sweetfreak

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sugar/Sweet Stuff

This post is dedicated to my cousin Brian, who wants to know all about sugar. Here’s everything I’ve ever said about sugar!

Plus, check out all my Sweet Freak posts!

Creamy Dreamy Coconut-Cherry Popsicles

I’m straight-up obsessed with cherries this summer. I buy them by the five-pound bag (no, seriously). Cherries are pretty amazing because they’re high in Vitamin C, Vitamin A, plus other nutrients like potassium and beta-carotene. Antioxidants? You bet.

Also, they just scream SUMMER to me! But it’s hard to eat a five-pound bag of cherries before they go bad, so freezing them into popsicles just seemed like the logical thing to do. These coconut-cherry popsicles couldn’t be easier to make. They’re filled with awesome, healthy fat from the coconut milk (which means they’re incredibly satisfying and won’t leave you all sugared up) and the cherries give them sweetness and a little tart bite. YUM.

You’ll Need (makes 5-6 small popsicles):

  • One 14-oz. can coconut milk
  • 30-40 pitted cherries 

Make It:

  • Throw your pitted cherries in a blender. If you don’t have a cherry pitter, just slice the cherries in half and pull out the pit with your hands. You can also just use your hands to break the cherry in half and dig out the pit, but don’t wear your favorite shirt!



  • Add the can of coconut milk and blend for a few seconds.



  • Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight.



  • Eat on a hot summer day!

I actually had one for breakfast this morning (along with a hard-boiled egg and some smoked salmon — gotta get that protein/fat!). Such a nice way to start the day! Oh, and if you haven’t bought yourself some popsicle molds yet, what are you waiting for?!

A Different Kind of Pie

You all have probably guessed by now that I’m not a baker. But I have much respect for bakers who experiment to make their recipes more health-conscious. Enter Alicia Scotti, owner of Pie Country in New York City, and a friend of a good family friend of mine. All of the Pie Country baked goods are made in the Bronx using local fruits, farm-fresh dairy, and fair-trade/organic products whenever possible.

Pie Country will make almost any kind of pie — gluten-free, low sugar, etc. They say many of their pies are naturally gluten-free, and they’ve been experimenting with quinoa flour. In this guest post from owner Alicia, she talks about a recent pie challenge she was given by a customer. Find Pie Country on Facebook here.

A few months ago, I started a new company in New York City called Pie Country. It’s dedicated to local ingredients and pie, of course. Though I love all sweets, over the years it has become clear that most sweets are completely bad for you — like that beautiful Devil’s Food cake with marshmallow frosting that I made so well and would devour when my kids weren’t looking.

But pie. Pie is different. It’s filled with beautiful local fruits or nuts, and there are so many different ways to sweeten them. Recently I have been using evaporated cane syrup instead of regular white processed sugar, but my favorite sweeteners are NYC or Block Island honey and Vermont maple syrup. Yum! No more of that nasty corn syrup in my pies.

Over the holidays, we’ve made dozens and dozens of beautiful pecan pies and pumpkin pies, all sweetened with a lovely organic Vermont maple syrup. I take pride in meeting every challenge our customers present. So we have a few nice gluten-free pies, and a rabbi from the Jersey shore asked us to make a vegan pie, so I used a fragrant EV olive oil in the dough, which made his kippah spin with delight.

I thought that would be my greatest challenge last season until my friend Mary called. Her husband was on a special diet. “It’s not to lose weight, Alicia, it’s to build muscle,” Mary said about this special diet that Howie and his brother had undertaken. No grains whatsoever. No sugar whatsoever. No salt. They wanted a fruit pie and a nut pie. This was a challenge.

For the fruit pie, I mixed together pears, apples, and cranberries and tossed them with a generous amount of both NYC honey and Meyer lemon juice and zest, plus a good sprinkling of cinnamon. I scooped this into a pie shell made from finely chopped almonds and pecans mixed with some sweet creamery butter. Mary told me later that this was devoured well before dinner was ever served.

For the nut pie, well, I couldn’t exactly use a nut crust! So I looked to my gluten-free pies and created a coconut pie shell and filled it with our traditional pecan pie mixture that is basically pecans, eggs, and maple syrup. Pretty simple and pretty delicious. I made several individual-sized pies out of this, toasting the coconut shell a bit before pouring in the filling. From what I hear, these too were gone before dinner.

