Sugar has received a lot of attention lately with the publication of, “The toxic truth about sugar” by Dr Lustig and others in the scientific journal Nature.

Dr. Lustig and his colleagues squarely place the blame on sugar for the prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and potentially some cancers. The evidence is very persuasive and more and more studies are currently been conducted that support Dr. Lustig’s findings.

Many years ago the vast majority of our sugar intake was through the consumption of whole fruits. Yes, fruit can be quite high in naturally occurring sugars but do not have the A close up image of a group of Williams Pearssame insidious impact on our bodies as added sugars due to the fact that the sugars were “packaged” with about 3-5 grams of fibre. The fibre in fruit slows the body’s absorption of the sugars and mitigates any harmful impact that sugars may potentially have. The fibre is also filling so it is unlikely that we will sit down to a snack of 10 oranges.

The story has changed and the vast majority of the sugars we are currently consuming come from added sugars in processed foods and beverages or from naturally occurring sugars in juice.

When discussing sugar we need to distinguish between naturally occurring sugars and added sugar. Naturally occurring sugars include the sugars contained in fruits, vegetables, as well as milk (lactose) and some whole grains. Added sugars, unsurprisingly, are any sugars added to foods. They may come in many forms such as: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), cane sugar, sucrose, glucose, fructose, malt, maltose, corn syrup, malt syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, molasses, and evaporated cane juice.

It is not as simple as vilifying added sugars and eating natural sugars with abandon. Take the case of juice. A “no sugar added” juice will still have approximately 30 grams (6 tsp) of sugar in 1 cup. The sugar is derived naturally from the fruit; however, as the fibre has been stripped away any amelioration of the sugar’s impact on our blood glucose has also been removed. Therefore, I consider juice to be as damaging as “added sugar” and should be avoided.

The American Heart Association has come out with recommended guidelines for sugar consumption for different age groups. Adult men should consume no more than 9 tsp (45 grams) and for women 6 tsp (30 grams) a day. Children should consume no more than 3-4tsp of added sugar a day. Repeat:

Children should consume no more than 3-4 teaspoons of sugar a day! 

How many of our kids are within that guideline? It can be difficult as many so called “health foods” are actually loaded with added sugar. A single serving size of blueberry yogurt contains 19 grams of sugar (4 tsp), a bowl of granola 17 grams (3 1/2 tsp). Not to mention the fact that even the Canada Health Guide suggests a half cup of juice can count for one fruit serving (at 15 grams of sugar a pop!).

Let’s look at the sugar content of an average child’s diet during one school day.  I won’t count the naturally occurring sugars from whole fruits and vegetables with the exception of the juice as it acts like an added sugar in our body. I have also not included any desserts. Many parents would likely consider this a very “healthy day”:


1 slice of toast (2 grams)

2 tsp peanut butter (1 gram)

½ cup unsweetened apple juice (14 grams)


1 small container (100g) 0% Fat Peach & Passionfruit Greek Yogurt (11 grams)

1 apple (unprocessed fruit – free)


Grilled cheese (4 grams from bread) with 1 packet ketchup (2 grams), carrot sticks and ranch dip (1 gram)

Glass of milk (naturally containing sugars – free)

After-school Snack:

Quaker 25% Less Sugar Granola Bar (5 grams)


1 cup of pasta with tomato and cheese sauce (11 grams) & steamed broccoli

Total added sugars and juice = 51 grams = 10-12 tsp of sugar.

Shocked? I am.

You will do your children an incredible service if you could slowly wean them off sugar and dull those seemingly unquenchable sweet-tooths. Here’s how:

1. Drink water for thirst. Get them off that juice. If your children currently drink undiluted juice, start by diluting it ¾ juice to ¼ water. After a week switch it to half and half. After the next week, ¼ juice to ¾ water until just water.

2. Avoid all pops and energy drinks.

3. Buy natural yogurt and add ½ tsp of runny honey to serve. The next week try ¼ tsp, the week after that just the natural yogurt.

4. Ignore the health claims on the front of the box and read the label. I have a theory that the more health claims on a product, the unhealthier it is. For example, the sugar in breakfast cereals can range from 0 grams (Fibre One) to 20 grams (Raisin Bran Crunch) for 1 cup. Aim for 5 grams of sugar or less per serving, or buy products with 0 added sugars and then sweeten them naturally with fresh berries or slices of banana on top.

5. Bake breads, muffins and even cookies that are sweetened with whole fruits like bananas, apples and oranges with no added sugar. See the recipe of the week.

6. Fruit for dessert. If you are a household that is used to dessert, try substituting fresh fruit for your usual fare. This way, you avoid arguments about whether your children “deserve” dessert from finishing their meal. If they only nibble at their dinner, you can be happy that they will get some nutrients and satisfy their appetites with a plate of baked pears and plums or a bowl of peaches and cream or a simple fruit salad.

7. Eat foods in their natural state or as close to their natural state as possible. If you eat unprocessed foods and make meals from scratch then there is no chance of added sugars, salt and other chemical preservatives sneaking into their diets.

8. 85% Dark Chocolate has less than 1 teaspoon of sugar for 30 grams (which is a large amount). If your kids are milk choco-holics, try substituting it for 70% dark chocolate  for a few weeks and then bumping it up to 85%.

A sugar tooth can be cured, but it takes time and perseverance. If you are in any doubt that it is worth it, cut out 90 minutes of your day to watch Dr Lustig explain The Bitter Truth About Sugar:


Flourless & Sugarless Pumpkin Banana Muffins

1 ¼ cups ground almonds

¼ cup ground flax seeds

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Pinch salt

3 eggs

½ cup canned pumpkin

1 large ripe banana, mashed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup chopped almonds


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin pan with paper liners or use coconut oil to grease pan.

In a large bowl mix together ground almonds, ground flax seeds, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.  Set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together eggs, pumpkin, banana, and vanilla extract.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix to combine.  Stir in almonds until well incorporated.

Scoop batter into prepared muffin pan cups filling ¾ full.

Bake muffins for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.

Tip: If your kids balk at the lack of sweetness, I sometimes use the trick of adding one small piece of 85% chocolate on top of each muffin. It is the first bite they take and that tends to seal the deal.

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What’s for Breakfast?

“Could you do a piece on breakfast foods? I eat oatmeal in the morning, but I am often wondering what other alternatives there are that can take you to lunch where you feel filled and not starving by 10 am?”
Great question.

A consumer analysis report found that Canadian breakfast choices are driven by the 4 Hs: health, habit, hunger and hurry.

This may be why cold breakfast cereal tops the list of most frequently consumed breakfast food. It can be prepared in less than a minute and you would be hard pressed to find a cereal box that did not promulgate some health benefit. Even Fruit Loops, yes really, includes the health claim “source fiber” (a whopping 2 grams) in ¾ of a cup. Along with that 2 grams of fibre you get 3 teaspoons of sugar, 150mg of sodium, which is about 10% of your recommended daily intake, and a slew of artificial colouring.

So what are some better breakfast options? We know that oatmeal is a great choice to start off our day and the reason for this is its fibre content and the fact that it contains intact grains, that is, the oats have not been refined into flour and then processed further into bagels, wraps or boxed cereal. It takes our digestive system a long time to break through those grains and absorb the nutrients.

Other fibrous foods include whole fruit (not juice), beans and legumes. It may at first seem funny to dive into a plate of beans for breakfast but a black bean scramble with some grated cheddar would be a delicious way to start the day.

The other key ingredient in making breakfast a satiating meal is protein. Protein is also slowly digested and absorbed ensuring that we stay fuller for longer and avoid mid-morning hunger pangs. When we think of protein meat, poultry and fish come first to mind, which might not sound appetizing at 7am. However, try considering a turkey sausage or lox on scrambled eggs. Both Greek yogurt and cottage cheese mixed with fresh fruit would also provide between 12-16 grams of protein for half a cup.

Healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, avocados can also be added to perk up breakfast and make it a meal you look forward to eating. Topping oatmeal off with some crunchy nuts and seeds, or spreading a tablespoon of walnut butter on an apple, or having sliced avocado with a hard-boiled egg can provide a different taste and texture to your regular ‘go to’ morning meal.

I recommend trying to avoid flour products as much as possible, but if you find it difficult having breakfast without some form of bread product, then simply follow these guidelines. Choose dense, heavy, whole grain bread with copious amounts of seeds and nuts. Limit to one piece and load it up with protein and healthy fats. I like Silver Hills Macks’ Flax and Steady Eddie which have a low glycemic load score, are non-GMO and have a good source of fibre and some protein. 

So putting all of that advice together here is a list of some “out of the box” breakfast options:

Weekday – Quick and Easy

(*denotes recipe below)

  • Greek yogurt or cottage cheese, fresh berries or fruit and handful of mixed raw nuts and seeds
  • Steel cut or old fashion oatmeal (not instant) with added fresh fruit and nuts
  • Apple slices with almond butter and hard-boiled egg
  • Scrambled eggs with peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese (+ half a papaya)
  • No sugar added Banana Almond muffins (see January blog for recipe) and a pear
  • 1 large orange + 1 slice of Mack’s Flax or Steady Eddie topped with:
    • Nut or seed butter and banana slices
    • 1oz of favourite cheese and tomato slices
    • Egg prepared any way
    • Nitrite-free ham and avocado slices
  •  A Real (no-juice) Smoothie*
  • Warmed black beans topped with grated cheddar and a dollop of salsa and natural yogurt + (fresh mango and pineapple chunks)

Weekend or when you have a bit more time

  • Smoked salmon and avocado omelette (+ 2 plums)
  • Oat bran pancake* topped with fresh berries or blended tropical fruit
  • Wheat-free tortilla*  with cheese, salsa and guacamole (+ two kiwis)
  • Frittata with cherry tomatoes and baby spinach and a side turkey sausage ( cook sausages the night before and just microwave to warm up for a quick protein-rich addition to your breakfast)
  • Cinnamon Millet Porridge with Diced Apple*
  • Half a cantaloupe and Florentine Hash Skillet
  • Mushroom and Wild Rice Fritatta

Real Smoothie 

The options are endless. The rules for a smoothie are:

–       Use only whole fruit, no juice

–       Add some natural Greek yogurt for that satiating protein

–       Use water or ice cubes to loosen

–       A tablespoon of ground flax or hemp seeds for some omega 3 fatty acids

Oat Bran Pancake

While I’m not a promoter of the Dukan Diet, I do like their oat bran pancakes. They can be a great substitute for bread and the traditional white fluffy pancake:

1 1/2 tablespoons of Oat Bran

1 1/2 tablespoons of non-fat fromage frais or natural Greek yogurt (non sweetened)

1 egg


Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. If the mixture is too stiff, add a couple of teaspoons of skim milk.

Add a couple of drops of light oil to a frying pan and heat up pan. Once warm, pour the mixture into the pan and cook on a medium heat until the underside is golden and the upper side starts to dry.

Flip the pancake and cook the other side.

Can use like bread and spread your favourite nut butter over top, or a poached egg. Or treat like a regular pancake and simply add fresh or pureed berries or tropical fruit.

Flax Seed Wrap (adapted from Dr W. Davis, Wheat Belly)

Makes 1 serving

3 Tablespoons ground flax seeds

¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp onion powder

¼  tsp paprika

Pinch of sea salt

1 Tablespoon melted butter

1 Tablespoon water

1 large egg


Mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Stir in melted butter.

Beat in the egg and water. Pour batter into a greased frying pan (between 8-10 inches depending on how thick you would like the wrap) and cook on stove top for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Then place under hot grill for about 1-2 minutes to cook the top. Remove carefully with a spatula and fill with desired ingredients. It will be fragile.

Tip: after grilling the top of the wrap, I add some avocado slices, fresh tomatoes or salsa and a bit of your favourite cheese – goat’s cheese or a sharp cheddar would be nice.  Place wrap back under grill to melt cheese. I then flip half the wrap over on itself and remove from pan like you would an omelette. 

Cinnamon Millet Porridge with Apple & Almonds

1/3 cup millet

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup skim milk or 1/2 cup soymilk

1 cinnamon stick

1 pinch salt

2 tablespoons raisins (optional)

½ apple diced just before serving

1 Tablespoon of toasted almond slivers


In a small saucepan, combine millet, water, milk, cinnamon,  salt and raisins.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes without stirring.

If the liquid is not completely absorbed, cook for 3-5 minutes longer, partially covered.

Remove from heat.  Stir in chopped apple and toasted almond slivers.



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