Sugar-like Substances


Last week I picked up a granola bar off the counter at work.  It’s from a brand associated with healthy products.  Since I’ve been paying special attention to my sugar intake, I looked at the ingredient list; the second ingredient is high maltose corn syrup.  I had never heard of High Maltose Corn Syrup, so I was curious.  What I understand is that it’s a blend of glucose (corn syrup), maltose, and fructose.  And though it’s not as sweet as HFCS, it’s sweet enough to be used as a sweetener in food production.

It’s important to remember that most food manufacturers are in business to make money.  Not to help us be healthy, to tell us the truth, or to provide the most nutritional product.  They want to make a profit.  They also have teams of people dedicated to monitoring media attention.  Where sugar is concerned, corn syrup is cheaper than cane sugar, so it makes economical sense to use it.  And when High Fructose Corn Syrup gets a (in my opinion, well-deserved) bad rap, it makes economical sense to find an inexpensive alternative like High Maltose Corn Syrup.

There is significantly less information available about High Maltose Corn Syrup than HFCS, but here are a few things to consider:

  • Sucrose (table sugar) is equal amounts of glucose and fructose in a chemical bond.  The body breaks down the bond during digestion, using insulin.
  • Corn syrup is not naturally very sweet, so it’s necessary to add in other sugars to make it a viable food sweetener.  Enter fructose and maltose.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup is also glucose and fructose, but not in equal amounts, and not bonded.  The body still uses insulin, but because of the lack of chemical bond, digestion is not required, potentially causing blood sugar spikes, damage to the liver and digestive tract.  There’s a concise explanation in #2 of this post.
  • Chemically-altered substances, like pharmaceuticals, often have negative side effects on the body.  Drugs have labels that list negative side effects, but HFCS does not.
  • The more natural food I eat, the better I feel.

As always, do your own research from as many reliable sources as possible.

Make Good Choices


Last week was incredibly busy.  And I made a lot of bad decisions.  I was pretty disappointed when I stopped to take stock of the week.  We ate out almost every day.  I wasn’t very careful about what kind of sugar I used.  I only ran once.  I didn’t even drink half of the water I was supposed to, and I drank alcohol almost every day.  Oh, and I didn’t do planks, not even once.

We took a Fall color drive last Saturday.  I wished I'd worn better shoes for walking.

We took a Fall color drive last Saturday. I wished I’d worn better shoes for walking.

But then I started thinking about what I’ve done in the past, and how wrong this week could have gone.  Even though I let things slide, the week wasn’t a total loss.  I made really good decisions when we did eat out, choosing healthier options or smaller portions, and still managed to eat a lot of fresh fruit and veggies.  Although I wasn’t able to completely stay away from refined sugars, I ate drastically less sugar than normally would have found it’s way to my plate.  I was more sedentary, and missed running, but I was a lot more active at home than normal, and I walked… A lot, even hung-over (Thanks, Molly!).  I absolutely felt the lack of water, but still drank more than I would have before, and I only had a few sips of Naren’s soda on Saturday.

I think the lesson to remember is the 80/20 rule.  If you’re making good decisions 80% of the time, you’re going to have positive results in the long run.  I made some bad decisions, but the week wasn’t a total loss.  I adjusted my behavior based on how my body felt.  One less successful week isn’t the end of the world.

It's hard to be sedentary with such an energetic dog!

It’s hard to be sedentary with such an energetic dog!

Here’s how I’m salvaging the rest of the month:

  • Worry less about getting 120 ounces of water.  Start the day with two big glasses of water before anything else.  And drink a glass of water before snacking or drinking alcohol.
  • Limit coffee to two cups, and alcohol to one glass.
  • Run.  Make a plan for the week, and stick to it.  If I schedule it in, I will do it.  And buy new running shoes.
  • Continue to limit sugar, not just refined sugar, but fruit sugars and honey, too.
  • Add a salad every day.
  • Since I’m discouraged by all the planks, but they’re definitely working, focus on 5 good planks, but add in 10 each squats, lunges, wall sits, push ups, and leg raises.
  • Sit less.  Especially when the TV is on.
Pere Marquette State Park

Pere Marquette State Park

Success isn’t the absence of failure, but how we recover when we do fail.  So I’ll get up, dust myself off, and adjust my plan.

Sweet Tooth


I made a second attempt at hot cocoa this afternoon.  I substituted unrefined coconut sugar for the white sugar in a basic recipe (milk, cocoa, sugar), and it worked great.


