hours of sleep. Thankfully I get enough sleep collectively and feel refreshed enough to carry on with the day and even work on my fitness plan. Since I chose to breastfeed and I’m waking up every 3 hours to do so… I get pretty hungry during the night! I just need a little snack to hold me over until breakfast since I go to bed around 9:30 and don’t finish my final nap until 8-9am. Going 12 hours without eating will certainly make me hangry. I did say hangry, not hungry.

After a little Pinterest recipe hunting and working on a couple varieties of homemade Larabars I’ve found my favorite night time snack. It’s a hearty snack full of protein and good fats; right up my alley for PFC balance. I even spread some peanut butter on it even though there’s already peanut butter in the recipe because I just love peanut butter and take any opportunity I can get to eat it. I love peanut butter so much I just said it three times in one sentence. Anyway, this bread would make a great breakfast option if you are on the go…or even if you aren’t on the go. I wasn’t exactly looking for a gluten free recipe but I like what I found and am happy with the ingredients because it’s all real food!

fruit and nut bread nutrient analysis

I’m all about using what I have on hand so I often make substitutions in recipes. For example: the original recipe called for arrowroot powder… I usually shop at Meijer (if you’re not from the Midwest it’s just a general grocery store like Safeway or Publix). Therefore if I were to ask an employee where to find arrowroot powder they would probably raise an eyebrow and give me directions to Whole Foods. I do have coconut flour on hand which is an odd item to have but I figured it would work as a good swap. Unless there’s some kind of chemistry going on that warrants you to use certain ingredients for a reason, your bread will probably turn out just fine if you swap a few things. Cashews for pumpkin seeds, prunes instead of apricots, peanut butter instead of almond butter, add some cinnamon or pumpkin spice… do what works for your taste buds.

Hearty Gluten Free Fruit & Nut Bread
3/4 cup nut butter
2 tablespoons coconut oil or olive oil
3 large eggs
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup dried prunes, dates, or apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup cashews, chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1. In a large bowl, blend nut butter, eggs, and coconut oil until smooth
2. Add coconut flour, salt, and baking soda until thoroughly combined
3. Fold in dried fruit, seeds, and nuts
4. Transfer batter into loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes
5. Let bread cool in pan for one hour

Recipe modified from Elana’s Pantry

gluten free fruit and nut bread

Do you have a favorite late night snack?

My favorite breakfast

20140202-133714.jpgSpoiler alert: it’s eggs. 

I just wrote about my most used kitchen tool so now I can tell you how I use it every day to make my favorite breakfast! I love having eggs for breakfast. I usually hard-boil a dozen so Dave can pack a couple in his lunch but I really like my eggs fried and runny. You may think making eggs in the morning before work takes too much time but honestly, it doesn’t take much longer than it would if you were waiting for a piece of toast to…toast.

eggs for breakfast

It’s this easy:20140202-134040.jpg
Melt butter…add veggies…cover…
Put away clean dishes…
Uncover…add eggs… cover…
Drink a big glass of water because it’s good for you
Add cheese or avocado… eat up

Not only did you just enjoy an awesome and healthy breakfast, you became a great multi-tasker.
Well done.

If you pack your own lunch for work you’re already saving $2,000-$3,000 per year. If you pack your lunch the night before you’re saving precious time in the morning and you can use a portion of that time to make a hearty breakfast! How awesome! You know how important breakfast is, right? A bonus of having eggs for breakfast is that it provides an extra opportunity to sneak in a serving of vegetables. You don’t have a side of kale with your bowl of cereal do you? Didn’t think so. You don’t even need to worry about prepping veggies if you buy them frozen (see top photo).


What’s your favorite breakfast?

My most used kitchen tool

I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to realize I haven’t written a post about my most used kitchen tool. I literally use it every day. I had never seen or heard of it until I was given one as a gift. I’m guessing you don’t have one. If you don’t, you are missing out and should get one. Now.

It’s a Charles Viancin Suction Food Cover/ Cookware Splatter Guard

Of course! You probably guessed that.

The lid comes in different shaped and styles but I have the 11-inch pink hibiscus flower pictured above. I’ll let the product do the explaining:
“This suction food cover creates an airtight seal to lock in juices while you simmer soups, contain splatters while you fry bacon, prevent freezer burn in the freezer, and keep your cappuccino warm between sips. The Charles Viancin Small Hibiscus Lid is made from BPA-free silicone that is safe for temperatures up to 450° F on the stove, in the oven, or in your microwave. Dishwasher safe.”

