Kick the Sugar Habit with Tasty Low-Glycemic AlternativesJulie Daniluk, R.H.N. November 27, 2023
Editor’s note: The winter season is upon us, and with it comes a plethora of sugary ingredients hiding in everyday comfort foods as well as festive specials. Here to help us kick the sugar habit by using low-glycemic alternatives is Julie Daniluk with an excerpt from her popular book, Becoming Sugar-Free.
Sugar hides in all kinds of foods. It’s not just about what’s in the sugar bowl anymore. Consider this: You wake in the morning and have some yogurt with granola and a glass of orange juice. Most yogurt is sweetened with sugar, making it more like thawed ice cream, and the carbs in commercial granola immediately turn to sugar once they hit the tongue. And that glass of orange juice? It’s been stripped of any fibre and is just sweet liquid.
This yogurt / juice combination probably contributes 30 grams of sugar to your day. A high sugar intake in the morning is processed super-fast in the body, and by 10:30 am you’re craving something else. You go to the coffee shop and get a coffee (with sugar) and a muffin, thinking that the muffin is at least healthier than a doughnut or a cookie. But it’s filled with sugar and refined flour, which contributes another 5 to 10 grams of sugar to your day, on top of the sugar in your coffee. You’re already at more than 40 grams of sugar, and it’s not even lunchtime. See how quickly that can add up?
Sources of Added Sugar in the North American Diet
- DAIRY. Many people do not realize that dairy naturally contains sugar and that many dairy products have added sugar even when they do not taste that sweet. It is not until you break down lactose into its simple sugars that you taste the sugar content. But beyond the naturally occurring sugar, we need to be aware that fruit-bottom yogurts often contain up to 30 grams of added sugar. Ice cream is obvious, but many people make the mistake of thinking frozen yogurt is a good alternative. I know that yogurt contains calcium, magnesium, protein and probiotics, which can seem like a better choice. However, yogurt is also high in sugar and if you are intolerant to it, it becomes inflammatory.
Alternatives: Look for unsweetened coconut yogurt and add fruit and nuts for a great breakfast choice.
- SMOOTHIES. Did you know that the average smoothie can contain between 40 and 80 grams of sugar in a 20-ounce cup? When dining out, I like to check the breakdown of recipes and avoid high-sugar fruits in the base.
Alternatives: Avoid all commercially made smoothies. Instead, make your own smoothies at home with frozen berries, coconut milk, coconut oil, high-quality collagen protein powder or a seed protein like pumpkin or hemp protein and maybe even an avocado to swap out the banana. I find that this keeps me satisfied and able to fight off hunger.
3. MEAL REPLACEMENT BARS. You may think these products are healthy because they are called a meal replacement, but most bars are simply square cookies. They can contain high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar and glucose syrup. Some can contain 10 to 30 grams of added sugar. It is terrible that even bars marketed for weight loss have added sugars that cause inflammation and blood sugar imbalances.
Alternatives: Look for low-carb protein bars sweetened with monk fruit or stevia. You can also eat sugar-free jerky (organic beef or turkey) or pack some guaca- mole in the bottom of a mason jar and then top it with chopped veggies for dipping.
- JUICES AND PUNCHES. I used to watch my dad drink an entire litre of orange juice in one sitting, and it never dawned on me until I went to nutrition school that 1 cup of orange juice contains 22 grams of sugar. Watch out for commercially packed green juices because they often use fruit juice as a base, increasing the sugar content to as high as 30 grams a serving. Even if there are antioxidant-rich berries and powerful herbs in these drinks, that much sugar without fibre can cause a spike of inflammatory reaction. Be careful to avoid any punch because it often contains harmful artificial ingredients.
Alternatives: Our family makes sugar-free organic lemonade (see recipe on page 155 of my book Becoming Sugar-Free.) Consider sweetening things with monk fruit extract, which is 200 times sweeter than sugar but is being researched for its anti-inflammatory properties. If you love juice, consider 1 ounce of juice for every 7 ounces of water. That way you have the flavour of juice with a lot of hydrating water.
- SAUCES. Most people love ketchup, but it’s just as sugary as jam! Just 1 tablespoon of ketchup can contain 1 teaspoon of sugar. Barbecue sauce is an even larger source, containing up to 2 teaspoons of sugar per tablespoon.
Alternatives: Use my Keto Ketchup (page 223) and Bold Barbecue Sauce (page 219). If you don’t have time to make a sauce, use salsa! Grilling meat with sweet barbecue sauce is very unhealthy because it increases something called polycyclic aro- matic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Most restaurants put commercial sauces on their various meat dishes to dress them up and give them unique and exotic flavours. Unfortunately, most of these sauces include high amounts of added sugars and corn starch, maltodextrin, glucose and high-fructose corn syrup.