If you’re in NYC and would like to order a custom pie from Alicia, head over to the Pie Country website to get started!

Healthista Summer Must-Have: Popsicle Molds

A couple weeks after buying these popsicle sticks, I got mad at myself for not making them a part of my life sooner.

People, listen up: popsicle molds need to be a part of your life right now. Why pay for store-bought popsicles with lots of sugar and artificial ingredients when you can make your own with fun, delicious flavors?

I picked these specific molds based on good reviews, the fun shape/size, and the price, and they’re fabulous. I love being able to take one out of the freezer without accidentally defrosting them all. I give them a thumbs up.

On the flavor side, it’s nearly impossible to create a BAD popsicle. Anything that you can make into a smoothie, you can make into a popsicle. But you can also just use juice or a mixture of juices (I try to find 100% juice/lower sugar juices when possible).

So far, I’ve made lemonade popsicles (made with TJ’s low calories lemonade), Arnold Palmer popsicles, blueberries ‘n’ cream popsicles (either coconut milk or half and half plus blueberry juice), and my latest creation… the margarita popsicle.

It’s super simple. Just mix 1 part tequila to 2 parts margarita mix, then add a dash of lime. Stir well (so the alcohol doesn’t separate) and freeze right away.

SO refreshing and couldn’t be easier.

Two Arnold Palmers and four margarita popsicles. YUM.

I know there are probably a million popsicle recipes floating around. Do you have a favorite homemade popsicle recipe?

“It has nothing to do with the calories. Sugar is a poison by itself.”

I’m sure many of you have seen this New York Times article by Gary Taubes floating around the internet. At least two people made a point to send it to me (my friends know me well!).

The article mostly discusses the work of Robert Lustig and his viral YouTube lecture that insists not only is sugar bad for us, it’s actually toxic:

If Lustig is right, then our excessive consumption of sugar is the primary reason that the numbers of obese and diabetic Americans have skyrocketed in the past 30 years. But his argument implies more than that. If Lustig is right, it would mean that sugar is also the likely dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.

Not that anyone has ever claimed that sugar is good for us, and obviously, Taubes has his own nutritional lens from which he sees everything. But most mainstream nutritionists would still argue that “in moderation,” sugar can be part of a healthy diet or weight loss plan. As the article says:

The conventional wisdom has long been that the worst that can be said about sugars of any kind is that they cause tooth decay and represent “empty calories” that we eat in excess because they taste so good.

[..]

Lustig’s argument, however, is not about the consumption of empty calories — and biochemists have made the same case previously, though not so publicly. It is that sugar has unique characteristics, specifically in the way the human body metabolizes the fructose in it, that may make it singularly harmful, at least if consumed in sufficient quantities.

This is because, Lustig argues, fructose is metabolized differently than every other compound:

In animals, or at least in laboratory rats and mice, it’s clear that if the fructose hits the liver in sufficient quantity and with sufficient speed, the liver will convert much of it to fat. This apparently induces a condition known as insulin resistance, which is now considered the fundamental problem in obesity, and the underlying defect in heart disease and in the type of diabetes, type 2, that is common to obese and overweight individuals. It might also be the underlying defect in many cancers.

Our lifetime sugar consumption totals the amount in the dumpster. Frightening.

The really scary part about all of this is that no one is denying that metabolic syndrome is pretty much the major risk factor for heart disease. And metabolic syndrome is caused by insulin resistance! This is what the book Why We Get Fat is all about (read my review). To me, all signs point to sugar.

The article is quick to point out that none of the research vilifying sugar is conclusive, but I really don’t care. There’s nothing redeeming about sugar. It’s addictive, we don’t biologically need it, and it conclusively contributes to weight gain even if it’s not the one of the prime causes of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.

To me, that’s enough info to limit my consumption as much as I possibly can. As Your Nutritionista, I highly recommend you do the same.

1. Why doesn’t this article talk about Stevia? It comes from a plant.

2. Paragraph 19, dumbass. Also, so does hemlock.

3. What about Truvia?

4. Truvia comes from Cargill.

5. I sweeten my coffee with manuka honey, which cures leg ulcers.

6. I sweeten my coffee with blackstrap molasses, which is kind of disgusting, but gives me an icebreaker at parties.

7. I sweeten my coffee with pure agave nectar, which is different from just “agave nectar” in a variety of ways other than price.

