In the aftermath of Halloween (which it still is around here; my son decided to “go pro” this year and trick-or-treat on his Razor scooter, with a pillowcase), I can fully relate to the idea that sugar is a drug — a potent drug that beckons you from across the room with false promises of satisfaction and chocolate-induced bliss only to leave you feeling guilty and more than slightly sick. I have a tough time limiting my intake of fun-sized Butterfingers and Almond Joys — even though I am a friggin’ food evangelist (thankfully, the black hole bucket of candy goes to the Troops today, although I’m not sure I get why it’s a good idea to ply our country’s servicemen and women with processed sugar…). So I can only imagine how much snarfing goes down among kids when their at least semi-serious parents aren’t looking.
It’s been pretty widely established that we Americans eat too much sugar. Instead of the relatively natural sugars people used to eat occasionally (if they were lucky), on average we eat 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, more than 350 calories’ worth. And most of that is highly processed and incredibly hard on our bodies and our moods. Sugar is associated with just about every health problem you can think of — from irritable bowel syndrome to diabetes to chronic fatigue. It’s also thought to impair immunity by blocking vitamin C from entering white blood cells. Not to mention it can rot your teeth, make you feel crappy, and get fat.
So, what’s a sugar-aware person to do? Well, I was planning on writing a post about curbing sugar cravings but then came across this article from Frank Lipman, M.D., a well-known and respected integrated-medicine doc in NYC whose followers include many svelte celebrities. I’ve tried many of Dr. Lipman’s suggestions, with varying degrees of success, but frankly I don’t consider having a piece of fruit “giving in” to my sugar cravings.
As I’ve learned more about sugar, I’ve tried to cut my family’s sugar intake by limiting processed foods, almost all of which contain gobs of added (and often disguised in the ingredients list) sugar, to almost none (no real hardship there if you ask me) and soda (one 12-oz. Coke contains as 45 grams of sugar, more than you’re supposed to consume in a day). I personally don’t think it’s a good idea to completely ban sugar because I envision a day when my kids are left to their own devices and have no skills for coping with all the sugar in the world. That said, we try to remember to “treat treats as treats” as Michael Pollan says, and (Halloween loot notwithstanding) make relatively wholesome choices when it comes to deserts and sugary snacks. When it comes to sugar, I guess I think you should make it worth it; have something that’s really, really satisfying and delicious.
So, instead of writing about avoiding sugar, I offer you some, well, sweeter ideas for coping with sugar cravings. My first suggestion is to eat a small piece of really good dark chocolate. Seriously, think of this as a weight-loss tip. High-quality dark chocolate (65% or higher cocoa content) is much lower in sugar than milk chocolate, it’s full of antioxidants, and most of its fats are the “good” kind — plus its flavor is very intense and a little goes a long, satisfying way. I love the Green & Black’s Organic Dark 70%.
If you’re looking for more chewy satisfaction, look no further than these super simple French Coconut Macaroons (not to be confused with macarrons, which is what they call meringues in France), which are just sweet enough to be a treat. Usually baking is not really my thing — too many precise measurements and crucial steps. But these macaroons are quick, easy, and don’t require any heavy equipment. Plus, the ingredients list is very short, keeping things in the “relatively wholesome” category in my book.
Simple Coconut Macaroons
- 1 1/2-1 3/4 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1/3 cup sugar (I know sugar is sugar, but I use organic evaporated cane juice instead of refined white sugar; it just seems like it must require a few chemicals to make the stuff that perfectly white)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)
- A few miniature dark chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the coconut and sugar in a bowl, mix with a fork.
Beat the eggs with a fork. Pour beaten eggs and melted butter into the coconut mixture and mix until fully blended. Add almonds if using and mix well.
Grease a cookie sheet (I use cooking spray). Spoon cookies onto baking sheet. They don’t spread much so you should be able to fit 18-20 cookies on the sheet. Pile the batter up to make mounds. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips if using. Dried cranberries are also really good in these, but I didn’t have any today.
Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 18 minutes, until macaroons are lightly browned on top. Use a metal spatula to peel the cookies off the sheet while they’re still warm.