It was too sweet!  Apparently, 9 days avoiding sugar was enough to adjust my palate.

So there’s hope that the cravings will lessen, and I may make it through the month without buying a slice of chocolate cake from the bakery.

P.S.  I had hoped to give you a post about sugar-less chocolate frosting today, but my blender was no match for the dates in the recipe.  I shall try again tomorrow.  With someone else’s blender!



If you’re going to cheat (not that I would)…  And go out to eat (not that we did)…  At least make it something you wouldn’t make at home, like sushi!

Since we had an impromptu shopping trip this evening with no time to cook, we grabbed dinner at our favorite sushi place.  Fish, rice and soy beans are good for you, right?  Yep!  Spring Rolls, on the other hand, are not.

Puppy Roll, or What happens when you give  a dog a Spring Roll!

Puppy Roll, or What happens when you give a dog a Spring Roll!

That’s the problem with dietary changes that require research, as far as I’m concerned.  I love, I mean L-O-V-E, researching new recipes.  So today, I spent a ridiculous amount of time looking for a way to put something sweet and chocolaty back in my diet this month without using refined sugars.  Since nearly all chocolate bars/chips are sweetened with sugar, that’s a big challenge.  I found a promising option, but didn’t have a chance to make it.  And the honey-sweetened hot cocoa I made in the haze a a chocolate craving this afternoon was disappointing.

It’s a miracle I didn’t insist on chocolate cake for supper!

Pitted dates, unsweetened shredded coconut, and coconut oil

Pitted dates, unsweetened shredded coconut, and coconut oil for Chocolate – Coconut Truffles!

Eating one Spring Roll, and sharing the other with Roxie, might have been a good compromise.  Regardless, I don’t have to dwell on one bad decision.  Especially since I was motivated enough to pick up what I needed to make something decadent tomorrow!

The moral of the story…  If at first you order something stupid, enjoy it!  And make a better choice tomorrow.

Mandy Glory Muffins


I’ve made other versions of these Morning Glory Muffins before with great success.  The recipe is heavily adapted from Earthbound Farms’ The Original Morning Glory Muffins.  The original recipe calls for 1 1/4 c. white sugar, and even though I have swapped out ingredients, I’ve never tried to eliminate white sugar from a pastry recipe.

Mandy Glory Muffins

Mandy Glory Muffins

Here’s how I took out the sugar without sacrificing sweetness:

  • Barley flour, brown rice flour, and wheat germ, which all lend a slightly sweet, nutty flavor, replace some of the all-purpose flour.
  • I added a big handful of pitted dates, which were blended with the raisins and hot, reduced juice from the crushed pineapple to create a sweet slurry.
  • Carrots with a diameter less than an inch are sweeter, so I chose the skinny ones from the bunch.
  • I used a very sweet, juicy apple.
  • I used raw honey and unrefined coconut sugar for a less-processed alternative.

What I ended up with was a mildly sweet, incredibly moist,  quick-bread style muffin.  The texture suffers just a little from the lack of white sugar and increased liquid, but not enough that you’d know what was missing.  With that in mind, I’ve added an extra 1/4 c. coconut sugar and 1/2 c. brown rice flour below.  But this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Mandy Glory Muffins & Bread

Mandy Glory Muffins & Bread

Mandy Glory Muffins

Because the gluten content of barley and brown rice are much lower than wheat flour, I’ve added extra baking soda and an egg for structure.  

Lightly toast 1/2 c. raw walnut meats.  I did this in the preheating oven for about 7 minutes.

Drain juice from crushed pineapple in 100% juice, pressing to remove as much juice as possible, into a small sauce pan, and simmer about 5 minutes.  Gently simmer juice with 3/4 c. golden raisins (or any other dried fruit you like) and 1/2 c. pitted dates about 5 more minutes.  Blend hot juice and fruit (I removed the center of the lid, and covered with a dish towel, since hot liquid can make your blender spit at you.) until dates are chopped into small pieces.  Allow to cool at least 10 minutes.

Shred 1 small zucchini, 2 carrots, 1 apple, and 1 inch of fresh ginger.  Toss together with 1/2 c. unsweetened shredded coconut, drained pineapple, and coarsely chopped walnuts, and set aside.

Blend well in a large measuring cup, and set aside:

  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/2 c. unrefined coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 c. plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c. melted butter
  • 1/4 c. oil
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • pineapple juice – date – raisin slurry

Stir together in a large mixing bowl with a whisk:

  • 1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. brown rice flour
  • 1/2 c. barley flour
  • 1/4 c. wheat germ
  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly ground cinnamon

Add wet ingredients (egg mixture) to flour mixture, and stir just to combine.  Then stir in fruit/nut mixture.