Avoid glazed foods because they are sure to contain added sugars. When eating at restaurants, order meat and fish grilled, baked or broiled and ask the serving staff to hold the extra sauces and glazes. Instead, add fresh or dried herbs, spices, unrefined vinegar, pesto, mustard or lemon juice and olive oil.
- BREADS. In his landmark book Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis reported that eating two slices of whole wheat bread can increase blood sugar more than eating 2 tablespoons of pure sugar would. Even if you avoid white bread, brown bread is often coloured with molasses (from cane sugar). Even if you carefully read the labels to avoid sugar, remember that flour breaks down into sugar, and that process starts as soon as it enters your mouth. Many people think that if a bread is sprouted, it is healthy; although it doesn’t appear to cause as drastic a blood sugar spike as whole grain or white breads, in some people it still spikes blood sugar because of the grain content.
Alternatives: Look for commercial or homemade alternatives in the recipe section Bread, Chips and Crackers (page 183) that use nuts (almonds), seeds (coco- nut) and fibre (psyllium) as a replacement for grains. These are delicious options for your dips, veggies and sandwich ingredients.DRESSINGS. Salad dressing can be a minefield of sugars, corn syrup solids and starches that take away from all of the nutrition in the veggies you are enjoying. Check the label, and you will find as many as 6 grams of sugar in one tablespoon of dressing. Unfortunately, this is far too high, as most people use more than a tablespoon of dressing on their salad and this quickly adds up to about 12 grams of sugar.
Alternatives: A great way to keep things simple and delicious is to skip the fancy dressings and use olive oil with some apple cider vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice and a choice of dried herbs as your dressing.Try my Sunny Anti-Inflammatory Dressing (page 226).
- NUT AND SEED BUTTERS. Nuts and seeds are very low in carbohydrates naturally, but most commercial nut and seed butters are spiked with sweeteners to enhance flavour and keep you coming back for more. Your typical peanut butter can contain up to 5 grams of added icing sugar per 2 tablespoon serving. Even health food brands use organic evaporated cane sugar as one of the top ingredients, so be very careful.
Alternatives: Stick with unsweetened nut and seed butters that are certified organic if your budget allows for it. Also shop for raw nuts and seeds that are free of added sugars and toxic oils.
- CEREALS. Commercial cereal is loaded with sugar and flour that sends your blood sugar soaring. The average breakfast cereal recommends serving only 3⁄4 cup, which is such a small amount that most people double it. This larger serving can result in 30 grams of sugar before you even add milk. Popular granola brands use dried fruits that are sprayed with sugar or both sugar and flour to make up the oat clusters. A quarter- cup of sweetened dried cranberries contains 29 grams, nearly 6 teaspoons, of sugar.
Alternatives: I suggest you start the day out with protein and greens. I like to eat dinner leftovers for breakfast, but if you want something sweet, try my Chocolate Crunch Low-Carb Granola (page 176). By focusing on seeds for breakfast, you increase your cholecystokinin (CCK), the hormone responsible for feeling satisfied.
Tips to Kick Sugar Cravings
Consider this strategy for a day without refined sugars. You wake in the morning and have a healing smoothie filled with fats or a couple of scrambled eggs with some sautéed spinach on the side. This leaves you feeling full, satisfied and with enough energy to make it to lunch without the need for a sugar rush.
For lunch, enjoy some protein with some vegetables, then maybe have a snack of nuts and seeds in the afternoon. At supper, you again have warm veggies or a delicious soup or yummy stir-fry – all without sugar. You end the day feeling positive, uplifted, ready for tomorrow and proud of your decisions.
It’s all about making choices – and you can start today. After you read through the ways to replace sugar in your life, you can explore the delicious recipes at the back of this book to help you get into a wholesome way of sugar-free eating. If you find yourself craving a sugar fix in this stage, there are a few things you can try to kick the craving:
- Eat a fibre-rich vegetable. Before eating something sweet, enjoy fibre to reduce hunger and cravings. The best food for this is artichoke hearts packed in water or olive oil. They make everything taste sweeter, cleanse the liver and reduce hunger hormones.
- Try something bitter to reduce sugar cravings. A bitter herbal tincture, such as gentian root, works great as a wonderful stomach tonic, helping you to assimilate food. It also kills yeast in the body, which is behind a lot of cravings. You can also eat bitter vegetables such as endive and rapini.
- Enjoy something sour. Acetic acid, the active ingredient in vinegar, helps keep food in the stomach for a longer period, delaying the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Vinegar also improves digestion, and it helps you feel full faster and for a longer period. Sour flavour also reduces the need for salt. (Ed note: Recommended product – Filsingers Unpasteurized Apple Cider Vinegar.)
- Eat something rich in healthy fats. Avocado contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which increases the hormone CCK that is responsible for creating the feeling of satiation. Feeling full between meals is the greatest weapon against the battle of the bulge. EGCG also stimulates your metabolism by activating thermogenesis, which means that your cells are burning energy—including fat.
