If you are just starting out on your real food journey, it can be very overwhelming. Sugar is an especially hard ingredient to limit from our diets because it seems to be in everything in one form or another. While some things are obviously full of sugar (donuts, cookies, cake, etc.), there are other less-obvious items that are also full of sugar. It’s important to be an ingredient reader. And be careful, if the label says sugar-free, it probably contains an artificial sweetener. Choosemyplate.gov gives a good list of what added sugars may look like on an ingredient label.
Maybe you are not ready to start making everything from scratch in your kitchen, but you don’t want to buy foods filled with sugar and, well, your family needs to eat! Here’s 5 budget food items your family might eat on a regular basis, and what you can do to get them without sweeteners.
Yogurt is a healthy and probiotic-rich food, unfortunately it is usually high in sugar or artificial sweeteners. Buy plain, whole-fat yogurt that comes in the larger tubs. (We get the organic European Style whole fat yogurt at Trader Joes.) Sweeten it up for yourself and your family using fruit, naturally sweetened preservatives, or raw honey. Sometimes I throw it in the blender with some frozen berries and a banana to make a yogurt smoothie. When we first cut out sugar in yogurt, we had to use a lot of natural sweeteners to make it palatable. It tasted bitter and disgusting. Now we can eat it plain, no problem, including the kids. Your taste buds do change and adjust, it just takes time.
Buy the peanut butter that only has ‘peanuts’ as an ingredient, no sugar and no hydrogenated oils. Usually this kind of peanut butter naturally separates with the oil sitting on the top. This is natural and how it is supposed to be. When you get home you can stir it up and add some sea salt if you want. Almost every store sells nut butters with good ingredients, you just have to become an ingredient reader. It’s also super simple to make your own nut butters. Just throw the nuts in a food processor and process until they become the consistency you like. You can soak the nuts beforehand to reduce phytates.
Bread is a big source of hidden sugars. Often there will be sugar and high fructose corn syrup in popular sandwich breads. If you’re not up for making your own bread, you can find bread with simple, real food ingredients, you just have to look really hard. It’s not ideal (especially the enriched flour), but it’s definitely a huge improvement and a good compromise food. There should never be any reason for a ton of ingredients in a plain loaf of bread. Sourdough is the best because it sours the grain, breaking down the phytates and making the nutrients more available to our bodies.
*I thought I had read this label well at the store, but look, there’s sugar! Just goes to show how hard it is to avoid. Will I throw it out? Nope. I’m just going to try and be more careful next time.
Spaghetti is a quick and easy dish, however, most of the popular brands of spaghetti sauce, including organic brands, contain sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. If you don’t have time to make your own, you should have no problem finding a sugar free sauce at the store, it just takes time to stop and read all the ingredients. (Hopefully you are better at that than I am lol.)
My kids love applesauce, but I don’t always have time to make it myself and I hate how most brands are loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Look for applesauce that only has apples in the ingredients. This is one thing I try to buy organic since apples are usually heavily sprayed with pesticides. It can taste kind of bland at first when you are used to the really sweet stuff, but once your taste buds have adjusted, it’s got a great natural sweetness to it.
Remember, it’s all about progress. It’s often not practical to get rid of all sugar-filled things in the house right away. A good method is to use up what you have and then replace it with the real-food version. In this way it’s not as hard on the budget and it eases the transition.
My goal behind this post is to encourage. I know I read so many blogs where the blogger makes everything from scratch all day long and doesn’t let any store bought food into the house. I want to give other options for people who aren’t at that stage yet, but want to make steps towards a healthier diet. It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress.
What are the biggest sugar-offenders in your house? Have you found a good alternative?Share in the comments and maybe we can all help each other!