Bake in greased pans at 350 F, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  I ended up with 1 dozen muffins (baked about 20 minutes) and 4 mini loaves (baked about 35 minutes).  These freeze well; just double wrap after the bread is totally cooled.

Suh-weet! Substitutions


Since a big part of this Healthy Belly Challenge is reducing sugar, here are a few ways I like to add sweetness to my cooking without using sugar:

  • For savory dishes caramelize onions before adding to recipe.
  • Pulse raisins, dried dates or other dried fruit in the food processor and replace for part of the sugar when baking.
  • Reduce fruit juice to make a syrup, and replace for part of the sugar in a recipe (but you might need to adjust the liquid levels).
  • Add mashed banana or grated apples to baked goods.
  • Carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, acorn and butternut squash are naturally sweet, and can be pureed and added to baked goods, soups, sauces,etc. to increase sweetness, so sugar can be decreased in a recipe.
  • Tomato paste helps thicken and sweeten sauces.
  • Some alternative flours are sweeter than wheat.  Try replace up to half the flour in a recipe for millet, oat, or toasted barley flour.  The gluten content is much lower than wheat, so do some research on ratios for replacement before adjusting your recipe.
  • Adding spices, a sour element (lemon juice, for example), a pinch of salt can help enhance sweetness.  Sometimes it’s not sugar that’s missing, but some other flavor.
  • Cream and coconut milk can be used in place of milk or water in some recipes to add a touch of sweetness.
  • Roast vegetables or even fruit to enhance their natural sugars.
  • Honey is up to 50% sweeter than sugar, and has several health benefits over sugar.
  • Agave nectar is also sweeter than sugar and contains prebiotics, but like honey it could effect the moisture of baked goods.

Just remember that replacing one kind of sugar for another is not necessarily a healthy alternative.  Do some research on health benefits and substitution methods to see what your best options are.  My best advise is that we get used to sugar levels in our food, but that isn’t permanent; you can teach your body to like different flavors.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to try!

Don’t Tempt Me.


Boy, did I struggle today; there was sugar EVERYWHERE!  Homemade cookies and cakes at lunch, my favorite bourbon creme cookies in the car, and Amish apple cinnamon bread in an unexpected gift.

It’s hard to make good decisions without a plan of attack, and I felt a little blind-sided today.  We had a late start this morning that precluded breakfast, so I was hungry at lunch.  And ended up driving during supper time, hungry, and without a definite plan once we got home.  But I chose an extra sandwich at lunch instead of sweets, shared some chips with the hubby in the car, only snagged a half slice of cinnamon bread, and ate a light salad as a late dinner.  I wasn’t perfect, but since the point of giving up sugar is long-term good habits, not perfection, I’m feeling pretty good about my choices.

On tomorrow’s agenda:  kitchen inventory, meal planning, and thoughtful grocery shopping.  I hope whatever your temptation was this weekend, it didn’t get the best of you!

Slimy, Yet Satisfying!


Let’s talk about slimy food.  I am generally not a fan.  I’m a very textural eater, and things that are too gooey turn me off.  But slimy foods are good for you.  Look up the health benefits of eating okra, noori (seaweed), spirulina (algae), nopales (cactus petals), and chia seeds, and you’ll see.  There’s a ton of hydration potential, vitamins and essential nutrients involved in that slime!

Chia seed pudding

Chia seed pudding

By far my favorite slime option is chia seeds.  They don’t have a lot of flavor, which makes chia seeds incredibly versatile.  You can find tons of ideas online, from breakfast, to dessert to baked goods.  The basic method is 4 parts liquid to 1 part chia seeds, soaked at least 2 hours.  This allows the chia seeds to swell, creating a thickened “pudding”.

Chia seeds, cinnamon stick, raw honey, vanilla, and cashew milk

Chia seeds, cinnamon stick, raw honey, vanilla, and cashew milk

So yesterday I finally opened a little bag of chia seeds and whipped up this breakfast pudding.  It’s simple to make, and other than the chia seeds, you probably have everything you need.

Chia Pudding

1/4 c. chia seeds

1 c. milk or milk substitute (I used cashew milk.)

