first of the month: the sweet demon


Sugar is in the news a lot lately. We’ve been talking about this some over on Facebook, and it certainly came up a few months ago in our conversation about nutrition labels. In Mark Bittman’s March 25 column in the New York Times, he pretty much summed up the current thinking on what’s good and bad–at least today:

…The days of skinless chicken breasts and tubs of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter may finally be drawing to a close…But the real villains in our diet — sugar and ultra-processed foods — are becoming increasingly apparent. You can go back to eating butter, if you haven’t already.

And there you have it. Yay fat! Boo sugar. This lines up with the thinking that seems to be present over on the bestselling cookbooks on Amazon right now, too. Paleo, juicing, smoothies, weight loss, busting “sugar and carb cravings,” more weight loss, and lots of quitting sugar. When it comes to the demonizing of sugar, there’s some variety. Some people are just anti-refined sugar or hidden processed food sugar, and some people expand the evil bubble until it includes fruit. Either way, the general word on the street is that we’re all addicts in various amounts of denial.

Simultaneously, there’s a second and, I think, distinct conversation. This movie comes out next week, hoping, according to its website, to teach us that “everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years is dead wrong.”  As a nation, we’re eating too much sugar, but it’s mostly hidden in processed foods. I think that’s not news for must of you, but for lots of others, it certainly is. And (at least from the trailer) a lot of the focus of this story will be about Big Food, and how its time to fight back. I’m all for it.

You know where I’m coming from. I feel that the more we cook our own meals and snacks, the more conscious we can be about the sugar we consume. I think that’s just one of the benefits of cooking, and of making more conscious decisions about our food. Of course there are a lot of things that stop people being able to make those decisions in the first place, many of which I’d venture to say have to do with income. We’ve talked about that a lot here, and I hope we’ll continue that discussion. In short, I want people to eat less processed food, and to cook more. I want people to know they can create whatever they want. That’s why I do what I do.

But here’s my challenge:  I think there are two different conversations happening here.

1. Sugar is evil, and I have to stop eating all sugar. I am killing myself with every sweet spoonful in my coffee. (Oh shit- coffee? Is that ok?)

2. There are hidden sugars in processed foods, and these processed foods are making us (and more importantly our children) sick. Let’s lobby our government to stop subsidizing this, and work to make good, whole food and cooking accessible to everyone.

When it comes to the second issue, I feel pretty clear that I’m behind it. But the first? This one makes me squirm. And it’s easy for me to rant about it, but I’m trying to figure out exactly why. But I think it has something to do with this:

When we call some foods super foods  and others villains, I feel like it becomes harder to follow our own instincts, and to remember that food is to be enjoyed. I think that enjoyment is nutrient in itself–in fact, it might be one of the most important ones for my own health.

So these are the questions I’m struggling with today: Is there a clear relationship between these two issues? And at what point does the worry and stress and judgy-ness of what’s right and what’s wrong cause so much stress that the effect of the stress itself exceeds the health benefits of all those green smoothies?

I’m grateful, as always, for any thoughts you might have on this. Can we talk it through?


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45 Responses to first of the month: the sweet demon

  1. Caitlin Hotaling says:

    So relevant as always! Love your last bit about the stress about it all being beyond whatever we may be doing to boost our health. And I have no real answers, but I’ll pontificate any way.

    I’ve got a sweet tooth and done the no sugar thing. I will admit that for awhile I felt better not eating sugar at all. Eventually though the craving comes and I want it and feel guilty for eating it when I finally “cave” and eat the cookies! On the flip side I just read or heard that too much kale is causing health issues too. So, in my mind I try to stick to moderation. Moderation is nearly impossible if everything isn’t made from scratch in my own kitchen. This is exhausting and expensive and time consuming and I’m not the fan of it all that I am in my fantasy mother / wife model. So, keep on keeping on and doing what some of us dream of and enjoy reading about better than doing.

    • alana says:

      Oh, Caitlin- I assure you, I’m not making everything from scratch over here! Ironically, especially in book deadline crunches like now, I write far more about cooking from scratch than I actually cook :) But yes, I agree with you on moderation- all the way. And I think when it’s paired with an intuition about what feels good and doesn’t (as you lay out in your comment), it works especially well.

