Processed food items have more than palm oil in them which raise alarm flags for me. Don’t get me wrong, it truly triggers me when I see palm oil in a food item. But it’s not the only reason I stay away from most packaged and processed food.

I have a sweet tooth. And while I have given up sugar on multiple occasions for periods of time (while on Keto, when I did Whole30, and random other occasions), I cannot, and will not give it up completely. Some people don’t have a problem living without sugar. Those who follow Keto or Whole30 on a daily basis do very well. For me, I can go without it for a short amount of time, but I always cave eventually. Luckily, with Paleo, you don’t have to give up ALL sugars completely.

The sugar we consume today is a highly processed product which little resembles the natural plant or source of sweetness. It is either highly refined to the white stuff we put in everything, or it is extracted through corn to make high fructose corn syrup. Either way, this ingredient is common in most processed foods, especially in baked goods, candy, and sweets.

And processed sugar isn’t just bad for you, it’s bad for the environment. In Florida, they are experiencing a horrible green and blue algae bloom caused by toxins and pollutants in the water. Environmentalists have linked the pollution to sugar plantations leaking phosphorus into the waterways. This, of course, is a complicated long story made super short (but not sweet). But it doesn’t bode well for Florida’s top industry, its marine life, nor its residents if we don’t get a handle on the situation.

So, we should stay away from sugar, right? Yes, and well, no. Not if you don’t think you can handle life without a LITTLE sugar.

But if sugar is so bad, why would I support consuming it, even in small parts?

Because I advocate consuming the good sources of sugar, in moderation. Honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup are natural, paleo-approved alternatives to our refined sugary sweets. And honestly, it’s SO much better than what we have gotten used to.

My first and most enthusiastic endorsement goes for honey. Honey is the best source of sweetness for so many reasons. It helps with allergies, and has a slew of other health benefits. Because honey is so dense, it takes less than half the amount to produce the same sweetness as sugar, so you don’t need to use as much. And being a product of bees, honey supports pollinators as well as farms who utilize pollinators. Bees need all the environmental help they can get, so by purchasing local, raw honey from your local farmer’s market or store, you are making a huge difference.

But sadly, some people cannot consume honey. I have a friend who is allergic. And then there is my husband with a compromised immune system, so he, too cannot eat it, either. Honey is also not considered vegan. Because it is produced by bees, vegans often will not eat it.

Instead of suffering, I suggest looking into agave nectar and maple syrup. Both of these natural sugars come from plants (maple trees and agave plants), so they are considered vegan. Agave nectar is also lower on the glycemic index than regular sugar. Sugar ranges from 60-100 depending on the modifications done to it. Agave nectar is only at 15, making it one of the lowest of natural sources for sugar on the glycemic index.

And with these natural sweeteners, you can make a lot of sweet treats. Here are just a couple snacks I prepared this week with agave nectar and honey.

Pear with Chia Seeds and Agave Nectar  2 servings- 170 calories, Carbs: 22.4g, Fat: 1.4g, Protein: 1.8 g

Ingredients

  • 1 pear
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar

Directions

  1. Cut pears in half and cut out center to create a small pocket.
  2. Mix chia seeds and honey together with 1 tsp of water. Pour mixture over pear halves
  3. Place pears on a baking sheet and set oven to 350 F. Bake for 20 minutes or until soft.
  4. Can enjoy warm or let cool and enjoy later.

 

Caveman Candy  6 servings:  291 calories, Carbs: 12.7 g, Fat: 25.4 g, Protein:  7.2 g

Ingredients

  • 2 cups nuts (almond, hazelnut, or any other nuts you like)
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • ¼ C pure cocoa
  • 2 Tbsp honey

Directions

  1. Place nuts in a food processor or ninja and grind to minced pieces
  2. Melt honey and coconut oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add cocoa and ground nuts, mixing everything together.
  4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pour  mixture onto parchment paper.
  5. Refrigerate until hardened, about 1-2 hours.

Next time you have a hankering for sweetness, try some honey or natural sugars, and see how you can make a healthier choice without compromising taste.

 

Today:

Breakfast: Trail Mix
Lunch: Almonds (I was bad…)
Dinner: Blackened salmon and veggies (beets, red onion, delicata squash, mushrooms, broccoli)

Workouts
Mobility class in Oak Harbor
Walk/Run around Greenbank

Mood: Felt very sluggish today, like I couldn’t get going. I did push myself to “run” a little bit at Greenbank, but that was after a 20 minute walking warm-up. Don’t feel like I accomplished a whole lot either, even though I stayed somewhat busy.

Challenges: I have not lost as much weight as I had hoped. I’m looking at my menu and seeing if there are ways to cut some unnecessary calories without getting into hunger/craving territory. I noticed I have nuts and nut butter on almost every single snack, which may be a little overboard. Since I’m revamping the program anyways and adding Mediterranean week, I might be able to figure out what to do about the snack situation.