My mother-in-law gave us the lid as a gift when they visited us in Calgary over the summer. It was more helpful than I realized since the condo we stayed at had pots & pans…but no lids. We eat eggs A LOT and I like them sunny side up. Unfortunately my egg-flipping skills are awful. Slight tangent– I hate South Park but Dave occasionally tells me about episodes he’s seen before. You don’t have to have seen this episode but the South Park meme below perfectly captures what goes on when I try to make a good omelette or runny fried eggs:

Using my handy kitchen utensil allows me to cook my eggs without having to flip them. I use it as a pan cover to avoid splatter messes, I put it over finished dishes to keep them warm until they’re ready to be served, and I occasionally use it in place of foil or saran wrap. It’s a handy tool I tell you.

What’s your favorite kitchen tool?

FYI- I was not asked to write this article nor was I compensated for writing it. It’s all my own opinion, folks.

Wildtree Freezer Meals

Since we moved back from Calgary at the end of October we didn’t get a chance to have a baby shower on my side of the family or Dave’s due to the busyness of the approaching holidays. We did have a small shower with friends and received the essentials needed for when Nora arrived (car seat, newborn diapers, wipes, etc). Instead of getting a gift from the baby registry, three of my friends chipped in together and bought us the gift of FOOD. Not just a nice meal for dinner… they prepared enough food for Dave and I to have 20 meals EACH!

wildtree freezer meals

I hadn’t heard of Wildtree until I was given this gift. My friend Leslie is a Wildtree representative so once Dave and I picked what category of meals we wanted (comfort foods, duh) she and two other friends did all the prep work and dropped off 20 meals packaged in freezer bags labeled with directions. I’ve included Wildtree’s mission statement below so you can learn what the company represents. As a dietitian, this is a company with a mission I can proudly stand behind.

“Wildtree offers the highest quality herbs, spices, and culinary blends that are free of preservatives, additives, fillers and promote a healthier lifestyle. We believe in the value of making cooking a quicker, easier, more healthful project for those who are short on time. Wildtree also offers a fund adventure for those who wish to be more creative in the kitchen. We offer representatives the opportunity to earn unlimited income and have a home based business that allows them to live the American Dream.”

chipotle lime fajitas

This gift has been beyond helpful. All I have to do is grab a meal from the freezer the night before so it can thaw. When Leslie told me we’d get 20 meals I thought it would be closer to 10 because Dave and I eat so much but so far each meal has been enough to fill both of us and even leave a little leftover to pack with Dave’s lunch! There are 10 prepared recipes and we got two of each, hence 20 meals. I guess a downside would be if you don’t like a particular meal but that hasn’t been the case for us and we’ve loved every meal so far! I appreciated the way the food was packaged in freezer bags because I was able to file 10 them in a box for easy access.

wildtree freezer meals

Here are the meals that came with our “Comfort Food” bunch:

1. Spanish Style Garlic Shrimp
2. Italian Marinated Flank Steak
3. The Best Burgers EVER
4. Hearty and Delicious Meatloaf
5. Chipotle Lime Fajitas
6. Italian (Chicken) Medallions
7. Mozzarella & Tomato Chicken Pasta
8. Honey Balsamic Chicken Drumsticks
9. Crockpot Chipotle Lime Chicken
10. Adobo Chicken

wildtree recipes

A list of our meals and recipes were provided in case we wanted to re-create a particular dish we loved. I enjoyed being able to see what ingredients were used in our meals. One thing I loved about these meals is that they weren’t carb heavy. I’m a big advocate of PFC (protein, fat, carbs) at meals, mainly getting carbs from fruits & veggies and not so much from starchy foods like bread, pasta, rice, etc. These meals were great because they mainly included meat and veggies. I would have liked to see more variety with meat since 6 of the 10 meals included chicken but at least they were all tasty!
superbowl bundle

If you want to purchase any Wildtree products as a gift or get them for yourself you can contact my friend Leslie at lesliehoekwt*at*gmail*dot*com or through her Wildtree link. There’s even a promotion going on for a Super Bowl bundle (click photo above) if you need some help with meal planning!

What’s your favorite gift you received from a wedding or baby shower?