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Swedish Mom's Stand Against Sugar Goes Viral (BBC NEWS)

Anna Larsson has inspired thousands of moms, as her story about cutting daily sugary treats out of her 4-year-old's diet goes viral.

So what happened? Larsson posted about her experiment, and the fabulous results, on Facebook. Her post has been shared thousands of times! This is the grassroots mother-to-mother movement we need to restore the health of our families.

Anna shared that her daughter got 'new taste buds' and no longer rejected healthy meals. Plus, "She was calming down so quickly, falling asleep so quickly in the evenings - and she did not want to look at the television all the time, she wanted to do things."

Read the entire article on the BBC News site.

A timely story, as Gary Taubes' book, The Case Against Sugar, published in December, makes the case that sugar is driving major chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Yet we routinely feed so much sugar to our kids. It doesn't have to be this way.

For more on what diets help you quit sugar and what to eat instead, explore the rest of this site! You can sign up for our monthly newsletter, here.


Photo Credit: BBC NEWS, Sara Jonasson



Five Lunchbox Favorites Masquerading as Nutritious Food

Today's guest post comes from Heather Martin, N.D. -- a naturopath, mother, and wellness blogger from Eastern Canada. Heather is a curator of all things awesome on her excellent blog, The Acorn -- Wellness, Inspiration, Beauty.



It may come as some surprise that many of the biggest lunchbox villains are marketed as healthy choices for kids. These companies, after all, want to make money, not feed your kids nutritious food. Labels like ‘low fat’, ‘sugar free’, or ‘all natural’ are purposely deceptive. A quick perusal of a food’s ‘Nutrition Facts’ often bears out a far different story than the one being trumpeted in splashy print across the front of the box.

The following childhood standards are widely viewed by parents as nutritious options. And who could blame them; the marketing budgets behind these products could fund some small countries. Remember, packaged food is BIG business - whereas an apple is just an apple.


1. Granola Bars

With names like ‘Nutri-Grain’, ‘Oats n’ Honey’, and ‘Fibre One’, you would expect granola bars to be packed with good stuff for your kids. The reality is that they contain anywhere from 9 to 20 grams of sugar. To put that in perspective, 5 grams equals roughly 1 teaspoon of sugar. At the top end of the spectrum, that little bar contains a whopping 4 teaspoons of sugar. Let’s call a spade a spade: at this point, it’s a chocolate bar.

Swap for a homemade version or high-energy snacks, like nuts or a banana.


2. Luncheon Meats

This sandwich staple should be avoided at all costs. Freshly sliced cold cuts from the deli counter are fine if they are nitrate-free. But pre-packaged meats, unless you can find an organic brand, are usually loaded with preservatives, sodium, and most problematically, nitrates, a known carcinogen.

Swap for canned salmon, hard boiled eggs, leftovers, or fresh, nitrate-free cold cuts.


3. Yogurt Cups

Yogurt cups are, quite simply, dessert masquerading as a healthy lunch staple. Even when they’re devoid of questionable preservatives, the sugar content is sky high. At 19 to 29 grams per cup, flavored yogurt manages to make even granola bars look good. That’s more sugar than a Twinkie!

Swap for plain kefir or plain, whole fat yogurt.


4. 'Low Fat’ and ‘Fat Free’ Foods

First, if it advertises this on the label, you’re automatically buying a processed food. Second, fat is often replaced with sugar, which your body ingests and then turns into fat. Third, there are many, many, healthy fats, and your brain (amongst other organs!) needs these healthy fats to function. Last but not least, naturally occurring fats help us digest our food; once removed they can cause all sorts of digestive issues. Do not, I repeat, do not fall prey to this marketing gimmick. It’s making us all sick.

Swap for real food from your kitchen. Do your best to avoid packaged and processed.


5. Juice Boxes

Back to those pesky added sugars again. Any label that reads ‘fruit punch’, ‘fruit blend’, or ‘all natural flavour’; beware. This is Kool-aid in disguise, my friends. Even 100% juice contains all the sugar and none of the fibre or vitamins of a piece of fruit (that part has been processed out).

Swap for fruit and a reusable bottle of water.


