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100% natural sugars and sweeteners should be used sparingly. Even though they are natural, they are still sugars. There should be no added ingredients to these sweeteners.

Food for thought...

  1. Is "sweet" one of the three tastes that most people develop cravings for? Could this be a reason many processed food companies add a variety of sugars and sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), to their foods… to increase your craving for their products?
  2. What is HFCS? Is it highly processed and refined? Why may you want to avoid food containing it?
  3. Have you ever looked at how many food items contain HFCS as an ingredient?
  4. Are foods that contain HFCS, such as cereals, breads, cakes, cookies and bagels, typically highly processed?
  5. Are a lot of condiments sweetened with HFCS?
  6. Would you be willing to check labels for how items are sweetened and avoid products containing HFCS?
  7. Have you ever checked sugar labels, such as white sugar, and found the words "refined" or "bleached"?
  8. Have you ever checked a packaged Stevia label that states “pure” or “natural” and found it contains ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, fillers, flavoring or chemicals?
  9. Have you ever checked artificial sweetener labels and found they contain additives, such as fillers, flavoring or chemicals?
  10. Similar to HFCS, are most forms of agave nectar unhealthy and highly processed?
  11. Did you know that not all honey is created equal? Unless it states 100% pure, you may be using a combo of added sugar and honey. ICK!
  12. Did you know there's 56 different names for sugar? Yep, they sneak in these words as another way to confuse us! 

What kind of sugars are you eating?

Sugar falls under two categories, natural sugar or added sugar.

Added sugars

Sugars that are considered "added sugars" are added during the manufacturing process to food that naturally does not contain them. Have you ever looked at a label and realized how many names there are for sugar? 56 to be exact!

Some of the less familiar ingredients that indicate added sugar:

  • Items that contain “dext” or “ose” in the name of their ingredients, such as maltodextrin, maltose, dextrose, and sucrose

You may be surprised how many items you find refined sugar or HFCS in, ranging from sweetened applesauce, condiments, bread, cereal, protein bars, salad dressings, lunch meat, pasta sauces, peanut butter, jam, jelly, sodas, sweetened milk, cookies, crackers, fruit drinks and even baked beans! The list goes on. Remember, check the ingredients listed!

The honey and maple syrup controversy: Even though naturally occurring, honey and maple syrup can be labeled as added sugars if they are added during the manufacturing process to food that naturally does not contain them. Unfortunately, if they're added to a product there's often no way of knowing if they're 100% pure or not.

What about natural sugars?

Natural sugars: Meaning they're found naturally in foods.

Natural sugars can be in anything from natural milk sugars, to fruit, to less obvious foods, such as vegetables. While natural sugars aren't necessarily unhealthy, it's important to be aware of them and minimize your sugar intake. 

How much sugar should you be eating?

Sugar itself isn't the "bad guy," it's HOW MUCH and what TYPES you are eating and drinking. It's amazing how quickly the amount of sugar can add up. According to www.health.gov's dietary guidelines, it should be less than 10% of your daily intake.

Depending on a number of factors, including your level of activity, it should look something like this per day (sources linked at the bottom):

  • Women: 24 grams of added sugar (40-60 grams total natural + added)
  • Men: 36 grams of added sugar (50-75 grams total natural + added)
  • Children:  Depending on age, 12-25 grams of added sugar (25-50 grams total natural + added for young children and 35-80 grams total for older children)

Just for comparison

  • A large apple has 25 grams of natural sugar. 
  • A Cliff "Crunch" Granola Bar (chocolate chip) has 21 grams of added sugar. That's almost your entire allotment of added sugar for the day!
  • So ladies, if you eat a Cliff granola bar and an apple, you've reached your suggested daily sugar intake.

The “No-No’s”: What should you steer clear of when it comes to natural sugars and sweeteners?

  • Avoid refined and bleached sugars, such as white table sugar.
  • Avoid all artificial sweeteners, such as those small colored packets of artificial sweeteners at coffee shops and breakfast joints.
  • Avoid HFCS, corn sugar or corn syrup.
  • Avoid using syrups that are highly processed.
  • Avoid eating items that contain “dext” or “ose” in the name of their ingredients, such as maltodextrin, maltose, dextrose, and sucrose.
  • Limit/avoid turbinado sugar and evaporated cane juice. They are refined and processed, but not as refined as white table sugar.
  • Limit/avoid foods with sugar or a sweetener listed as one of the first three ingredients.

So, what’s okay to eat when it comes to natural sugars and sweeteners?

  • 100% pure, raw honey 
  • 100% pure, raw maple syrup
  • 100% natural, raw, unbleached and unrefined sugars
  • 100% cold pressed juice (such as apple or cranberry juice)
  • Unsweetened dates without added oils
  • The food itself, such as fruits and veggies, containing natural sugars 

When the above options are not available, use these sparingly:

  • 100% pure miel de agave (traditional agave nectar that is boiled down from the sap of the agave plant and isn’t highly refined.)
  • 100% unrefined and unbleached whole cane sugar or sucanat
  • 100% pure unrefined coconut crystals
  • 100% pure unrefined coconut palm sugar

Some things to look for when checking natural sugar and sweetener labels and ingredients

  • Unbleached
  • Unrefined
  • 100% pure
  • 100% cold pressed juice not from concentrate
  • Raw

Where to find your natural sugars and sweeteners

  • When possible, eat local raw honey, often found at local farms, farmers markets and orchards. 
  • Often, you can find quality 100% pure maple syrup at your local farmer's market.
  • When you can’t buy local, look into organic products.
  • Local Food Co-Op's, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and other natural and organic markets are a great options when local foods are not available. 
  • Whether local or store-bought, organic or not, always check the label and ingredients!
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FULLfood facts and fun 

  • Sometimes it’s impossible to find products that are sweetened with your preference of sugar or sweetener. In that case, look for items sweetened with simply “evaporated cane juice,” “sugar” or "coconut palm sugar."
    • You’re better off choosing these than HFCS or a bunch of highly processed sweeteners that are difficult to pronounce or hidden by unfamiliar words.
  • 100% pure unrefined coconut palm sugar has a low glycemic index (making it more diabetic friendly).
  • If you're buying honey that is not local, check the ingredients and make sure it's 100% pure. Some grocery store “honey” contains HFCS and other added sugars. Yet another sneaky way that manufacturers cut costs. 

Substitutions that are considered FULLfoods 

Users beware… these substitutions may slightly alter the consistency. You may need to reduce the quantity of liquid ingredients. You can check online for specific ratios in recipes. 

  • 100% pure, raw honey: Honey can be used in recipes in place of sugar. Because honey is much sweeter, you must adjust the ratios. Generally, 1 cup of sugar should be substituted with ¾ cup of honey. Use it:
    • In recipes as a substitute for sugar
    • In place of jelly or jam
    • To sweeten plain yogurt
    • Rather than using highly processed syrups, such as pancake syrup
    • To sweeten your coffee, rather than highly processed sugars or artificial sweeteners
  • 100% pure maple syrup: Maple syrup can be used in recipes in place of brown sugar. Because maple syrup is much sweeter, you must adjust the ratios. Generally, 1 cup of sugar should be substituted with 2/3 cup of maple syrup. Use it:
    • In recipes as a substitute for brown sugar
    • Occasionally as a substitute for white sugar
    • To sweeten plain yogurt
    • Rather than using highly processed syrups, such as pancake syrup. (Just remember, a little maple syrup goes a long way.)
  • 100% pure unrefined coconut crystals or coconut palm sugar: Either of these can be used in place of brown sugar. Use a 1:1 ratio.
  • Unsweetened applesauce: Applesauce, with no added sugars or artificial sweeteners, can be an awesome substitute to sweeten certain recipes. Typically, half the amount of sugar is replaced with apple sauce.
  • Unsweetened dates without added oils: Pitted dates that have been ground into a paste can be used as a natural sweetener in a variety of recipes. Use it:
    • When baking certain foods such as granola bars
    • To sweeten oatmeal

Tips and preparation

  • Typically, you can reduce the sugar used in baking recipes by a third to half without significantly affecting the taste or character of the batter. To simplify things, we've already reduced the amount of sugar in all our FfL recipes!
  • Dates can be boiled with cinnamon as an alternative to hot tea.

Tips when eating out

  • If you are ordering breakfast foods that need syrup, ask the server if they have 100% pure maple syrup or honey. Most places serve highly processed syrups. Steer clear of these!
  • Ask for honey to sweeten your coffee rather than using highly processed sugars or artificial sweeteners.

Action Steps

  1. Take inventory of your pantry and eliminate any “no-no” sugars or sweeteners.
  2. If you use artificial sweeteners – STOP! Replace them with 100% natural, raw, unbleached and unrefined sugar or honey.
  3. Start checking ALL labels and avoid buying foods that contain HFCS.
  4. Buy local honey and start using it as a substitute for sugar whenever possible.
  5. Use 100% pure maple syrup in place of highly processed syrup on pancakes, waffles and French toast (to name a few) ~ YUMMY! Remember, a little maple syrup goes a long way!
  6. Be aware of how much sugar, especially added sugar, you consume each day.
    1. For women, it should look something like this per day: 24 grams of added sugar (40-60 grams total natural + added)