Tag Archives: Natural Sweeteners

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cereal Bars

baking

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I did a little baking experiment. For a box mix queen like myself, this was big.

3 ingredients

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This Blueberry Rice Nectar Syrup has been sitting in my pantry since May, when Suzanne’s Specialties first sent me their naturally-sweetened products

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It pours very easily right outa the jar. I used 3/4 cup into 1/2 a jar of creamy peanut butter

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I had already burned part of the PB so keep that flame low, and stir constantly!!!

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Add the entire box (about 4 cups worth) of an unsweetened multigrain cereal, like Uncle Sam

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Press into a greased 8×8 container and bake for 10 minutes at 350.

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Reason 9,481 I am not a baker (although I wouldn’t really call this “baking”):

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Allow the pan to cool COMPLETELY (stick it in the fridge for a few hours) before flipping over and cutting.

Or else you’ll wind up with crumbled, misshapen bars…

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…which wasn’t too terrible, because that meant I could test the product pieces (delectable!!!) before packing them up to share for the play reading I did last night.

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Consumed the giant apple in the car, and ate about 2 bars at the reading

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There was also a platter of cut up Asian pears, which I devoured 1/3 of.

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Know of any other 3-ingredient “baking” recipes?! Preferably one that will use up the other half of my brown rice syrup jar?

Christy’s Corner – Sugar

christy's corner - Nutrition

Christy Meyers is a holistic nutritional counselor, actress, and The Actor’s Diet former co-blogger.  Here, she talks about a very sweet (but sticky) subject.

Ah, sugar.  Many of you regular readers know that I have a bit of a personal war with sugar.  It is one of the first things I look for when I am reading ingredient labels, and one of the first things I point out.  Let me give you a little background…

Diabetes is rampant in my family.  I watched my grandfather die from  complications of diabtetes – heart disease and kidney failure.  Many members of my family struggle with Type 2 diabetes (also called Adult onset which is caused by a combination of weight, diet, exercise, and genetics depending on the person) or are on their way.  And they all have something in common – they are trying to eat healthy but they crave sugar.

And guess what my main craving is? Yep, sugar.  I love sweets.  They are definitely my weakness – I have yet to meet a chocolate chip cookie that I didn’t want.  And I married a man who has the same tendencies.  If I don’t watch it, sugar could be a real problem for us.

According to the American Diabetes Association there are 17.9 million people diagnosed with diabetes, 5.7 undiagnosed, and 57 million pre-diabetic (which means that their blood sugars tested high enough that if they continue as they are, they will definitely develop diabetes and all the problems that come with it: heart disease, kidney problems, circulation disorders, blindness, etc, etc, etc).  What is even scarier is that more and more children are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes every year.

And in addition to diabetes, sugar has been found to be a major contributing factor in obesity, ADHD, Adrenal fatigue, sleep disorders, and depression (to name a few).  Anyone who has cut out sugar for a month or more knows that they feel increased energy, better mental focus, more even moods, weight loss and better sleep.

Sugar is also hard on the body and organs to digest.  The body would like to keep an even level of blood glucose (blood sugar) at all times so that you feel energized, not too spacey and not too tired.  If you are ingesting a lot of sugar over the course of the day, then your body must release insulin (the hormone that lowers blood sugar) several times over the course of the day.  Imagine if you had to run up five lights of stairs several times an hour throughout the day. Eventually you would become tired and stop.  That is what happens to the body – over the course of a lifetime of high amounts of sugar, the body starts to get tired.  First it will stop being able to supply vitamins and minerals to areas of the body like the hair and skin – which is why people with high sugar or alcohol (which is liquid sugar) intakes often age faster. Next, the body will produce less and less insulin which will mean that blood glucose levels will go up and up.  And eventually it will no longer be able to produce insulin (Type 2 diabetes) and you will have to take shots in order to keep blood glucose levels where they should be.

So I started paying a lot of attention to what foods have sugar in them.  And they are everywhere – both in regular grocery stores and in the health food markets! Because sugar tastes good; and if you put it in your product, your product will taste good too.  Not to mention the fact that sugar is addictive – we know that because it has all the common side effects: have just a small taste and you will have a craving for more, even if you are full; and cutting sugar out of your diet will create detox symptoms (like headaches, irritability, sleepiness, etc).  If you have sugar in your product, people will want to eat lots of it and you will sell more.  And this is what really gets me mad – even knowing the risks of too much sugar consumption, most companies are still putting it in their products.  And I am not taking about desserts here – I am talking about soup, salad dressings, condiments, bread, crackers, places most people don’t think to look!

Now, this would be a good time to say that not all sugar is created equal.

A sugar is a carbohydrate and the body uses carbohydrates to fuel the muscles, organs and brain functions.  There are natural carbohydrates (sugars) that we get from our whole foods – grains, beans, vegetables and fruits all break down into carbohydrates in the body.  Grains, beans and vegetables are complex carbohydrates meaning that they have a plethora of vitamins, minerals, and fiber that slow the digestion of the food and allow it to be released slowly into the body.   Fruit is a simple carbohydrate (but still a whole food); it still has lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber but has a higher sugar content so, depending on the fruit, has a greater effect on the blood sugar.

Then you have the natural sweeteners- these are sweeteners that (usually) are minimally processed and often retain vitamins and minerals from the plants they are made from.  Depending on the sweetener, they still have an affect on the blood sugar whether mild or intense.  These sweeteners are stevia, yacon, honey, agave, molasses, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, fruit juice.  Stevia and yacon do not raise blood sugar levels and have low to zero calories.  The others do have an affect on the bloods sugar in varying degrees.

And finally the highly processed white sugar which comes from the sugar cane plant and corn syrup.  There have been all kinds of articles and findings touting the dangers of corn syrup and it’s health affects.  It is a highly processed sweetener that has extreme affects on the blood sugar.  Recently, there has been some press saying that agave is worse than corn syrup.  According to all my research, this is not true.  Rather than republish it all here, I will list a couple of sites below where you can read until your hearts content.  There are a lot of products made from sugar cane and they have varying degrees of processing.  The common white sugar is highly processed, bleached and devoid of vitamins and minerals.  And because it is so heavily processed, it has a strong affect on the blood sugar levels.  On the other end of the spectrum is Sugarcane Juice – this is the juice you can buy that is pressed from the sugar cane.  It does retain many of the vitamins and minerals from the sugarcane plant but it is still hard on the blood sugar levels (as any juice would be).  Evaporated cane juice is questionable.  It is a loosely defined term, is processed in varying degrees (depending on the product), and often contains other forms of sugar.

Okay, so knowing all of this, what am I suggesting – that you cut out all sweet foods from your diet?  No.  I would be the last person who could say that with any real conviction because I love them so much myself.  And I am always super excited to blog about companies that make great tasting desserts with natural sweeteners.

I am saying to take a moment and examine where the sweet in your diet comes from.  Here are some simple steps that I practice myself and tell my clients:

1. Read the ingredient labels of the packaged products that you have in your kitchen and buy. Eliminate the products that include sugar (and are not desserts) as much as possible.  For instance, there is no need for sugar in your split pea soup.  As someone who likes desserts, I would rather get my sugar from a great piece of chocolate than from my jar of pickles.

2. Include complex carbohydrates and chew them well. We all crave the sweet taste.  If you increase that flavor in your diet but it comes from the whole food sources, then you will also be getting tons of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  So you will look great, feel great and be satisfied naturally.

3. When you do have dessert, have a high quality one and see if you can find one that uses one of the natural sweeteners. At the very least this will give you some variety, and a few more vitamins and minerals.  There is nothing redeeming about white sugar, so why not use one that at least has some redeeming qualities.  See some of my favorite naturally sweetened products that taste great below.

It is also important to remember that too much sugar is simply too much sugar, no matter what form it comes in.  Sweeteners should be the supporting cast in your diet, not the lead actors.  Whether you are having white sugar, or agave all day long – it will still raise your blood sugar levels and it will still have detrimental effects on your health if you do it all the time.

The above recommendations will help lower the overall daily intake amount.  If you find that you need sugar for energy or entertainment then you may also need to look at making adjustments to your lifestyle so you won’t be so dependent on it.

Agave articles:

My favorite naturally sweetened products:

(Some of them I was introduced to through this blog!)

  • Michelle’s Cookies – the chocolate chip are divine!
  • Betty Lou’s products
  • Vega Protein Powders – these are great ingredients for protein shakes but I also love to make milkshakes or puddings with them.  My favorite?  Chocolate, of course!
  • Coconut Bliss Ice Cream – I am not a huge ice cream eater but when I do have it, I love this brand because it is creamy and rich
  • Zevia – when I was in college, I used to love diet sodas.  Zevia is a great option for that every once in a while craving that I still get.

Christy’s Corner – Betty Lou’s

christy's corner - gluten free - vegan

Christy Meyers is a holistic nutritional counselor, actress, and The Actor’s Diet former co-blogger.  She reviewed these sweet snacks sent for free by Betty Lou’s to try.

John from Betty Lou’s contacted Lynn to give her a bunch of information about some samples they would be sending.  And after she relayed their conversation to me (also pointing out that they are a friendly, family-run company), I was excited to see and taste their products.  You can tell by looking at the site that they are really trying to make options for everyone, no matter what your dietary restrictions – corn free, gluten-free, low fat, vegan, etc.  They even make some products using xylitol, which is a safe sweetener for diabetics and those sensitive to sugar.

The products I tried were the Organic North Shore Smackers Chocolate Spirulina Patty, Spirulina Ginseng Nut Butter BallJust Great Stuff Organic Superberry Acai Bar, and Organic Krispy Bite.

I will start by saying that I loved the taste of all the products I tried.  I know, the Chocolate Spirulina Patty sounds questionable, but it was really good!

I love that it has spirulina in it, which is high in trace minerals and protein. And since it tastes like a chocolatey treat, I would buy it to satisfy a sweet craving in the middle of the afternoon.

All of the ingredients in their products were recognizable and from whole food sources – nothing sounded like it was from a laboratory.  But it should be noted that the first ingredients in products were either a sweetener (brown rice/agave syrup) or a fat (nuts/nut butter) so though they are nutritious, not all of them are low-calorie treats.  A small consideration when you think that most of the snack sweets are high-calorie and full of crap.

The other thing that I liked is the serving size.  They are a reasonable; just perfect for a snack – not so big that they keep you full through a mealtime, but large enough, with some nutrition to satisfy you.

The Krispy Bites would be a great replacement for traditional rice krispy treats and the Just Great Stuff Fruit Bars would be great when you’re craving a fruit roll up.

All these products, and many more, are available online at Betty Lou’s store or at a store near you.