Tag Archives: sneaky

Sugar in food: sneaky and surprising

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Having been diagnosed at a young age with reactive hypoglycemia, I’ve long been aware of the fact that modern food products hide alarming amounts of sugar, and conceal sugar in foods you’d never think contain it.

Like in food labeled as “Sugar Free”:

Or ketchup:

Britain’s FSA (Food Service Authority) defines high-sugar content as being 10%. Heinz Tomato Ketchup contains 23.5%. (British info source. Percentage from Heinz U.S. website.)

The following facts are just a taste (sorry!) of what investigative reporter Michael Moss uncovered in his book Salt, Sugar, Fat, about America’s food industry. (Via buzzfeed. More fun facts there!)

The American Heart Association’s recommendation for women’s sugar intake is just five teaspoons a day. That’s half a can of Coke. Or one and a half Fig Newtons.

Another source puts it like this: The American Heart Association recommends that women eat no more than  six teaspoons of added sugars per day or nine teaspoons for men. But, one 20-ounce bottle of soda contains about 16 teaspoons of sugars from high-fructose corn syrup. In other words…

(By the way, Coca-Cola executives refer to consumers who drink more than two or three cans a day as “heavy users.”)

And as I said before, sugar is hiding in unexpected places. There’s as much sugar in 1/2 cup of Prego tomato sauce as there is in three Oreos.

This fact alone (reported in Moss’s book) is particularly telling…

Some packaged food executives don’t actually eat the products their companies make.

John Ruff from Kraft gave up sweet drinks and fatty snacks. Bob Lin from Frito-Lay avoids potato chips. Howard Moskowitz, a soft drink engineer, doesn’t drink soda.

Go thou and do likewise.

Roasted Garlic “Mashed Potatoes” – low carb!

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If you’ve done the South Beach Diet or otherwise gone low carb for a while, you’re probably familiar with the “Surprise” Mashed Potatoes that are really pureed cauliflower. We make this dish frequently, and we’ve had our share of hits and misses. Here are a few tips for making them more like the real thing.

Steam, don’t boil. Since cauliflower have many tiny crevices, they tend to act like a sponge when they’re immersed in water. And too much water will make your faux-tatoes runny. Steaming them avoids this problem.

Don’t add milk or cream. You want to keep them as thick as possible; adding any liquid whatsoever will undermine that goal.

Do add some dairy fat. Sorry, South Beach, this is where we part ways! I think that some butter and/or cream cheese is necessary to give this concoction that creamy feel in the mouth that real mashed potatoes have.

Use a stick blender. This isn’t so much for taste as for efficiency. Forget pouring everything out of the pot into a food processor or traditional blender, and then having to wash all the parts. Use a stick blender. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend it! It’s one of those things I wonder how I lived without.

And one secret weapon. Roasted garlic adds an element of earthiness that above-ground plants lack. It also adds a color depth and textural element that mimics potatoes with a little bit of skin included in the mashing. We’re lucky enough to have a nearby grocery that offers roasted garlic among the deli offerings, but if you’re not so lucky, you could always make your own.

Here are the proportions I used for the depicted bowl of “not mashed potatoes.” (With apologies to Monsieur Magritte.)

Roasted Garlic “Mashed Potatoes”

1 head of cauliflower
3 – 6 T. butter,
   and/or
4 oz. cream cheese
1/4 c. roasted garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the cauliflower head into florets, and the narrower parts of the stem into about 1/8″ slices. Steam it all until very soft; you should be able to cut through a floret with a blunt mixing spoon.

Pour off the water you used for steaming. Make sure the pan is completely dry. Return the pan to the burner over medium-low, and add the butter and/or cream cheese. Stir until it’s mostly melted.

Add the cauliflower and the garlic to the pan, and using a stick blender, puree until the texture is to your liking.

Taste, and add salt, pepper, and/or more butter or cheese to taste. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Ten ways to sneak healthier choices into your snacks

apple sandwiches - healthier snacks

Snacks happen.

Don’t pretend like you’re not gonna have ’em! Plan for them. Stock your pantry, your desk, or your vehicle with some handy but satisfying alternatives.

When you’re craving something unhealthy, think about healthy alternatives that have a similar flavor and texture profile: almonds

1. Want something crunchy and salty? Replace crackers and chips with nuts. Keep a variety of your favorites on hand. Yes, they have fat, but it’s mostly the good kind (especially walnuts and almonds), and fat satisfies sooner than carbs, so you may eat less.

2. Want something salty and sweet? Try an apple and sugar-free nut butter, or apple with cheese. I especially like smoked Swiss.

3. Want something creamy and sweet? Stir together some frozen berries, Greek yogurt or dairy-free yogurt, vanilla and sweetener of your choice. (Find out which ones are lower in fructose.)