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. vanilla

1 Tbsp. raw honey

tiny pinch of salt

1 Tbsp. protein powder (I used hemp), optional

Mix the honey, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and protein powder, if using, until smooth.  Mix in the milk , then gently stir in the chia seeds.  Set aside, and stir about every 5 minutes for about half an hour.  It will start to thicken as it sits.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, overnight is better.

Run recovery pudding

Run recovery pudding: Basic pudding with protein powder plus a sliced banana and a few nut clusters.

After my run this morning, I added a sliced banana and some crushed nut clusters.

Chia Lemon Water

Chia Lemon Water: 1 Tbsp. soaked chia seeds, stirred into water with a few slices of lemon.

Can’t Versus Won’t


For the most part, I purposely add good things into my diet instead of taking bad things out, and this challenge is no different.  The way our brains work, diets are extra hard because we feel deprived when we “can’t” have things.  And this causes all kinds of reactions in our bodies that make it even harder to fight cravings for the food we’re avoiding.  (Do a web search on dieting and deprivation or “can’t vs. won’t” if you don’t believe me.)

Healthy fixin's

Healthy fixin’s

When I was on Weight Watchers a few years ago, what eventually helped me lose significant weight was adding in several servings of vegetables instead of trying to avoid all the things I shouldn’t have.  I routinely ate a huge salad or multiple servings of vegetables before eating anything else.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t have the other things, just that I knew I needed to load up on the good stuff first.  This approach made it a lot easier to eat a small portion of whatever contraband happened to be available instead of making a meal of it.  And I wasn’t hungry or feeling deprived.

A better choice than candy!

A better choice than candy!

Occasionally, I go a step further than won’t by saying only.  I only eat green m&m’s (because they taste better than the rest).  I only eat at a restaurant when there’s a reasonable chance the food is better than I can make at home (which is not true, but should be).  I only eat beef if I think I’m anemic (mostly true, though plenty of other foods would help more than beef…  Sometimes you just want a steak!).  This way of thinking doesn’t always work, but it’s another way to trick my brain out of feeling deprived.  What it comes down to is mind over matter.  But that’s not an easy thing to master.  For me routine helps.  If it’s my routine to avoid certain foods, they don’t creep up on me, so I’m prepared when temptation strikes.

Nothing wrong with a beignet... In the French Quarter!

Nothing wrong with a beignet… In the French Quarter!

I don’t advocate thinking of foods as good or bad, but I think it is a good idea to know what the things we put in our bodies do.  Do you know how your body processes whole fruit versus juice?  Or what foods naturally help clean toxins from your blood?  Or the difference between how your body uses butter and margarine?  Since diet is the basis for health, we probably should know what’s happening between the dinner plate and the restroom.

I watch a lot of food-related documentaries.  Here are a few I find helpful:

  • Food Matters:
  • The Perfect Human Diet:
  • Hungry for Change:


Where did that candy bar come from?


I’m not a big candy bar fan.  Sure I occasionally buy one when on a road trip or on a particularly bad day, but I’m usually able to talk myself out of it.  They never taste as good as I think they’re going to.  They’re full of stuff I don’t want to put in my body.  They get stuck in my teeth.  They’re too sweet.  But for no reason I can figure out, I bought two last week.  I ate one that same day, the chocolate-coconut-almonds one.  Then promptly forgot about the chocolate-crispy peanut buttery one.  Until yesterday.  Day one of my no-sugar month.

And there it sat on my counter yesterday at noon when I couldn’t find anything I wanted to eat in the house that didn’t have sugar in it.

And there it still was when I came home late from work, hungry enough to gnaw my arm off.

This no sugar thing is no joke.  It’s hard.  Only one day in, it’s really hard.

There is sugar in nearly everything in my house.  I’m a pretty label-conscious consumer, but I’ve never thought much beyond High Fructose Corn Syrup or artificial sweetener, which I avoid.  When I went to the grocery store earlier this week, with the intention of stocking up on belly-fat-reducing foodstuffs, I didn’t buy much, thinking I had a number of healthy options in my kitchen.  But nearly everything I thought to grab for lunch yesterday was either pre-packaged, restaurant leftovers, or contained disturbing amounts of refined sugar.

I even realized the soup I made last week had sugar in it.  Sugar I added.  To soup that already had a taco seasoning packet in it that also had sugar in it.

It’s like trying to quit smoking.  Maybe harder.  Sugar shows up in unexpected places.  It tastes good.  People don’t look at you cross-wise when you eat it.  There’s an emotional attachment from my child hood.   And it causes happy chemical responses in the brain.  At least cigarettes smell bad!

Check out these articles about sugar and it’s effects on the body: