Stockings from the Scrinch

December 12, 2018 § 2 Comments

If you’re a sugar-avoider at this time of year, it’s hard not to feel like the Grinch. If you’re a clutter-avoider, you may well feel like you’re channeling Scrooge. So if you’re like me you’re a… a Scrinch. Basically, this time of year represents a nexus of everything I’ve ever written about. Too much sugar? Too much clutter? It’s all here. No wonder celebrants suffer from “holiday hangovers” and vow a slew of New Year’s resolutions. The problem with too much is that it never feels like enough until… it feels bad.

My goal at Christmastime is to have fun without ever arriving at the hangover part. An important part of this is practicing what I preach and avoiding excess sugar AND excess stuff in my gift-giving.

Fuzzy Slipper Socks- like Halloween costumes for your toes

The holidays are tricky in this regard and Christmas is super tricky. This year I got a request to write about Christmas stockings in particular, which might be the trickiest of all. In a holiday that is chock-full of deeply weird traditions- trees in the house, shrubbery on the ceiling- the tradition of hanging our socks up for Santa to fill with treats is so especially strange that I am particularly fond of it.

But there are several key considerations with stocking stuffers. Firstly, no matter how big your stocking may be, there’s always a clear size limit. (I’m a stickler on this: in order to be a “stocking stuffer,” it must actually be physically stuffable in the stocking. Sorry, wall calendars.) Also, stocking contents are usually in addition to whatever “real” gifts are waiting under the tree, so probably there is a real budgetary limit as well. Santa has his work cut out for him, right? We need cheap, we need special and fun, we need small. And if you’re like me, and a Scrinch, then pile on top of those considerations the fact that you’re not wanting to overdose everyone on candy and chocolates either, OR wreck your home or the environment with crappo, plastic, break-in-five-minutes toys and hilarious, but-they-end-up-in-the-landfill joke gifts. (Seriously, no one really wants that taco-flavored coffee.)

If you know me, you probably have already guessed that I have given an inordinate amount of thought to The Stocking Problem. Before we go any further let me point out that yes, if you are avoiding sugar (which is cheap) and avoiding plastic crap (which is also cheap), it is going to be very, very easy to spend more money in the process of trying to avoid those things. So I recommend trying to work the problem backwards: decide how much money you want to spend on a person and then set aside some portion of that to spend on their stocking. No matter how much you set aside, of course, it won’t be enough, but that’s the nature of Christmas, so we’re used to it.

In the stocking stuffer category I’ve found most solutions to avoiding both sugar and clutter fall into two main groups. They are: No Sugar But Still Special Food, and Nice Versions of Small Things They Really Do Need/Will Use. Below are a few ideas I’ve used over the years… website links are beneath each idea. BTW no one is paying me to say any of this because I’m simply not that big a deal.

  1. No Sugar But Still Special Food:

Dried Cherries: Shhhhh! Don’t tell but I am totally doing this this year. I mean, Santa is. I hear. Chukar Cherries offers dried Rainer, Tart and Bing Cherries without added sugar in 6 oz bags for

Dried Cherries with No Added Sugar are a Special Treat

about $10 each, or in tiny 1.85 oz. snack bags coupled with pistachios, cashews and almonds, 12 pack for $39, so $3 each. Other dried fruits or freeze dried fruits can be great too, just be sure to check that they don’t contain added sugar, artificial sugar or sugar alcohols (if advertised “sugar free” be on the look-out for sucralose, erythritol, mannitol, isomalt. I’d avoid these things as well.)

https://www.chukar.com/fruits-and-nuts/fruits-and-nuts-no-sugar-added.html

The first time I tried this tea the guy said, “You’re going to think there’s sugar in it. There isn’t.”

Tea in a Tin: Not so much a kid gift, but adults hang stockings in our house too. Try: Harney and Sons Hot Cinnamon Spice Tea, which, due to its combination of spices, tastes as if it is sweetened… but it isn’t. Seriously, I wouldn’t kid you about this. $8. Also consider hot sauces, little jars of special olives stuffed with garlic, fancy French mustards, olive oil so prized it comes with an eyedropper… anything you can’t buy at the supermarket automatically counts as “special.”