4. Replace sugar- or sweetener-laden soda with soda water. Flavor it with a squeeze of lemon or lime. Add sweetener if you must, but you get to control what kind of sweetener and how much goes in.

5. Dip raw carrot or jicama chips in Caesar, ranch or blue cheese dressing. Watch out for sugar and corn syrup in store-bought dressings, though. Better to make your own. (Search this blog for some great salad dressing recipes. Also, try this 5-minute magic green sauce!)

6. Serving dip at a party? Take hearts of romaine: tear or cut away everything but the strong central rib. Save the leafy part for salads, and use the ribs for dippers, instead of chips or crackers. (Here’s my herbed cream cheese dip. For a dairy-free dip, try Dump Ranch.)

7. Got the munchies? It might just be thirst and/or boredom. Have a glass of ice water and go do something interesting or relaxing for 10 minutes.

8. Mix cottage cheese, salsa and guacamole; dip it with celery stalks or romaine ribs. (Dairy free? Sub coconut yogurt for the cottage cheese.)

9. When you would normally go to potato or corn chips, go with 100% whole-grain, non-hydrogentated-fat crackers (such as Triscuits) or gluten-free crackers, and spread them with something that brings some protein and/or fat to the mix: cheese, ricotta, sugar-free nut butter, or hummus.

10. Do a little research and find out what healthy options are available where you tend to stop for snacks. At QuikTrip, walk right past the chip aisle and look for the healthy options, including fresh fruit and cheese sticks.

Get more tips like this in my ebook, “Small Steps to Big Change: 10 easy diet hacks anyone can do.” Find it and others on my books page.

ebook; Small Steps to Big Change

Roasted vegetables

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The first time I had roasted vegetables was in one of our favorite restaurants on The Plaza in Kansas City. I was blown away by the flavor! This was nothing like any boiled, steamed, pan-fried or grilled vegetable I had ever had. The carrots, onions and peppers tasted like they’d been drenched in a just-sweet-enough sauce. The potatoes were perfectly salted and savory. I asked the waiter what they did to make the vegetables so sweet. “They’re just roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper,” he replied.

“There’s no sugar?” I asked, incredulous. He assured me there was not.

When we returned home, I hunted down some recipes for roasted vegetables. None of them called for sugar. I tried one. And just as the waiter had sworn, roasting them brought out their hidden sweetness.

After a few experiments, this is the recipe we’ve settled on. It’s become a standard on the Thanksgiving table, and a family favorite. In fact, my daughter’s request for dinner tonight, before she heads back to the land of dorm food, was chicken with mushroom sauce and roasted vegetables.

Roasted vegetables
Ready in about 1.25 hours    Servings: 3

2 T. olive oil, divided
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 yellow onion, cut into generous chunks, to taste
1 red bell pepper
1/4 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (or left whole, if you like)
rosemary or thyme to taste (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Note: to double the recipe, use two pans. Vegetables should not be crowded in the pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease roasting pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Place the carrots and potatoes onto the pan, and toss to coat with oil. Give them plenty of room. If the pan is too crowded, the veggies will steam, not roast, and you won’t get that lovely caramelization.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and turn each piece over. Don’t be afraid if the carrots are looking really dark, even almost black. Just taste one!

Then add the onion and bell pepper, and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil; toss all to coat; bake for 10 more minutes. (We were short on onion tonight, so there will be more of them in your pan. Assuming you plan ahead better than I do.)

To remove the woody end of the asparagus, just bend the stalk gently until it snaps in two. It will naturally break where the woody part becomes tender.

After the onion and bell pepper have had their 10 minutes, add the asparagus. Sprinkle all with herbs, if using. Continue baking until all of the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes more. Once tender, remove from the oven, and allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes in the pan.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm. Learn how to deal with your new popularity.

Recipe review: Twice-baked cauliflower (low carb!)

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Kalyn's twice-baked cauliflower
photo by Kalyn’s Kitchen

Twice-baked cauliflower? — Yes, this is every bit as delicious as a twice-baked potato!

Whether you’re trying to cut down on carbs, or trying to sneak more healthy veggies into your kids’ meals, or just want to play a trick on someone who says they hate cauliflower (perhaps your own taste buds?), this is your ticket.

In Kalyn’s updated version of this dish, she uses reduced fat cream cheese and sour cream, but me, I use the real stuff. Do as your own conscience allows, though.

Kalyn’s recipe calls for completely mashing the cauliflower — which I think would peg the comfort food scale! — but I wanted a chunkier texture than the mixer would get me, so I used a pastry blender. Worked great!

If you try this dish and fool someone into thinking it’s really potatoes, let me know. I bet you can pull it off!

(Note: this recipe is not Paleo, unless you are “primal” and allow dairy.)

You might also like:
Roasted Garlic “Mashed Potatoes”
Garlic Herb Cream Cheese Dip
Peanut Butter Pie (low carb)