- Go all-natural. If all else fails, enjoy something with your new unrefined, natural sweetener options. There are many recipes at the end of this book for you to try out.
Recipes That Bust Sugar Cravings
KETO MOCK MOJITO (Serves 1)
I love the fact that this drink is a great alternative when you don’t want to consume alcohol or sugar at social events. It has become my favourite drink to order, as most bars have sparkling mineral water, mint leaves and fresh lime juice. I add monk fruit sweetener, which I carry in my purse. Rum is made from fermented cane sugar, so it is important to avoid it when embracing a sugar-free lifestyle. You can double this recipe and use a standard bottle of sparkling mineral water for a great party share.
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
2 to 3 Tablespoons lime juice (1 to 2 limes)
8 to 10 drops pure monk fruit extract (or 4 to 5 drops liquid stevia)
1 teaspoon inositol powder (optional)
1/2 cup ice cubes
1-1/2 cups sparkling mineral water
- Place the mint in a sturdy 16-ounce glass and bruise it with a wooden muddle or spoon. Place half of a squeezed lime in the bottom of the glass.
- Add the lime juice, monk fruit and inositol powder (if using). Muddle, add the ice cubes and top with sparkling mineral water. Adjust sweetness to taste and serve cold.
MEAL AUGMENTATION SHAKE (Serves 2)
The green colour of this shake comes from the spirulina or chlorella, types of algae that are very nutritious. They are high in antioxidants that help reduce the amount of oxidative damage to cells in the body. With today’s increasingly stressful and toxic environment, antioxidants play a key role in helping to repair the body from these effects. Spirulina is also high in protein and is a complete source of all essential amino acids, making it especially beneficial to those who follow a vegan diet.
1⁄2 avocado, peeled and pitted 11⁄2 cups unsweetened non-dairy beverage (coconut beverage or almond or cashew milk)
1 Tablespoon coconut oil or butter
1 Tablespoon + 1-1/2 teaspoons unsweetened nut or seed butter
1 Tablespoon + 1-1/2 teaspoons collagen or vegan protein powder
1 Tablespoon + 1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sunflower lecithin powder
1 teaspoon Hawaiian spirulina or chlorella
1 teaspoon pure vanilla or peppermint extract
1/4 teaspoon pure monk fruit extract (or 1/8 teaspoon liquid stevia)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of ground turmeric
Pinch of unrefined pink salt
Optional Boosters (use 1 to 3):
1 to 2 Tablespoons pumpkin seed protein powder
1 teaspoon inositol powder 1⁄2 banana
- Place all ingredients, and any boosters, in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Pour into 2 glasses.
Vegan Option: Use vegan protein powder.
BAKED PORRIDGE-IN-A-JAR (Serves 6)
What I love about this healthy breakfast is how it makes eating well on the run possible. If you are a person who does not eat breakfast until you arrive at work or school, this portable aromatic jar of goodness is a real time saver, as you can make it on the weekend and enjoy it during the week. I adore the flavour options, which keep your mornings exciting so that you are likely to stick with this healthy breakfast choice.
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (see Tip)
3 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon unrefined pink salt 1 cup unsweetened coconut beverage
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure monk fruit extract (or 1/4 teaspoon chocolate-flavoured stevia or 1 Tablespoon raw honey, yacón syrup or coconut nectar)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Set out six 1⁄2-cup mason jars or three 1-cup mason jars.
- In a large bowl, mix together the coconut, chia seeds, baking powder and salt.
- Add the coconut beverage, vanilla and monk fruit. Stir until well combined.
- Add the ingredients for your preferred flavour option, stirring to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the mixture to meld together. Evenly divide the mixture among the mason jars, leaving about 1 inch at the top. If any milk remains at the bottom of the mixing bowl, divide it equally among the jars.
- Place the jars on a small baking sheet and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, or until slightly firm and golden on top.
- Enjoy immediately or let cool completely. Seal with a lid and store in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Tip: If you prefer a higher carb option and enjoy gluten-free grains, you can swap the coconut for rolled quinoa, millet or buckwheat flakes.
No Sugar Added Option: Use pure monk fruit extract or stevia. Vegan Option: Omit the honey.
Apple Cinnamon: 1 cup cored and chopped apple, 1⁄3 cup raw pumpkin seeds or chopped raw almonds, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg. (Omit the apple to make it keto-friendly.)
Blueberry Nutmeg: 1 cup wild blueberries (fresh or thawed), 1⁄3 cup hemp hearts, 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
Ginger Peach: 1 cup pitted and chopped peaches (fresh or thawed), 1⁄3 cup chopped raw pecans, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon.
Cherry Chocolate: 1 cup pitted cherries cut in half, 2 teaspoons cocoa powder and 1⁄4 cup sugar-free chocolate chips.