8. I drink yerba mate, sweetened only by the smiles of the disadvantaged children I work with every day.

9. Shut UP, #8.

10. Which one is aspartame? Is that Splenda?

11. No, that’s Equal. The blue one. Splenda is the yellow one. Sweet ‘N Low is the pink one.

12. Doesn’t the pink one give you cancer?

13. Only if you’re a rat, and they forcefeed you twelve gallons of it through a hose.

14. Which one is cyclamates?

15. You don’t have that here. They have that in Canada, and they put it in the Canadian pink one, because of the cancer from the American pink one.

16. I thought that was just if you’re a rat? Are Canadians rats?

17. I use Splenda, because Dr. Atkins says it’s like magical rearranged sugar.

18. ATKINS DIED OF A HEART ATTACK. EAT ONLY RAW FRUIT, WHICH IS NOT AT ALL SUGARY EVER.

19. HE DIED FROM A FALL AND YOU’RE PROBABLY FAT ANYWAY AND WANT TO MARRY A CARROT.

20. Isn’t a bigger problem that things are all too sweet now? Shouldn’t we all just eat dirt instead, and think of food as fuel?

21. SHUT UP, #20.

22. Aspartame gives me migraines.

23. Aspartame gives me panic attacks.

24. Aspartame made me gay.

25. I used to drink twenty-six cans of Diet Coke every morning, and when I switched to water, I stopped beating my wife.

26. I hate when I see fat people drinking Diet Coke. It’s like, who are you kidding?

27. I hate when I see fat people drinking real Coke. It’s like, are you not even TRYING?

28. I hate when I see fat people.

29. I hate fat people.

30. I hate White Power Bill. IS THAT MOVIE EVER HAPPENING? IS THE NETFLIX THING REAL?

31. I drink Mexican Coke.

[via The Hairpin]

How to Eat the Foods You Love -- FOREVER

Today, I’m launching a new weekly mini-series on Your Nutritionista I’m calling Indulging with Intention. With this series, I’m hoping to provide some insight on how you can incorporate the treats you love into your diet and still meet your weight loss and health goals.

Each week as I’m working with my Your Nutritionista Consulting clients, a theme often emerges (I’m so grateful to my clients for providing me with ample blog fodder!). Over the past few weeks, that theme has been indulging in a way that’s sustainable for a lifetime.

I recently posed this question to a client after she expressed some guilt about indulging in her mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies after an already indulgent weekend: "Can you imagine never eating those again?"


Her answer? "No, I can’t imagine that."

So why follow a diet that restricts a food you can’t imagine living without? Of course you’re going to feel deprived, and even a little bit resentful! When the diet “ends,” of course, you’re going to feel like you’re owed all those cookies (or whatever) that you so diligently avoided. And that’s not going to do anything for your health or weight loss goals.

The first lesson of the Indulging with Intention is to plan to indulge. If you can make a habit of setting your sights on a treat you love in advance, you’re less likely to eat something impulsively that you don’t even enjoy that much.

So right now, I want you to make a list of so-called “treat” foods you LOVE that aren’t necessarily a part of your diet plan, whatever that might be. They should be foods that you can’t imagine living a life without, no matter how nutritionally void they are. Choose five of those foods. Now, for the next five weeks, plan to incorporate one of those foods a week into your diet. Yup, that’s right. Give yourself FULL PERMISSION to indulge in a treat you adore at least once a week.

But the catch is, you need to plan it. It can’t be an impulsive stop at the cupcake shop. It has to be something on the schedule — your favorite dessert (that you always try to avoid) from a restaurant you know you’re going to on a certain day, let’s say.

If you can train yourself to delay your gratification when it comes to treats and indulgences, you won’t be as tempted to eat something just because it’s there. And when you do finally get to eat what you love, you’ll be so glad you waited. But more important, you won’t feel at all regretful!

Of course, you also have to apply the Here and Now Concept to this — If there’s a spontaneous treat that you love and won’t get the chance to eat again, you might have to be flexible.

So for the next five weeks, try planning to indulge. I bet you’ll feel more satisfied, less deprived, and be less likely to sabotage yourself at the first sign of a treat food!