Hot Cinnamon Spice

It explodes AND is edible. What more could a kid want?

Popcorn: There’s just something fun about the idea of food that explodes. Unflavored, unpopped popcorn is your best bet in the no added sugar department, so ignore the millions of “gourmet” flavored varieties that include everything from maple bacon to booze… instead how about corn still-on-the-cob? All you need is a brown paper bag and you can pop it right off the cob in your microwave. It really is kind of fun and you’re avoiding PFOAs! (The very nasty chemicals coating microwave popcorn bags.) At $5 for a two-cob bag you are paying a premium per cob for the novelty of it of course, but then again it’s the cheapest thing on this list so chalk it up to the Elves’ Union or something. Or, if you have more stockings to fill, they also have a package of ten cobs for $17, giving you a much better deal per cob.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/290327177/popcorn-on-the-cob-pops-off-the-cob-twin?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=popcorn&ref=sr_gallery-1-28&organic_search_click=1

https://www.etsy.com/listing/242419899/popcorn-on-the-cob-pops-off-the-cob?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=popcorn&ref=sr_gallery-1-15&organic_search_click=1

  1. Nice Versions of Small Things They Really Do Need/Will Use

Tie these up in a bunch with a big fat ribbon

Personalized Pencils: School supplies that are fun but usable can be great. Scented or shaped erasers, a stapler that looks like a man-eating shark- you get the idea. I love personalization as a way to make something mundane into something special- and kids LOVE having their name printed on things. You can get 24 in a variety of colors or designs for around $10.

https://www.orientaltrading.com/teaching-supplies-and-stationery/stationery/pencils/personalizable-a1-551467+18-1.fltr

Sloth Slippers is a good tongue twister

Big Fluffy Slipper Socks: Last year I found some super-fluffy, plush slipper socks for my two daughter’s stockings. At $20 a pair, they were on the expensive side, however the upside was that they took up a lot of room in the stocking. YES! This year I found this site (below) and I love both the slippers and the socks which are priced between $7 and $12. However- be careful of buying Santa-themed items- how much use will these really get after X-mas day? Instead I’d go with cuddly polar bears and penguins which are good all winter long.

Women

Because soap on a rope is fun to say. Plus: Snoopy

Fun Soaps: Soap is so great. It can be made in so many shapes and scents, and everyone needs it (unlike, say, scented candles or potpourri, which really aren’t for everyone.) Best of all, it’ll eventually get enjoyed and used up all at the same time. The Vermont Country Store has wonderfully cute animal-shaped soaps on a rope, for about $15, as well as soaps shaped like the gang from Peanuts. Please tell Santa I want the Snoopy.

https://www.vermontcountrystore.com/animal-pals-soap-on-a-rope/product/68775

So let me know: what do you think?

What other No Sugar/ No Clutter stocking stuffers have you found?

Happy Scrinching.

Thanksgiving ala No Added Sugar

November 20, 2018 § Leave a comment

Forget that stuffing in a box! Re-posting this video from two years ago, so you can follow along to make my favorite stuffing, with No Added Sugar. A holiday without a boatload of added sugar is not only possible but it is delicious and something you don’t have to feel guilty about afterwards!

Important note:Make the stuffing the day before, allowing the flavors to combine nicely.

Link to a post that has the full recipe for the Oyster Stuffing: https://eveschaub.com/2016/11/17/thanksgiving-stuffing-without-all-the-stuff/

Halloween: Deconstructed

November 13, 2018 § 2 Comments

When it comes to Halloween candy, how much is too much?

Halloween is over, but the memory lingers on. You can find it in the form of new residents of kitchen counters across the land: bags, pillowcases and plastic pumpkins full of added sugar. Have you ever looked at one of these bags and wondered: So. How much sugar is in there?

I mean, sure, it’s a lot. A ridiculous lot. But how much of a ridiculous lot?

Hmmmmmmm.

Three pounds of candy

While looking at my daughter Ilsa’s haul soon after it appeared, it suddenly occurred to me to wonder this very thing. So, in the name of questionable, nosy-parent, food-nerd science, I set about to find out. Ilsa’s candy bag weighed in at just over three pounds. I dumped the contents onto a blanket and sorted it just like the kids do after coming home with it, grouping by type… Kit Kats over here, Sour Patch Kids over there, weird off-brand candy no one will trade you for over there.

The real question: does Ilsa realize how nerdy her mom is?

I compiled a list of all the different candies. And then it was time to figure out the sugar content of each and every piece. (After checking many sites, I found this one to be the most useful: https://www.nutritionix.com.) Once I added it all up, Ilsa’s fairly average candy haul turned out to contain approximately: 795 grams of sugar.

To put this in context, on their website, the World Health Organization currently recommends added sugar not exceed 10 percent of daily calories, or 25 grams per day. So, if we divide the amount of sugar in Ilsa’s Halloween bag by the WHO’s recommendation per day— 795/25— Ilsa’s candy is enough to provide her with all her added sugar for 31 days.

Interestingly, though, there’s more. The WHO website then goes on to further recommend that, actually, it would be even better if people restricted added sugar to 5 percent of daily calories, or half the amount they recommended just a minute ago, in the previous sentence. http://www.who.int/elena/titles/guidance_summaries/sugars_intake/en/

By this new and improved standard, of course, Ilsa’s candy lasts twice as long, or about two months. This assumes, of course, that she hasn’t eaten added sugar anywhere else in her diet.

But even if one never eats any dessert at all, we know that most people are getting added sugar from other sources in their diet. From juice. From ketchup. From store-bought chicken broth or salad dressing or crackers or mayonnaise or bread or flavored yogurts… you get the idea. What this means is that having more than one piece of candy per day is extremely likely to make you exceed your recommended daily limit of sugar. So if you can manage to limit your kids candy consumption to one piece per day (dare we hope for every other day?) that’s best. That’s the first take-away.

But there’s another, more important take-away; it starts with the fact that one pound of sugar is equal to approximately 454 grams. If Ilsa had brought home a three pound bag full of sugar- just sugar, without nuts or rice crisps or additives or any other ingredients- it would amount to… 1362 grams. So, working backwards, knowing that her bag actually contains 795 grams of sugar tells us that her bag is just over fifty percent pure sugar.

Caution: feet are not edible

I promise not to ask you what time the two trains will meet. But here’s the kicker: weighing in at three pounds, Ilsa’s bag contains, roughly, a pound and a half of pure sugar, right? As we’ve already concluded, this means that the WHO would recommend she eat her candy over the course of a month or two, but really more like three or four if you include the fact that she will very likely be getting added sugar from some other sources in her diet.

Meanwhile, according to Livestrong.com, the average American eats three pounds of sugar per week. https://www.livestrong.com/article/474832-recommended-grams-of-sugar-per-day/  So what the WHO is recommending Ilsa eat in one or two months, the average American is consuming it’s equivalent in… (wait for it)… three and a half days.

Let me say that once more, because it’s important:

The amount of sugar the WHO recommends we eat in one or two months, the average American eats in three and a half days.

 Try to imagine eating 95 pieces of candy, an entire trick-or-treater’s bag, in three days. That’s about 27 pieces of Halloween candy a day. This level of sugar consumption is not theoretical- this is what the average American already does, Halloween season or not. So. Does the obesity epidemic make a little more sense now? (Not to mention the diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, liver disease, and hypertension epidemics?)

In this light, the statistics bear revisiting:

  • Right now, sixty percent of Americans are overweight or obese; if nothing changes, within two decades it will be ninety percent.
  • Already, being a healthy weight in the United States is the exception, not the rule.
  • Perhaps worst of all, this generation of children will be the first in modern history to live shorter lives than their parents.