Knowledge is power: learning to steer clear of these ‘healthy’ imposters in your grocery aisles gives you the power to opt out of a system that enriches itself at the cost of our well being. Far from making your kids healthy and happy, these products are high in preservatives, sugar, sodium, trans fats, and ingredients no normal person can pronounce. In other words, the very things that are making our kids sick.

Author and naturopath Heather Martin blogs at  The Acorn Wellness .

Author and naturopath Heather Martin blogs at The Acorn Wellness.

When packing their lunchbox, keeping it real is your best bet. If you stick with whole foods, you’re already way ahead of the curve. Think hummus and raw vegetables, a homemade bean salad, or almond butter and an apple. With a little advance planning, it’s easy to get into the habit of swapping lunchbox villains for real food favorites. A very little extra effort will pay off in a delicious, nutritious meal to help your family feel their best, both in and out of school. 




Chocolate - An Amazing Food

chocolate pregnant

Chocolate is a gift from the universe. It is everything you could ask for in a superfood. Packed with vitamins and minerals? Check. Loaded with antioxidants? Check. A good source of healthy energy? Check. But is it delicious? CHECK!

I love chocolate, and the good news is that we can feel good about adding some dark chocolate to our diets. By dark chocolate, I mean chocolate that contains at least 70% chocolate liquor, the liquified paste made from grinding roasted cacao beans. Why so dark? To minimize the sugar, of course! Sugar is enemy number one, but chocolate without some sugar is pretty bitter. In the spirit of moderation, I make sure the number of grams of net carbs (excluding fiber) in my chocolate is less than the number of grams of fat. (Here is a link to a page on my site that lists some of my favorite bars.) Usually, if you find a bar with at least 70% cacao and no added candy, you will be close. Dark chocolate is a great substitute for the empty calories in desserts like cakes, cookies, and candy; it offers the amazing taste and creamy texture of a satisfying dessert, yet packs the nutritional punch of a superfood.

A highlight of my family's trip to Peru was the chocolate making workshop at the Chocomuseo in Cusco. There, we learned that the Inca were known to eat the fermented and roasted cacao beans right out of the shell, and legend has it that they lived long, healthy lives. Today, after the beans are ground into a paste, the cacao solids are separated from the cacao butter (the natural fat in chocolate), and they are either recombined into bars or sold separately as cacao powder and cacao butter. Because of the misguided American low-fat mindset, some participants in our workshop were tempted to skip the natural fat and add extra sugar, non-fat milk, and other ingredients to their chocolate. But remember, the Inca ate the whole cacao bean for longevity, fat and all. So should we!

Pittsburgh local, Will Clower, PhD, has written a book entitled, Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight. Don't you love the title? In Clower's book, chocolate is a microcosm for the challenges in our overall diet.  If you can get your chocolate right -- real ingredients, full-fat, not too much sugar -- you can get your overall diet right, too. (Real food. More fat. Less sugar.) As Clower trains your palate to enjoy darker chocolate, he is also training your palate to expect less junk and sugar in your total meal plan. 

Personally, I love salt on my chocolate. Have you tried it? There are many brands of high-quality dark chocolate with salt added! Here is one from Cusco, Peru.

Happy Thanksgiving... What is on your gratitude list? Mine includes chocolate! For more ideas about healthy, vintage food, check out this link.




Let's All Have Dessert For Breakfast!!

yogurt humor.jpg

Does the world need 369 kinds of yogurt? Let me narrow that question a bit. Do the grocery shoppers in my neighborhood need 369 kinds of yogurt? The dairy case at my supermarket suggests that we do. Yes, I counted. 369 distinct varieties. Capitalism run amuck?

I love yogurt. But I hate yogurt. What do I love? I love creamy, full-fat Greek yogurt, unsweetened, or perhaps sweetened with a little stevia. This is yogurt as nature intended – a balanced healthy meal that has been around for centuries. What do I hate? I hate sugary, low-fat yogurt that is passed off as a ‘health food’ when it really resembles dessert more than breakfast.

