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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3 thoughts on “SUGAR SUGAR…..

    • This recipe calls for 1/2 a cup but the recipe titled Alice’s Pumpkin Banana and Dark Chocolate Muffins calls for a 15oz tin (smaller size). Hope you enjoy!

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