      • mary says:

        I agree with Caitlin that cooking from scratch is exhausting, but I am really interested in doing it as much as possible. I have your book and love it. I’ve made lots and lots of the recipes. I am just wondering how you manage to fit it in with a family and career. I don’t know if you have blogged about this before. I am new to your blog, but I would be interested in reading about what your weekly schedule looks like. I’ve already started making bread for sandwiches but like Caitlin said it can be overwhelming and I’d like to include more. I have a freezer full of chicken bones, but I’m still using store bought stock. How do you fit it in????

        • alana says:

          Hi Mary! I’ve written about this a bit, but your comment has inspired me to get a discussion going again. If you’re on FB, there’s a great thread going on (inspired by you!) on this very topic.

  2. Jenny says:

    I’ve really been working on curbing my sugar addiction. My problem with sugar is that once I start eating it, I have such a hard time stopping- for example, eating big bags of candy in a short time. I gave up all added sugar for Lent this year (fruit was ok, anything with sugar as an ingredient was not). Since Lent ended I’ve been trying to limit my sugar consumption to two days a week. I’ll see how long I can keep this up. I feel a lot better so far. I think I may need strict rules (at least for now) in order to keep myself from finishing off the whole batch of cookies, etc.

    • alana says:

      It’s good to hear you’re feeling better, and what I really hear in your comment is that you know what you need- that’s so key!

  3. Mindy says:

    I’ve given up sugar, I’ve binged on sugar, I’ve eaten sugar intuitively, I’ve eaten sugar moderately. I wish I had a clear answer here – I do know that when I’m off the white stuff I just feel soo much better. So for now I eat hardly any processed foods and if we do have a dessert its on the weekend and I’ve made it.

    This is such a great topic – I look forward to seeing what everyone else says about it.

  4. Lizzo says:

    I’m married to a type-1 diabetic and I have gestational diabetes, which thankfully will go away after I deliver my baby. I don’t think sugar is evil, but your body does have to work hard to process it in the form of creating enough insulin to balance out your blood sugar. This is true of all carbohydrates, but refined and simple carbs like cookies and apple juice spike blood sugar much more precipitously than say, brown rice, all other things being equal. Personally, I feel like crap if I eat too much sugar, but I love cookies and milkshakes. So my vote is for enjoyment in moderation and avoidance of unnecessary hidden sugars. I trust that my body can manage an occasional sweet treat but I’m not going to ask it to deal with big old piles of sugar on a regular basis. That’s my two cents. (P.s. Consuming protein with carbs helps your body process the carbs more easily. Pro tip.)

    • Lizzo says:

      Pps– of course I am avoiding all sweets for the rest of my pregnancy, I was just talking about normal circumstances, when I am not following a medical diet.

      • alana says:

        Liz, Great comment Liz- thank you!

        As a side note, I had minor gestational diabetes with Sadie, too. It’s funny- I craved chocolate all the time in later pregnancy, and of course I couldn’t have it. We bought one of my very favorite chocolate bars when I was due, and I have a clear memory of Joey breaking off one, perfect square of chocolate for me in the few minutes after Sadie was born. Best chocolate ever :)

  5. kaela says:

    Oh, Alana. Once again you’ve hit upon a topic near & dear to my rage button.

    Personally, I do not have a sweet tooth. Sure, I like the occasional cookie or piece of cake as much as the next girl; but I rarely crave that stuff, and if someone told me that I could never eat candy again (aside from a wistful glance at black licorice) I’d barely bat an eye. [Salt, on the other hand: salt I definitely DO crave, and in fact, feel ill & light-headed when I don't have enough.]

    Here’s the thing: Do you know why our processed foods contain so much sugar & salt? Because 35 years ago we demonized fat. Fat acts as a preservative to extend shelf-life of manufactured foods; fat also adds flavor. When the public demanded low-fat and non-fat versions of their favorite convenience foods, whopping amounts of sugar & salt were added to maintain taste, texture and shelf life.

    Now the mantra is that fat is OK and sugar is evil. So, for a generation, we’ll demonize sugar: we’ll replace it with carcinogenic sugar substitutes, and wonder why cancer in young people spikes in 2044. We’ll bring back fat, along with increased calorie count, and wonder why we can’t curb obesity and type 2 diabetes. We’ll mow down the rain forest to meet the demand of “alternative sweeteners” like coconut sugar and date sugar, somehow thinking that these processed sweeteners are less “evil” than cane or beet sugar.

    It all makes me more than a little crazy, as you can probably tell. The real truth is: macro-nutrients are irrelevant in a diet consisting almost entirely of processed & manufactured foods. I don’t think anyone has found a way, nor do I think that they will find a way, to manufacture processed foods that meet the criteria of tasty, shelf-stable, and healthful.

    Do you remember having Swanson TV dinners as a kid? I can probably count the number of times on one hand: they were a special treat (despite how truly gross they were), on par with birthday cakes or waffles for dinner. But now, plenty of people basically live on today’s version of the Swanson TV dinner: coffee & bagel for breakfast, a nuked frozen burrito for lunch, a nuked Lean Cuisine entree for dinner. All day, every day. I don’t know when “convenience foods” became “all the time foods” but it’s insidious. Far more insidious than fat, or salt, or sugar can ever hope to be.

    • alana says:

      Thank you so much for this, Kaela- I admit I was hoping you’d chime in! I think it’s so helpful to look at it cyclically like you lay out here. It just puts it in perspective that in some ways, we’ve been telling the same story over and over.

    • Jennifer Conner says:

      How articulate! I couldn’t agree more. I think we definitely are influenced by the “fad” of the time, and fall into talking about foods like they are “good” or “bad” rather than “appropriate choices for every day” and “appropriate choices for once in awhile”. Like so many of you have already shared, balanced homecooked meals made from whole foods are what we should be turning to most of the time. However, I think we need to acknowledge that it is alright to turn to convenience foods occasionally and that this choice doesn’t mean that I am a failure or will drop dead tomorrow.

  6. Kathryn says:

    I cannot tell you how much I love that you are writing about this!

    Kaela, I so appreciate your comments on what happened when we demonized fat, and I could not agree more. I feel like in the long list of things we as a culture are addicted to, black-and-white thinking, perfectionism, and “the secret to health” are bubbling to the top of the list, and I really hate that that is the case.

    I was off sugar for a couple of years (not fruit, potatoes, and wheat, just actual sugar). I got plenty of lectures about how I was not “really” off sugar because I just ate something with corn in it, but personally I think that’s ridiculous. Being off sugar was a good experience, and it taught me what my body feels like without it. I became able to recognize when there was too much of it by the way my body felt, and I didn’t like that over-sugared feeling. Now, my philosophy is that if I’m going to eat sweets, it should be something that’s worth it, not just something that’s there, and if it makes me feel bad, note to self for next time that it’s not a good thing to eat. At the moment, that is working for me pretty well. When it stops feeling right, I’ll do something different.

    I wish we as a culture could get off this rollercoaster. I really wonder if in part it’s related to not wanting to deal with the fact that no matter what we do, or how well we eat and exercise and whatever else, we will all someday die. That simple fact is a hard thing to really face. We spend a lot of energy trying to figure out what’s “killing us.” Yesterday it was fat. Today it’s sugar. I’m all for research and disease prevention, but I feel like if we acknowledged that life is temporary, perhaps we could talk more about togetherness and enjoyment and nourishment. We could figure out what sort of diet makes us feel good and contributes to being able to enjoy our time in our bodies. That is a conversation I would like to see happen.

    • alana says:

      Kathryn, I have to agree with you on this one big time. This is how I’ve thought about it lately, as I try to figure out why we’re so quick to demonize some foods and elevate others.

      I think living in a human body is just a messy thing. Wonderful, but messy. Bodies hurt, we get moody, we get tired, we get sick, and as you point out, it will definitely end at some point, no matter what we eat or don’t eat.

      Of course, that being said, I do feel that what we eat has an impact on our health. And we might feel better or worse, or even live longer or shorter depending on what we eat.

      But the truth is that bodies are bodies, and I think the more we can avoid the hype about what will save us or wreck us, the more we can tune in and know what feels good, and as you say, the more we can enjoy our time in this body.

  7. Hi-

    I have really been loving your recent questions about our relationship with food. I’m concerned that as a side effect to demonizing food and talking more about it’s nutritional values than the other valuable role it plays in our lives, we have lost trust in our bodies through becoming more “head-y” about food than present with it in our lives and bodies.

    When weight has become a normative discontent, regardless of size, I am concerned with our overly mechanized view of food and bodies in general. We we live in come connection and reverence for our bodies, we can hear and trust the feedback about our individual experience with food. The emphasis on being “good” or “better” I think is very stressful. Counter to health in general. I think we are far more resilient than the food fear conversation allows for.

    • alana says:

      Hilary- Great comment, and thanks so much for bringing up the weight issue especially. I think that weight discontent is often lurking behind claims for doing something in the name of health, and this is a big piece of the issue.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Great post and such smart commenters! My thoughts can be boiled down to “me, too” with the added note that my eating/cooking goal is to have a kitchen and table that my great-grandmothers would recognize. Those women were pie,cake and cookie bakers, sure, but they also started their fried chicken dinners by chasing down a young rooster. Their vegetables were dirty from their own gardens and they had a plan for what to do when the raw milk went sour. Oh, and put a dollop of bacon grease in the skillet before you fry the eggs, please.

  9. Deb Phillips says:

    It has been made so complicated for us. Food should nourish us and if it is real, there is not bad or good, but balance that we should be striving for. One person’s treat is another’s poison and I would like us to be less judgemental about other’s choices. Many of you have described your experience with sugar and those are valid and important but do not mandate that everyone else should eat as you do, or you as they.
    I agree with so many of the comments about not demonizing food; it is not healthy and yes, look where it has gotten us. Thanks Alana for engaging us in this dialogue.

    • Susan says:

      Right on about respecting each other’s choices! One size does NOT fit all and I would love to see more of a “let’s agree to disagree” approach to any discussion on food. I do feel that we need to focus on food our grandparents would recognize as food, but I also feel like we’ve lost one of the purposes of food which is to share with friends and family in a communal way…it’s almost impossible to get four friends together for a meal at a restaurant because everyone has something that they are avoiding – then the group is already stressed when they do get together, for a time that was supposed to be about friendship and fun! Or alternately, I feel like I can no longer bake something as a gift because it will be taken as sabotage rather than a loving gesture. (None of this is meant to be directed at people who have medical reasons for avoiding certain foods – but even they shouldn’t have feel like they have to “justify” their choices!)

  10. I abhor all this trendy food talk (I don’t mean the conversation you are starting here – I mean how everybody is always marketing the new healthy food trend). It’s making food into an obsession and we have forgotten how to eat reasonably! My goal is moderation in all foods – nothing is off limits, but I try to be moderate. I cook a lot of things from scratch, but I do occasionally buy some processed junk if I feel like it (right now in my cupboard: chips and crackers and peanut butter cups). I want to eat good, normal food with people I love. Period. People with health issues might need to watch what they eat, but I wish the rest of us would just calm down.

  11. i agree that we have been ill served by manufactured foods that are loaded with sugars and artificial things, that we have embraced ideas over wisdom, and somehow thought that we can isolate and add back nutrients. But I suspect there is a symbiosis in real natural things that we can’t yet replicate and don’t really understand. So I am all for reducing processed foods, and factory farming.

    It is also probably true that sugar, at the levels we consume it in Western nations is bad. But it does exist in nature and I believe we need it, but perhaps in smaller amounts. I dislike demonizing food. And I’m glad fats are back in favor, thug I’d eat them anyway. I have found I eat less, feel more satisfied, and am actually considerably slimmer and healthier when I eat real butter, full fat cheese and yogurt, and embrace the crispy chicken fat, than when I go down the imitation butter, man-made fat, low fat high artificial food diet. That said, I don’t believe in being a zealot about anything.

  12. Victoria says:

    And so this is the part that makes the nurse in me sigh right away. I agree with you that we all agree about item number 2 on your list, Alana. I do.

    The problem is item number 1. As a nurse, I am supposedly trained as a bachelors level scientist so my question to you is: What is sugar? Please define this substance in your own terms. Do you mean the white powdery sweet stuff? Or all sugars, as in the kind you find in fruit as well? Because the first thing I am inclined to say to you is please do not stop eating sugars. Sugars are good for you! Your body needs them! Your brain especially doesn’t like ketosis. it really really really really really really likes to use up glucose, and a lot of it.

    I’m inclined to think that it isn’t difficult to understand food science, its just hard when the information is lost in translation. If you understand how your gut processes an apple, you would never confuse the “sugars” that are bad for you for an apple but many of us lack that information. Education is key.

    We get our information from media sources where someone with a background in social sciences translates the work of someone who researches the natural sciences. The end result is pure crazy talk!! It oversimplifies the connections and isn’t specific enough!

    I eat with intention. I believe in eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables in their naturalist forms as possible and eating moderately. Use your intuition.

    Our relationship with food is so loaded.

  13. Fascinating conversation! I was looking forward to retirement so I’d have more time to cook whole foods and couldn’t wait to try a lot of Alana’s recipes, in particular, for baked goodies. Two months into retirement (and recuperating from breast cancer surgery and radiation) I found out that I was diabetic. I also had reached a terrifying 100+ lbs overweight! I am working on all of it, mostly by cutting back on carbs (and nearly ALL of my beloved baked desserts.) I have lost 44 lbs since October and still have quite a way to go.

    In addition to the refined sugars, I have to watch ALL sugars, which means that the beloved, healthy fruits must be eaten in much smaller amounts and balanced with healthy proteins.

    What this boils down to is that I agree totally with Number 2 above for people who are otherwise already healthy and not dangerously overweight. If I could go back 15 years, I would just stick with as much whole foods as possible and balance. Baked, sugary treats are just that…..treats… be eaten once in awhile. If you have a very active, physical lifestyle where you get plenty of exercise, you can indulge more often, but some of us (genetics can be a bitch) are always going to have to be more careful with sugars–even the natural ones that occur in our fruit or starchy veggies.

    I’m not trying to live forever, but quality of life is important for however long you get, and the effects of long term, uncontrolled diabetes will make for a miserable life. So I’m controlling mine with diet (my average fasting glucose is now about 105 and I do not take insulin) and aiming to avoid those miserable effects.

    • alana says:

      Thanks for adding this perspective in- it’s so important! For people who are truly overweight and dealing with health issues, I think it’s a totally different ballgame (as Lizzo mentioned up there, too). I think the key is probably that those who are NOT dealing with these issues need to chill out a bit, and not confuse themselves with those who are.

      (Also, I’m so glad to hear you’re doing so well. It sounds like there’s a lot on your plate and you’re working really hard to restore yourself to health. I just wanted to cheer you on! Also, more plant-based recipes in the next book, I promise.)

  14. Dalaiah Kusner says:

    Thanks for clearly separating the two issues! I agree that the second (hidden sugars in processed foods) is the more urgent topic.

    Having learned that my body is slightly insulin-resistant, I have cut out all sugar for over a year now, and I must say I do feel much better. (I have a higher and more consistent energy level, and hunger pangs are not so severe like they were before.)

    However, I feel perfectly fine about thoroughly enjoying a homemade sweet treat from time to time. (There’s absolutely no guilt!) Of course I feel best when the sugar used is fair trade or made in the US. I save those occasions for when it is truly worth it, and having cut out all processed foods and most sugar from my routine diet makes it so much easier to indulge when the appropriate occasion arises!

    I plan to taste-test many a jar of homemade preserves this summer, which will surely contain a good helping of sugar. :)

  15. Leah says:

    Wow – so many thought provoking comments here and really enjoyed your post. Just two thoughts here. First, my mother is a dietitian and whenever I tell people that, they assume that I grew up in a house with no desserts, no soda, no butter, etc. That is far from the case. My mother cooked dinner for the family as frequently as possible, used plenty of butter and olive oil and we always had treats around. But she has always emphasized that at the end of the day, it is really about what you put in versus what you expend. If you eat more calories than you burn, you are going to put on weight. That certainly doesn’t get into the specifics of what we are talking about here in terms of diabetes and the potential positive and negative effects of particular foods, but I feel like that simple mantra gets lost in the world of food trends.

    Second, I understand that for some people being super strict is the only way to do it, in other words – they can’t just a have a few bites here and there, so eliminating sugar is what works for them if they are trying to eat more cleanly or healthfully. But – I completely agree that our goal should not be to turn sugar into this evil demon but instead emphasize the importance of eating at home and eating whole foods. I do believe that our reliance on processed foods is having ill effects on our bodies and I think if we all tried to cook a little more, then we would feel better.

    I found the comment about the inevitability of the end of life very interesting – I have never thought about it that way. My response to that would be – if we can extend our lives by several years by eating more cleanly/healthfully, then why not do it?

    Thanks again for starting this intriguing conversation.

    • alana says:

      Thanks so much for you’re comment, Leah. And if I can speak to your question about Kathryn’s comment (although maybe she’ll come back and jump in- Kathryn?) I think it’s more about accepting that we can’t make ourselves live forever just by eating some magic diet. At least, that’s how I read it.

  16. Emma Smith says:

    I appreciate this conversation because I’ve felt for a while that we’re going about things the wrong way. I think that if it’s homemade (and especially if you made it yourself with your own two hands), it’s pretty much okay. Or at the least, its homemade credentials go a long way toward making up for its drawbacks. The principal at our school recently said no to after-school bake sales (in order to emphasize healthy eating), and I was very irritated. I think that if kids are overweight, it’s NOT because their parents are spending too much time baking cookies. Ban packaged cookies–yes. Ban chocolate chip cookies you and your kids made together? No. I’d rather my kid ate a cookie I baked than a junky, processed, but so-called wholesome packaged snack. There’s more at stake here than nutrition–there are habits and principles.

  17. Michelle B says:

    I agree with so much that has been said here. When discussing this with others, I summarize that in our house, we do not have “good” or “bad” food, we have food and we have treats. We believe that added sugar belongs in our treats, but not in our food. The sugars that are in fruit are just fine – that’s food! A cup of sugar in a batch of cookies is just fine – that’s treats! But there’s no need to have half a cup of sugar in a quart of pasta sauce. That means I make my own pasta sauce. When I do buy food items, I only buy certain brands or types that don’t contain added sugar. So much of this comes down to how it makes us feel. A cup of full-fat yogurt without sugar keeps me full and doesn’t give me the up-and-down carb roller coaster effect. A cookie after a healthful dinner just makes us all happy, and allows us to linger at the table and enjoy each other’s company longer.

  18. Stephanie says:

    I’m just so glad someone is having a nuanced conversation about this. I think that most people receive little to no real instruction or education in nutrition (I think I can count on one hand the times in grade school we did a unit/few days each year on learning the food pyramid) . Since most of us have not had any formal nutrition education of any substance, we’re trying to educate ourselves as best we can. This leaves us vulnerable to fads, and misinformation distributed by weight loss product peddlers more interested in making money than providing real useful information.
    Add in people like me who use food as an escape from emotional issues instead of nourishment, its discouraging to see how far the American diet has gone off the rails.
    Just got your book, and so just found you here on the net. Glad to find a place to talk about these things in a calm, open manner. Unless a specific medical condition indicates otherwise, I think moderation in all things is a reasonable approach to diet.

  19. Kim says:

    I agree with Michelle B. The sugar in special treats is fine. They are treats and I want to enjoy them! It’s the sneaky sugar in pasta sauce, salad dressing, canned beans (!), etc., that is so dangerous. And not for the sugar content alone, but because it sets our taste buds to expect all foods to be sweet. Interestingly, a comment you hear frequently from European visitors to the US is that they are shocked by how sweet our bread is. To them it tastes like cake.