We’d like to think that Halloween is a special time of year when we indulge in sugar a little more than we should. The reality— and the real lesson of my nosy-parent science experiment— is that those big bags of added sugar do not represent the exception. They represent the rule. It’s Halloween in America- Every. Single. Day. And the consequences of our unwillingness to recognize this fact are enormous.

Thank U Smarties! The one candy that has no fructose– the bad guy of added sugar

I know no one wants to be the dorky parent who hands out erasers or nickels at Halloween, or the no-fun parent won’t let her kid have more than one piece of their hard-earned candy every day or two, but you know what? I, for one, am embracing my dorkiness. Also, I’m hiding Ilsa’s candy bag in the freezer.

The Moral of Blackberry Tarts

May 18, 2017 § Leave a comment

Everyone who has a kid knows that there are moments when they surprise you utterly. Not like the time you caught them drawing on the wall with a sharpie. Like, in a good way, I mean.

Last night I had one of those moments. I came home from doing an errand to find my 12 year-old, Ilsa, shouting: “Don’t come in! I have a surprise for you!!!”

I know moms everywhere will forgive me for my next thought:

Uh-Oh.

When Ilsa finally allowed us to see the table, though, I stopped in my tracks. The table was set for dinner- which was lovely in and of itself- but beyond this, sitting just to the side, was a beautiful… something. A platter that called to mind perhaps the tarts stolen by the Knave of Hearts. She had even styled it with a sprig of apple blossom, as if the folks from Martha Stewart Living would be stopping by to photograph it for the cover at any minute. They could have, too: it was as pretty and summery as anything I have ever seen.

Now, those of you who know me will recall that Ilsa has long been an improvisational baker. For whatever reason, and despite the fact that her mother is a confirmed recipe-slave, my youngest daughter simply has no patience for step-by-step instructions in the kitchen. Now that she’s old enough to use the stove and oven by herself, occasionally we are treated to her impromptu experiments, which I’m amazed to report, are always edible, and often surprisingly good.

On this occasion Ilsa had outdone herself. The little cake/tarts were moist and perfectly browned; the berry compote-like-mixture on top delicate and jammy. She was skeptical: too much baking soda, she said. I was skeptical right back: “I don’t know,” I said, my mouth full of tart, “These are really good.”

Hmmmm. I thought, as I took another bite, “Ilsa?” I asked. “Did you use sugar in these?”

“Nah” she shrugged. “We didn’t have any, so I just used the berries.”

So. I just want you to remember this story when people tell you kids need sugar. Must have sugar. That denying them sugar is, well, just plain mean. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it till I’m blue in the face, kids need lots of things: Love. Support. Nourishing food. Fun. Failure. They need a lot of things, irreplaceable things, things for which there is no substitute, but sugar isn’t one of them.

I’m not going to lie to you and say my kids don’t ask for dessert, don’t want cookies when they see them in bakery cases, don’t accept when people offer them candies to suck on: they do. Who among us is not conditioned to hold out their hand when offered a treat? But when they get those treats, how often do they say “Ew. This is so sweet!” and throw it away? You’d be amazed.

Just the other day in the parking lot of the school a friend gave us a chocolate eclair from a famed Italian bakery (yes- lovely, deeply well-meaning people still hand me sugar even though I wrote a whole book about avoiding it) and Ilsa clamored from the back seat to try it- terrified the way youngest children always are that she was going to miss out on something amazing. She took one bite and handed it back to me. She did not want any more.

“It tastes like… you’re just eating sugar!” she said disdainfully. “Why would they do that?”

Thanksgiving Stuffing… Without All the Stuff

November 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

I’m cooking this year for Thanksgiving, and when that happens- believe it or not- I always look forward to it. Many people I know groan at the prospect of being responsible for this preposterous, Brobdignagian, and above all, deeply American feast. It’s no wonder: between the 47 must-have dishes, (“what do you mean you didn’t make the green Jell-o with the little bananas floating in it?”) and the obligatory mid-morning turkey-roasting nervous-breakdown (“Is it supposed to still be frozen inside?”), all we need to complete the collective sense of impending doom is Paul Revere riding through the living room calling out “The Relatives are coming! The Relatives are coming!!”

In the midst of all this madness, who could blame us for allowing “avoiding sugar” to fall to the bottom of our priorities list? Well, I’m here to tell you that you needn’t despair of your sugar-avoiding ambitions. Whether you’re cooking yourself, or just bringing a dish to help weigh down the table at someone else’s home, Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean “oh well” in the no-sugar department.

Let’s pinpoint the potential pitfalls: as always, if something has been store-bought, you’re probably in trouble. Whether it’s a package of gravy, a pre-glazed or brined meat, or a package of insta-stuffing- you’re going to encounter a whole host of added sugars, long before the pumpkin pie makes its appearance. I mean, look at these lists of ingredients I found for the most popular brands of instant stuffing:
screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-1-34-24-pmscreen-shot-2016-11-17-at-11-19-06-amHoly cow! High Fructose Corn Syrup, Molasses, Honey, Raisin Juice Concentrate… I count five different names for sugar in those ingredient lists, and that’s without even getting into any of the other, highly-questionable ingredients like mono and diglycerides (trans-fats), partially hydrogenated soybean oil (more trans-fats), BHT butyl hydroxytoluene (also used in embalming fluid) and DATEM (Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides- yum!). Google any of these and you’ll come up with a host of websites devoted to telling you that these “ingredients” cause cancer, cancer and also cancer, endocrine disruption, diabetes, and your head to fall off.

So! How hard would it be- really- to make your own stuffing? Honestly, it’s not bad at all. Chop up some crusty bread, add some sauteed vegetables and spices, and bake in the oven in a casserole dish. Voila! No added sugar, no nasty chemicals.

Incidentally, this is a subject near and dear to my heart: in my house growing up, Turkey Day was always all about the stuffing. You could lose everything else, up to and including the turkey itself, (which I actually did for years as a quasi-vegetarian), but the one dish it could not be Thanksgiving without was my mom’s famous Oyster Stuffing. If you feel like trying something new to go along with your uber-traditional meal, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Getting the oysters pre-shucked at a fish market is a little pricey, but my idea of a virtually indispensible holiday treat. My advice? Scrap the shrimp cocktail this year- try this instead.

(I like to make it a day in advance and throw it in to re-heat while other things are cooking. Also- it makes the most incredibly wonderful ingredient for leftover turkey sandwiches.)

Here it is:

Eve’s Mom’s Famous Oyster Stuffing

2 lbs of bread torn or cut into 1/2 inch pieces (make sure it does not contain sugar as an ingredient… Your best bet is to buy bread from (gasp!) a real baker… if you can find one. Let it get a little stale- 2 days or so.)

3/4 c. fresh parsley

2 Tbsp finely grated fresh lemon peel (I always use organic lemons if using the peel to avoid pesticides)

1 Tbsp crumbled sage leaves

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1/2 lb butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

3 cups chopped onions

2 cups chopped celery

3 cups (1 1/2 pints) shucked oysters, drained

1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine bread and chopped parsley, lemon peel, sage, pepper, and 1 Tbsp salt in a large bowl and mix well. In a 10-12 inch skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add onions, sauteing for five minutes or till translucent. Add celery, saute 1-2 minutes more. Add the sauteed vegetables, oysters and egg to the bread and spices and gently stir together. Cook in a buttered 9 by 13 inch casserole dish, covered with aluminum foil at 350 degrees for 40 minutes, remove foil, cook for 20 minutes more allowing top to brown nicely.

Sugar’s Bad Year

March 8, 2016 § 4 Comments

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there’s been a lot happening in the world of food policy, and because I am a tremendous Food Nerd, I am here to breathlessly point out this quiet but seismic shift. To sum up, if there is a Sugar Anti-Defamation League out there (and I assure you there is) they are having a very, very bad year.

It all began last April, when the World Health Organization recommended that we- everyone- should restrict to between 10 and 5 percent of total daily calories our intake of “free sugars” (translation: added sugars, as opposed to say, the sugar in a piece of whole fruit). http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2015/sugar-guideline/en/ This was huge news in the sugar world, not only because it made headlines, and not so much because anyone thinks it will radically shift the way any one person actually chooses their food, but more importantly because of the impact this can have on food policy around the world. What this means, at heart, is that what we consider acceptable food on a global scale is truly, if ever-so-glacially, changing.

In January, the US government followed suit, releasing new federal dietary guidelines telling Americans, officially, and for the first time ever, that they should be limiting their sugar intake to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/ http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/07/new-diet-guidelines-urge-less-sugar-for-all-and-less-meat-for-boys-and-men/?_r=0 Again, this is the kind of thing that will find its biggest ramifications in eventual changes to things like school lunch policy and food stamps.

You can recommend till you’re blue in the face, but what then? Some would add a stick to go with the carrot, which is where soda taxes come in. And there’s good news on that front as well because a study has found that soda taxes work: specifically in Mexico where their recently implemented tax has resulted in the decline of soda purchases anywhere between 6 and 17 percent. http://press.psprings.co.uk/bmj/january/sugartax.pdf

This is excellent news, because the idea of helping solve the obesity crisis via strategic taxation is all the rage, especially in Europe. Did you know Finland, Hungary and France already have their own versions of a sugar-sweetened beverage tax? No? https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/fat-taxes-do-work-eu-report-finds/ Who’s next? Maybe England. Aided by the lobbying efforts and a public awareness campaign by food celebrity Jamie Oliver, Britain’s parliament is considering a tax on sugary beverages, as well as other measures to reduce childhood obesity. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/22/jamie-oliver-expects-kicking-sugar-tax-sweetened-drinks

These are all good signs, right? To some degree.

Not to be a downer, but I’d have to be in pretty big denial not to notice that there’s still a pretty big sugar-shit-storm raging out there, with no signs of abating any time soon. I’ll give you a for-instance: a few weeks ago I found myself in a hospital cafeteria, surrounded by people who were overwhelmingly choosing to have soda for breakfast. Not high school or college students, mind you, but full-time adults who fold their own socks and everything. It was like a horror movie especially for Pilates instructors and people who work at Whole Foods. All by itself, this observation would’ve been bad enough, but to make matters infinitely worse, do you know who most of these people clearly were? As indicated by their ID badges, scrubs and white coats they were doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

Health professionals. Having soda. For breakfast.

And just yesterday I was sitting in a local cafe at breakfast time, idly watching patrons wander by with trays full of what should’ve been food, but really was sugar in various guises and forms. There was the tall, thin, twenty-something guy who had a 15 ounce Smoothie with which to wash down his enormous slices of chocolate cake and Tiramisu. (I kept silently looking over, hoping a friend was going to at least join him to eat the second dessert, but no such luck.) There was the well-meaning Dad who arrived at a table full of youngsters with a tray containing cupcakes, pastries, and a stack of thick, dinner-plate-sized cookies. Did I mention that this was at 9:30 in the morning?

Really, it would’ve been worth someone’s time to videotape the open-mouthed look of stupefaction on my face. I couldn’t have looked more aghast if these plastic trays had carried the results of someone’s frog dissection from biology class. At any rate, perhaps that would’ve been a healthier breakfast.

I don’t want to tell everyone how to eat, honestly I don’t. I just can’t believe that, if they knew about sugar what I know about sugar, that most people would be making these choices. Sure, we can enjoy a cupcake occasionally, but when it becomes the focal point of breakfast? That’s when we start to get in seriously big trouble.

But let’s go back to the good news, which is actually bigger than all the latest taxes, recommendations, celebrity awareness, and double-blind studies put together: the really good news is that people are talking about this. The sugar conversation is being had. For the first time, companies are adding words like “No Sugar Added” to their labels, because suddenly there is a cultural recognition on some level of why that might be a really good thing.

No longer is sugar the innocuous, cheap, filler ingredient that makes everything better with no consequences. And, if I had to guess, that’s what really keeping the Sugar Anti-Defamation League up at night.

That’s okay. They can always have a nice soda for breakfast.

Making a Difference in Three Minutes

August 9, 2015 § 11 Comments

I have a confession to make.

Yes, I am a passionate Sugar Awareness advocate, who has no problem writing, blogging and speaking on the topic. However, historically speaking, I’m just not all that good when it comes to the whole participatory democracy thing. I mean, like everybody, I have issues I care about – besides sugar even! I vote. I watch debates. I pay attention. But whenever I am advised to “call/email your representative today!”- do I? No. Not even once.

I’m not proud of this, mind you. But it’s true: I feel too… shy to call. And, if I’m honest, a bit afraid. Afraid to navigate whatever rat maze they’ll surely have set up for anyone foolish enough to attempt entering the debate. That I won’t know the lingo because I don’t speak Politics. I talk myself out of it: maybe they’ll put someone on the phone to argue with me! Maybe they’ll put me on a list! Maybe I’ll just feel like an idiot.

I hate feeling like an idiot.

So here’s the thing: right now there’s something huge going on in the world of Sugar. You probably don’t know about it, because, despite the fact that Sugar Awareness has been gaining increasing momentum, nevertheless I have seen almost no reporting in the media about the fact that the United States Food and Drug Administration is considering major changes to the way the nutrition facts label talks about sugar.

You know the nutrition facts label- that’s the little box on the side of every food package that lists how much of your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) one serving of this product contains; 6 ounces of Dannon Coffee Yogurt, for example, contains 2.5 grams of fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 25 grams of sugar, etc.

Nutrition Fact label

Very, very few of us really know how to interpret this data. In fact, I’d venture to say that nobody does, except perhaps your nephew’s girlfriend who is studying to be a nutritionist.

So when, for example, the World Health Organization changes its recommendations about how much sugar we should all be consuming on a daily basis (or rather, beyond which amount we should not be consuming)- which it recently did last March, halving it’s previous recommendations, it makes news, but who knows how to interpret it?

The WHO lowered the advised daily limit of sugar from 10 to 5% of total calories. I wrote a whole blog post about this that you can read here- https://eveschaub.com/2015/04/20/the-upshot-or-what-who-wont-tell-you/ but the upshot is this: the average person should not consume more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Back to our Dannon Coffee Yogurt: our nutrition facts label says 25 grams of sugar per serving. Which presents two problems: the first is the fact that who the heck knows how many teaspoons 25 grams amounts to?

The second problem is the fact that some of these sugars are surely lactose- milk sugars- which are not fructose, and not part of the FDA’s 6 teaspoons per day recommended limit.

So what do we do? Give up, make a joke about how modern eating is too damn difficult, and eat the yogurt. Right?

But, if approved, the FDA’s current proposal will change all that, so pay attention cause this is Super Cool (to food nerds like me) and, more importantly will make our sugar-sleuthing lives orders of magnitude easier:

  1. There will be a new line, underneath the “Sugar” line, which lists separately “Added Sugars” (see illustration).

What this means is that instead of memorizing the over 61 different names for sugar (what I call “The Sugar Alphabet,” which you can find here: https://eveschaub.com/resources/ ) you will have to look no further than this one simple line. If it is added sugar (read: extracted fructose) you will find it here.

Additionally, it will not include those “sugars” that are not fructose (and therefore IMHO not to be unduly fretted over), such as glucose and lactose. Then we will be able to easily see that of the 25g of “sugar” in our Dannon Coffee Yogurt, 13g comes from added sugar and that other 12g comes from lactose. Hooray for clarity!!

But wait, it gets better:

  1. Now, for the first time ever, the Nutrition Facts Label will list a Recommended Daily Allowance for sugar, just as it already does for fat, cholesterol, sodium and so on. Yes!

No more wondering what the heck 25 grams of sugar- or 13g of added sugar- in your Dannon Coffee Yogurt really means. It means, 3 teaspoons. And so, right there on the label it will tell you that your yogurt contains 50% of your Recommended Daily Allowance for Sugar.

