Confessions of an RD Sugar Addict & Low-Sugar Recipes

The holidays are upon us in the midst of a pandemic.

In past holiday seasons, I would check in with my clients to see how the holiday season was affecting their health.  We would talk about getting enough sleep and adapting exercise routines to adjust for cold weather and shorter days.

We would talk about stress management tools to help cope with the pressures to overeat and the pressures to eat foods that we have been attempting to avoid. 

This year is challenging because we are already taxed by the unbelievable stress of living in a pandemic.

I have found that I am already struggling with insomnia and less exercise. I have been overeating and craving sweets. In fact, I think that I have developed a sugar addiction during these last 7 months. I have been substituting ice cream, donuts, and chocolate for the hugs that I used to take for granted. I am missing gatherings,  parties, and shared dinners with friends. 

I started to look at the total amount of free sugar that I was consuming.  On some days it added up to over 12 teaspoons per day! And I am a dietitian.

Sugar is a powerful stimulant of serotonin that is lacking in my brain these days. I thought that I was developing a cavity and this woke me up.

I had to make a commitment to cut back on sugar. 

I thought about the World Health Organization’s sugar recommendation of lowering our free sugar intake to less than 5% of our total daily calories. This works out to about 6 teaspoons a day, depending on the person.

Free sugar applies to 

  • Added sugars such as:
    • glucose
    • fructose
    • sucrose
  • Naturally occurring sugars such as in:
    • fruit juice
    • honey
    • syrups

Whole fruit and milk sugar are not included in free sugar. 

I started to look at the total amount of free sugar that I was consuming.  On some days it added up to over 12 teaspoons per day! And I am a dietitian.

The average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar daily. This translates to 57 pounds of sugar consumed each year.

Hidden Sugars are Tricky to Find

Many people don’t realize that a lot of the sugar they take in are “hidden” in processed foods, according to the World Health Organization.

  • 12 oz of soda may contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Starbuck’s 12 oz Vanilla Latte contains about 7 teaspoons of sugar.
  • 1 Tablespoon of ketchup contains 1 teaspoon of sugar.
  • Fun size trick or treat plain M & M’s contain 3 teaspoons of sugar.
  • 1 piece of apple pie contains up to 8 teaspoons of sugar.
  • 6 oz of fruit-flavored yogurt has 6 teaspoons of sugar.

Research does show that for some people eating sugar produces characteristics of craving and withdrawal, along with chemical changes in the brain’s reward center, the limbic region. These changes are linked to a heightened craving for more sugar. 

I am grateful to be able to consciously choose to lower my sugar intake to improve my health.

I am grateful that the whole fruit can be used as a sweet substitute for my sugar cravings.

I love the new fall crop of apples, pears, kiwi, and persimmons.

Delicious Naturally Sweet Recipes

Below are my recipes for baked apples and poached pears that are a delicious holiday dessert.

Simple Baked Apples

  • 5 – 6 medium apples, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 Tablespoons butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Place the apples in a medium baking dish

Mix the melted butter or coconut oil, walnuts, and cinnamon together and pour over the apples. Bake in the preheated oven until the apples are soft, about 20 – 30 minutes. Stir once during the baking.


Poached Pears (Naturally Sugar-Free)

  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 orange zest and juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1-inch ginger root peeled
  • 3 cloves whole
  • 2 Conference pears, peeled, sliced in half, and core
  • 1 Tablespoon sliced toasted almonds
  • 2 Tablespoons thick plain Greek yogurt

Pour the wine into a small saucepan along with the orange zest and juice and all of the spices

Bring almost to a boil and add the pear halves. Turn down the heat and let the pears simmer gently for 20 – 30 minutes, or until they have slightly softened.  Carefully turn the pears over a few times throughout the cooking time to ensure they color evenly. When the pears are cooked remove them from the wine and place them on plates. Add a tablespoon of yogurt to each plate and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Visit our Joy of 6 Page for sugar info and resources to share with your clients!

Written by Dawn DeSoto RD, CDCES, our resident Nutrition Content Writer

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