Banana Walnut: 1 cup sliced banana, 1⁄3 cup raw walnuts, 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg.
CAULIFLOWER FRIED RICE (Serves 6)
Once I discovered cauliflower rice, I wondered why it took so long for the world to catch on to this amazing innovation. It is simply delicious and incredibly low in carbohydrates. If you add in the protein-rich mushrooms or eggs, this recipe can become a hearty main dish that travels well to work or school. For those enjoying a higher carb menu, the pineapple adds a nice sweetness to the dish.
2 Tablespoons avocado oil, coconut oil or vegan butter
1-1/2 cups chopped red or yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
1-1/2 cups mushrooms or small broccoli florets (optional)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, chopped (or 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder)
1/2 teaspoon unrefined pink salt
2 to 3 teaspoons mild curry powder or spice blend (see Tip)
3 Tablespoons coconut sauce or wheat-free tamari (optional)
3 cups cauliflower rice (about 1 medium head)*
1 cup fresh or frozen sweet peas
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger (or 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger)
1 cup chopped fresh pineapple (optional)
1 to 2 large eggs, whisked (optional)
Fresh flat-leaf or curly parsley or cilantro, for garnish
Hoisin Sauce (page 221), to taste
(*To make cauliflower rice: Trim the cauliflower, removing the stem and leaves. Quarter the head of cauliflower and remove the core from each quarter. Break the cauliflower into large florets.
Transfer the cauliflower florets to a food processor and briefly pulse. Continue pulsing in short bursts until the cauliflower has reached the desired consistency.)
- In a large saucepan or pot, heat the avocado oil over medium heat. Add the onion, mushrooms (if using) and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add the salt, curry powder and coconut sauce (if using) and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant.
- Add the cauliflower rice, sweet peas, ginger and pineapple, if using. Cook until completely warmed through, about 5 minutes.
- Add the whisked egg (if using) and cook for 1 minute more. 5. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Top with the chopped parsley or cilantro and add Hoisin Sauce, if desired.
Tip: If you want to make your own spice blend, mix together 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger and 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon.
PIZZA DIP AND VEGETABLES (Serves 8)
Imagine all of the tasty flavours of a pizza baked into a deliciously warmed dip. If you don’t have a sensitivity to the nightshade family of plants (and can tolerate tomatoes), these nutritional superstars will benefit you with their impressive antioxidant profile. Although raw tomatoes are delicious, it is best to consume them after they have been cooked to maximize the availability of the antioxidant carotenoids beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene. My family likes to pair this dip with Baba’s Bread (page 187), Chewy Baguette (page 188) or Corn-Free Tortilla Chips (page 195) or use it as a sauce to create a Cassava Tortilla pizza (page 184).
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped red or yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes (see Tip)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste (see Tip)
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning 2 teaspoons dried basil
3 drops pure monk fruit extract (if you like a sweet sauce; optional)
1/2 teaspoon unrefined pink salt
1/2 cup crumbled vegan cheese
1⁄4 cup sliced pitted black or
green olives or capers
1⁄2 cup sliced marinated artichoke hearts
12 fresh basil leaves, for garnish
3 green zucchini, sliced into sticks
3 yellow zucchini, sliced into sticks
1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced into sticks
1 red sweet pepper, seeded and sliced into sticks
2 cups snap peas
Tip: To save time, you can use sugar-free organic tomato sauce as a substitute for the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, but you may have to simmer it for longer (up to
45 minutes, depending on how watery your sauce choice is) before adding the toppings and baking.
- In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or oven-safe saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, basil, monk fruit (if using) and salt. Stir to combine, then simmer for 30 minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the pan from the heat and top the sauce with the vegan cheese, olives and artichoke hearts, if using. Bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the toppings are warmed through. Garnish with the fresh basil (if using) and serve with the vegetables for dipping.
Bio: Julie Daniluk is a highly-sought-after anti-inflammatory expert, speaker, and award-winning author of 4 bestselling books. Her passion is to speak in venues where she blends her skills and experience in fun and positive ways to provide breakthrough results with her audiences. Be sure to check out her Thrive Hive Community at www.ThrivewithJulie.com and recipes at JulieDaniluk.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube @JulieDaniluk
Nutritionist and TV personality, Julie Daniluk is the award-winning, bestselling author of Meals That Heal Inflammation & Slimming Meals That Heal. Her 3rd book, Hot Detox, was on the Canadian Bestseller’s list for 11 weeks in 2017. Julie’s 4th book, Becoming Sugar-Free, was released on September 7, 2021. Julie has appeared on hundreds of television and radio shows, including The Dr. Oz Show. She is in her 11th season as a resident expert for The Marilyn Denis Show. Check out more information at www.juliedaniluk.com and connect with her on Facebook & Instagram @juliedaniluk