Wow. Yep. What this tells us is that we’d be better off treating flavored yogurts such as Dannon Coffee Yogurt as dessert than as a healthy snack. One little alteration to the information facts label can suddenly give us a whole new understanding of our food.

Do you want these changes? Do you want people to be able to know that a can of Coke- all by itself- is nearly twice their Recommended Daily Allowance for sugar? I sure do.

So here’s the hard part: NOW IS THE TIME TO TELL THE FDA THAT WE WANT THIS. Now, that first part- the part about making a new “added sugars” line? The period for public comment on that has ended. (See? I wasn’t kidding when I told you I’m terrible at this.)

But the second proposal- the one to include an RDA for sugar- is open for public comment until October 13, 2015. Seriously, if I- the admittedly democratically-handicapped- can do this, you can definitely do this. I’ve even made a cheat sheet below to make it ridiculously, super easy. If it takes you more than three minutes I will be surprised. Here is what you do:

Step One: Go to this link: http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=FDA-2012-N-1210-0537

This is the page for submitting your comment on the proposal to add an RDA for sugar.

Step Two: Click on the comment box. Here is where you type your opinion on this proposed change. If you are like me, and get flummoxed easily at this point, you can copy and paste this:

As an individual consumer, I am very much in favor of the proposed change to the Nutrition Facts Label, specifically that it will now list % daily value for added sugars.

Sugar acts like a toxin- a chronic poison- that over time does substantial damage to the health of the human body. Our society’s ever-escalating consumption of sugar, specifically added sugars, is responsible for, or related to, practically every major modern health epidemic that we suffer from today: from diabetes and obesity, to metabolic syndrome, heart disease, liver disease, hypertension, and even cancer.

Changing the Nutrition Facts Label in this way will give consumers much needed information about the amount of sugar in food products within the established framework of a recommended percent daily value, so they can more easily make informed and healthier choices.

Step Three: Fill in the boxes for first and last name, (or, you can leave it blank in order to be anonymous) and, if you want to, check the box for contact information and fill out with your e-mail and/or zip code. Unless you work for the Sugar Association of America, make sure “I am submitting on behalf of a third party” is unchecked.

Step Four: Under “Category” select “Individual Consumer.” (Then, be amazed at all the Special Interest Groups that are listed here.) Click “Continue.”

Step Five: It will now show you a preview of your comment. Near the bottom of the page it says : “You are filing a document into an official docket. Blah blah blah… may be publicly viewable on the web.”

When you are ready, click “I read and understand the statement above.” And then “Submit Comment.”

Step Six: The next page instructs you to do a little dance, or possibly give yourself a modest high-five because you are very proud of yourself. Okay, well it should. What it actually does is give you a “comment tracking number” so you can go back and see if your comment has been posted on regulations.gov. You can also check a box if you want to be emailed a “receipt” for your comment.

Good luck finding where on earth all those comments go. I tried hunting around the regulations.gov website for sugar proposal comments and came up instead with fascinating discussions on “Importation of French Beans and Runner Beans From the Republic of Kenya” and the “National Sheep Industry Improvement Center.” (Since I’m on a roll, clearly, these will be the next items I comment on.)

But at last I did find the correct page. And to save YOU the trouble here is the link to it here:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FDA-2012-N-1210-0537

Now, I still couldn’t find the comments, but do you know what I did find? On the right hand side there is a box tallying “Comments Received” on this topic. Do you know how many comments had been received on this issue- this deeply important issue as to the clear labeling of added sugars (read: chronic toxins) in our food- as of this writing?

196.

Wow. Seriously, it is a deeply awesome and humbling thing to be able to participate in our democracy. And when you’re talking about 196 comments? Participation is no illusion.

So go do it. Now. I swear it will feel good. And if you have an extra thirty seconds post a comment here saying you did; let’s see how high we can ratchet up that comment-o-meter before October 13th. It might just make a really big difference.

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