Growing up in Israel, Thursdays were Market days. I remember my father coming home, basket full of groceries for the week. On special days, a stalk of sugar cane was sticking out of the basket. We would gather around him as he’d peeled the hard skin of the cane and cut the inside fiber into long rectangular pieces in which we would sink our teeth and chew until the flavors of sugary essence filled our mouths. It tasted better than candy, better than ice-cream, better than cake- it was pure sweetness; an outburst of heaven.
Sugar in its many forms, has been a dominating part of my diet for many years. Although my parents raised us on a well balanced Middle Eastern diet with only an occasional sweet added in, over the years I developed a voracious appetite to anything sweet. In a love-try to hate relationship, I tried to restrain my sweet-tooth but for no avail. Regardless of sugar- free recipes or diet plans I’d supposedly committed to at any point of time, there was always a way to sneak in a chocolate covered this or whip-cream on top that. Sugar was in my blood!
Studies show that the average American consumes 22 teaspoon of sugar a day. According to the USDA, United States is the world’s largest consumer of sweeteners, including high-fructose corn syrup (http://ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/sugar-sweeteners.aspx).
According to Rich Cohen in Sugar Love, a not so sweet story (National Geographic, August 2013), high rates of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease are only few of sugar’s legacy, “Fructose in excess is a health hazard… fructose is processed mainly in the liver into fats, which can build up there and also enter the blood. The resulting risks: obesity, hypertension, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.” Sugar addiction has become a national problem. Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States suffer from diabetes and another 79 million Americans are pre-diabetes and at risk for developing type 2 diabetes (www. diabetes.org).
On a national level, the negative press has helped raise awareness as to the abundant health risks a diet high in sugar poses.
On a personal level, I discovered that the symmetry between my sugar intake and my significantly growing waist line wasn’t to my liking. I turned to the one support group I knew would be the most viciously honest about restraining my addiction to sugar, the one support group I couldn’t quit even if I tried – my kids!
Bringing awareness into your home and making everyone apart of the overall effort to live a healthier life raises conscious levels and encourages family members to take charge and be involved in making a thoughtful choice of what to put on our dinner plates. Children who are mindful of what they eat can definitely bring down to earth the importance of making a good, nutritional conscious choice. It’s a win-win; parenthood puts us in focus with what is best for our kids. In this partnership, our kids not only choose well for themselves, but also help us make a good healthy choice.
I didn’t give up sugar completely, nor do I think I ever will. I did however tremendously reduce the amount of my daily intake. I’ve learned to like my latte sugar free, enjoy my cookies sugar less, and where as once I used to sweeten my fruit salad with maple syrup, nowadays, I’ve learned to add… nothing!
With the holidays just around the corner sweet temptations will be challenging. But with everyone at home on board, I’m sure that Sugar Love will be much easier to curb.
Sugar Free Dates filled Cookies (naturally sweetened with dates)
5 cups whole wheat flour
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup oil
200 g butter, soft
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup Sugar Free Date paste
¾ cup walnut pieces
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, butter, oil, and egg yolks. Knead ingredients into a soft dough (if the dough is sticky, add additional flour). Cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Remove dough from refrigerator and divide into 4-5 parts.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll each part into a thin rectangle.
Spread with date’s paste. Sprinkle walnuts on top.
Roll dough into a tight cylinder. Cut cylinder into 1″ slices.
Lay slices in a lightly greased 12″x10″ baking pan.
Bake 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven.
Cool before serving.