Let me elaborate. When you buy anything but plain yogurt, you are buying a lot of sugar (or chemical sweetners, which I would caution against). Allowing the food industry to decide how much sugar to put in anything, even yogurt, is a bad idea. (If you have not yet seen That Sugar Film, it is smart, funny, and worth renting. The film illustrates that much of the sugar we eat is found in food that is perceived as healthy, like yogurt.) A 6oz container of yogurt often contains about 20 grams of added sugar. That’s five teaspoons. Would you let your kid put five teaspoons of sugar on his cereal? I hope not. Yogurt has a natural tang to it, and this takes some getting used to – but if you pour a bunch of sugar in it, the tang is masked by the super-sweet flavor. This is what we have become accustomed to – heavily sweetened yogurt. Yogurt begins to look, nutritionally, pretty much like dessert.

Here’s low-fat strawberry yogurt, contrasted with low-fat ice cream and cookies. Note that although the yogurt offers a few extra grams of protein, it comes along with more grams of sugar, too:

Stonyfield Low-fat Organic Strawberry Yogurt    

1 cup (200 calories)

Fat – 2g • Carbs – 36g (sugars 35g) • Protein – 9g


Breyers All Natural Light Vanilla/Chocolate/Strawberry Ice Cream

1 cup (218 calories)

Fat – 6g • Carbs – 35g (sugars 30g) • Protein – 6g


Mother’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

6 Cookies (220 calories)

Fat – 10g • Carbs – 30g (sugars 15g) • Protein – 5g


The question, ‘Is this dessert?” is sometimes even provoked by the names of the flavors offered: Chobani’s Chocolate Haze Craze; Dannon Oikos’ Vanilla Sundae or Chocolate Covered Stawberry; Dannon Danimals’ Cotton Candy Thrill; and Yoplait’s Boston Cream Pie.

To make matters worse, America’s misguided fear of saturated fat has led to mostly reduced fat offerings. In my supermarket, the low-fat and fat-free varieties dominate, with 94% of the shelf space. (Only 23 full-fat offerings – yes, I counted.) This is a problem for two reasons. First of all, low-fat engineering takes a balanced, natural food and removes a key nutrient, leaving behind mostly carbohydrates. Secondly, it makes the yogurt more sour and less palatable, so more sugar is required to make it taste good. Stripping fat out of yogurt makes breakfast (or your snack) a carbohydrate heavy meal that lacks staying power. Let’s look at the macros of the two extremes for a moment:


Full-fat Greek Yogurt – Plain                       

1 cup (220 calories)                                     

Fat – 11g • Carbs – 9g (sugars are 16% of calories) • Protein – 20g                                                    

Fat Free Fruit Yogurt

1 cup (230 calories)

 Fat – 0g • Carbs – 46g (sugars are 80% of calories) • Protein – 11g

Which one looks more like a meal and less like dessert?

Yogurt-- Maximized

How can you get the most from your yogurt? Here are three things you can do to skip the hype and go straight to the good stuff:

  1. Go Greek (usually roughly double the protein);
  2. Buy plain (unsweetened, so you control how much sugar or stevia goes in);
  3. Buy full-fat (better taste, and more satisfying, balanced nutrition).

In my grocery store, with 369 choices, these three criteria rule out all but one option. At specialty markets, you'll find a few more.



Triage In Your Local Grocery Store

Balancing vintage sensibilities in a modern supermarket is challenging. Avoiding all the refined carbohydrates and refined oils in the grocery store really cuts down on options.  Let’s face it:  sugar (in all of its many forms), flour, crazy corn derivatives, and vegetable oil have made it into almost all processed food.

Part of the trick to shopping vintage is TRIAGE – knowing what is important and what can be ignored (at least for now). Some modern foods need to be avoided, but others can remain.  With practice, you will get good at avoiding most of the ‘bad’ stuff, while still enjoying some of the most delicious modern inventions, especially family favorites.

For many families, vintage eating is more of a direction than a strict regimen. Many people who eat this way follow the 80/20 rule…  80% vintage, 20% modern. For some, vintage eating just means more real food and less processed food.  So which processed foods stay, and which ones go? The answer is influenced by your health and goals, as well as your personal preferences in the realms of convenience, cost, and taste. It also depends upon available substitutes.

Ask yourself these questions about any processed product before putting it into your grocery cart:

  1. Does my family love this?
  2. Do we need this? (If it is a dessert or sugar-sweetened beverage, the answer is 'no.')
  3. Will we consume only small amounts of this?
  4. Is it hard to find an acceptable real food substitute?

If all of your answers are 'yes,' it probably should make the cut. If there are no’s in there, you will have to weigh whether it is delicious, important, convenient and irreplaceable enough to ‘cheat.’ Deprivation vs. guilt, right?

Here is an example.  In my house, one of the processed foods I still buy is Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. (Hellmann’s, like all commercial mayonnaise, is full of refined vegetable oil, so it doesn’t qualify as vintage.) Why do I still buy it?

  1. Does my family love this?   Yes. Especially my husband, and I want to stay married ;-)
  2. Do we need this? Yes. No reason to live without mayonnaise. It is naturally low-carb and sugar free!
  3. Will we eat only small amounts of this? Yes. We are not huge mayonnaise eaters.
  4. Is it hard to find an acceptable real food substitute? Yes. I tried substituting with homemade olive oil mayonnaise… The taste was heavy and unacceptable, and it wasn’t quick and easy to make. (It involved getting out the food processor, which means extra cleanup.) Plus, this unpopular substitute only keeps for about a week, so it would be a regular hassle and lead to extra spoilage/waste.

In contrast, although I used to use store bought salad dressing, I now make my own. (Most prepared dressings don’t qualify as vintage – they are full of vegetable oils like soy, corn, canola, and/or cottonseed oil. Many are full of sugar, too, which is unnecessary and not where I would choose to splurge on sugar. Remember: triage!) Why did I cut out this convenience?

  1. Does my family love this? Yes. Especially Hidden Valley Ranch ;-(
  2. Do we need this? Yes. We eat salad almost every day and dressing adds fat to our meal and makes them more satisfying and delicious.
  3. Will we eat only small amounts of this? No. We go through a lot of salad dressing.
  4. Is it hard to find an acceptable real food substitute? No. I make dressing in a few minutes with olive oil, vinegar, salt, herbs, and mustard. It lasts for weeks and saves a few dollars. The taste is stronger than the lighter, refined oils, but it is still delicious. I also occasionally make creamy dressings with real sour cream.

In this case, the quantity we go through and the easy and delicious substitute swayed me to eliminate commercial salad dressing from our fridge most of the time.

Another example would be pizza versus pasta. We love pizza, there is nothing quite like it, and it is cheap and convenient. So we still eat it – just less often – perhaps once or twice a month. But pasta… we don’t really love or need it, and I can still make Bolognese sauce which we either eat like chili or put on just a few noodles. So for us, pizza (in moderation) makes the cut, whereas pasta doesn’t.

Knowing when to splurge on modern favorites can help keep the peace and make vintage eating more doable for your family!



Juiced On Juice

Every month or so, I buy a 16oz container of freshly squeezed orange juice. And, I noticed that the always-helpful cashiers at my grocery store usually ask me, “Would you like to keep that out?” By this, they mean would I like to keep the OJ separate from the bagged groceries because I might want easy access to this beverage? Presumably, so I could chug it in the car on my way home???

My reply is always, “No thanks.” But, actually, what I want to say is…. “This is orange juice for my family of five. We will all get three to four ounces of juice in a small (juice) glass on Sunday morning. It’s a treat – we do this once a month. So, NO, I will not be downing this on my drive home.”

Orange juice, although delicious, is full of sugar. Two cups (16oz) of orange juice has more sugar than a 12oz Coke.  And, juice is fruit stripped of its fiber, so we tend to over-consume it. 16 oz of orange juice is the juice of roughly six medium oranges. That is a lot of oranges... The juice contains a trace amount of fat and a couple of grams of protein. Most of the calories are from sugar. Basically, orange juice is a carb-fest.

But the cashiers had me thinking… Lots of customers must say, “Yes. Please leave it out.” (Or they wouldn't ask, right?) And at least some of these shoppers must proceed to drink all or most of that 16oz container on the long ride home. So I thought, hmmm… what would happen if I chugged the orange juice?

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 10.07.47 PM.png

This graph gives you a picture of what happened to my blood sugar during this little adventure. Not pretty. And, I was definitely a little buzzed... I felt a rush. I felt a little bloated (that's a lot of juice!) and a little dazed. I could NOT CONCENTRATE (perhaps explaining the warning on the label, 'NOT from CONCENTRATE')? And then, two and a half hours later, I was starving. So I would say, being 'on the juice' is a bad idea. Even if you mean fresh, organic orange juice.



What Was On Those Boats?

When British colonial doctors traveled to the Colonies to care for the British settlers in distant lands, they were consistently amazed by the absence of chronic diseases in native populations. In fact, originally, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer were referred to as the 'Diseases of Civilization' rather than 'chronic diseases.' Why? Because 'uncivilized' natives did not have these diseases. But, as indigenous  populations began to consume more and more of the food imported for the settlers, the colonial doctors noticed that chronic disease began to afflict the natives. It often took decades, but as traditional food ways diminished and 'Western' diets were adopted by traditional societies, Western diseases arrived, too. So that begs the question, "What was on those boats?"  

On my arrival in Gabon, I was astonished to encounter no cases of cancer... I can not, of course, say positively that there was no cancer at all, but, like other frontier doctors, I can only say that if any cases existed they must have been quite rare.
— Dr. Albert Schweitzer (reflecting back to 1913)

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a doctor who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his missionary work, spent over four decades in a missionary hospital in Gabon (that's Africa, folks), treating thousands of natives each year. And initially, he found almost no cases of chronic disease. The natives seemed somehow immune. Over time, chronic disease developed, according to Schweitzer,as "the natives were living more and more after the manner of the whites." 

As you might imagine, a long, unrefrigerated sea journey was not possible for many types of food. Were the Colonists importing butter, eggs, and meat? No way. The foods shipped to the Colonies had to be far less perishable. What was the cargo? It was largely white sugar, white flour, and white rice. Could these foods be the cause of 'Diseases of Civilization?'




Just a Spoonful of Sugar...

How much sugar (well, glucose, if you want to be more precise) is floating around in your blood right now? A normal, healthy, average sized adult has about a teaspoon of glucose dissolved in his or her blood. ONE TEASPOON-- a little more, perhaps even double, after a carbohydrate-rich meal. Blood sugar levels are closely monitored by your body. You need some, or you fall into a coma...  but too much blood sugar damages tissues. This is why diabetics, whose bodies are struggling to keep blood sugar levels in check, have serious troubles with circulation, vision, and kidney function.

If you have not yet heard the news, we are in the midst of a startling epidemic -- about 45% of adults are either pre-diabetic or diabetic... So, since blood glucose levels are at the center of this disease, perhaps we should consider how much glucose we are shoveling into our stomachs. Table sugar is half glucose, so that is an important source. But starch, such as grains and potatoes, tend to be an even bigger source of glucose. And starch is broken down into glucose in a flash in your stomach... just minutes after a starchy meal or snack, your blood glucose levels will be on the rise.

For example, consider your breakfast of 1/2 cup Grape Nuts, 1/2 cup skim milk, and a banana. How many teaspoons of glucose might be in your breakfast? A lot. After those digestive enzymes do their thing, roughly 54 grams of glucose gets absorbed into your blood.  That's ELEVEN TEASPOONS. Wow. Your body scrambles to get that glucose out of your bloodstream and into storage, (either in your liver, your muscles, or your fat cells), because all that glucose in your blood would be toxic. This 'fire drill' -- this scramble to get glucose out of your bloodstream, becomes a struggle for pre-diabetics. 

ELEVEN TEASPOONS. For context, a 12oz Coke has 39 grams of sugar, but only roughly half ~ 20 grams is glucose.  That is about 4 teaspoons. 

Hmmmm... For breakfast, if we reduced the starch and added more fat, we could cut way back on the glucose we ask our body to process. Here are some diets that will help you find a better way eating - Vintage Eating.  Real food. More fat.