  20. Lisa M. says:

    Moderation moderation moderation. Sugar is not the villain, the villain is us! We overuse sugar, true, but completely eliminating it from your diet isn’t the answer. Life is too short not to enjoy wonderful things like cakes and pies. The key word again is moderation.
    Another blog I follow went on a sugar fast for Lent. I was slightly confused because she then made sweets for her family but her justification was that she used honey and maple syrup instead of white sugar. Granted honey and maple syrup are probably better for you, but sugar is sugar, isn’t it?
    I think the bigger concern is that we begin to eliminate processed food from our lives. And definitely NOT coffee!! You had me LOLing at you first point!

  21. Sophie says:

    Is it better to consume small amounts of sugar as often as you’d like, or eat a bigger portion but only once a month? Is it better to replace white sugar with more “natural swetners” (like maple or honey), or eliminate them altogether?

    This is why I like “The Homemade Pantry” so much, which features food made in your own kitchen. Many people swear by cutting something out of their diet- meat, dairy, gluten, sugar etc. But I believe in the importance of making your own food as much as possible.

    That is what I believe in. I am an epicurean and there are too many instances in life to enjoy where it doesn’t make sense to leave out dairy, meat or sugar. I instead try to use ingredients, tools and methods that the old timers would recognize.

    Sometimes I am almost convinced to eliminate sugar, become a vegan or eat only raw foods, but then I think, do I really want vanilla powder, fake butter or dextrose in my pantry? No thanks. I always feel best when I’m eating homemade food with real ingredients. I love food that tastes like the earth.

  22. Cyn says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this thread. It is something I think about a lot – balance and moderation. I find that I worry more about the chemicals used to manufacture sugar than the actual sugar itself. Alana, how do you handle things like GMOs and chemical processing? I have noticed many of your recipes use honey or maple syrup, which are more natural, where other recipes might use regular sugar. I have often wondered if it was a taste preference or a way to avoid heavily processed ingredients.

    • alana says:

      Cynthia, my sugar choices tend to be around what I think works best in a recipe. I really love maple syrup and honey, so those are less “alternatives” for me and more just delicious ingredients. As for GMOs, I don’t have any strict rules, but I tend to use organic sugar that isn’t GMO. I want to get more into GMOs in a future conversation- I’ve just been trying to do some sturdy research in the last few months.

  23. Janet says:

    “Enjoyment is a nutrient in itself”–yup, yup, yup. And maybe the place where your two separate conversations come together is over another one of those unmeasurable, essential ingredients to feeling healthy about eating: thought. Just noticing where it came from, what is in it, how I feel when I eat it, how it fits into the picture of what else I’ve eaten today and how I am already feeling, etc. I feel like these considerations move relatively peacefully across the big divides of one size does not fit all budgets, body types, appetites or schedules. The limitations of time and other resources are absolute realities that people of ALL philosophies face when the rubber meets the road. Compromises are inevitable and forgiveness makes them so much less exhausting–and maybe even inspirational. Great conversation!

  24. Had to jump back in here to say that just yesterday (May 9) a new movie was released, produced by Katie Couric, called “Fed Up” about the added sugars in our processed foods. I don’t see it anywhere locally, but I’m sure eventually we’ll be able to watch it online, Netflix or DVD. I saw her talking with Anderson Cooper last week and it was interesting.

    I was remembering waaaayyyy back in the 80′s (gasp!) reading a book called. “Sugar Blues” which informed us of the whole history of white sugar and the addictive effects on the body. The book wasn’t brand new, even then, so the information has been around a good, long while. And yet…..processed foods now have more sugar than EVER! Big food companies are to blame, playing on the addictive qualities of the sugar. Yet they are denying that…much like the tobacco producers back when concerned activists were trying very hard to point out the dangers of smoking. Sheesh. Greed will always be around, I suppose.

  25. Judy says:

    I reckon the link between the two is this: we’ve started to label sugar as evil BECAUSE it has been hidden in processed foods – the issues have become tangled. Sugar is not evil, but when it’s in 80% of packaged foods in America, moderating it in your diet becomes difficult, if not impossible for some. That’s compounded by the addictive element. If you’re only eating sweet snacks that you make yourself, odds are you’ll have a hard time making enough to reach the point where it’s dangerous to your health.

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