Q & A: Normal Sugar Consumption for our Household

A friend recently emailed me asking me what our usual sugar consumption looked like. She was recently on an anti-yeast diet and is just starting to add sugar back into her diet. She asks:

“Now, as I am considering adding a “little bit ” of sweet back into my diet I am having trouble finding a good place to stay. I don’t want to NEVER have sweets, but I don’t want to binge either. I appreciated your post on sugar recently. What does that look like in your life? How many times a week do you eat muffins? Or make a dessert? Or have a sweetened beverage?”

While it’s a simple to explain what we are doing right now, it’s not necessarily typical of us. Elena recently had a bit of a yeast flare up, so we cut out all sweeteners (except stevia here and there) and fruit. Now she has a dab of honey here and there and a serving of fruit every couple of days. I try to keep the transition slow to her eating our typical diet and also try to make sure she is consuming lacto-fermented foods for all of the healthy bacteria it provides.

Like many of us “typical” habits change from season to season, and I am sure it will continue to vary in the future. Perhaps what would be most helpful is for me to share some of the guidelines I keep in the back of my mind while meal planning.

Dessert once a Week

I try to plan a dessert once a week normally. If my family knows that they will have something to look forward to every week, they won’t feel deprived  during the week. Plus, with so many yummy naturally sweetened or fruit based desserts, you can have a more healthy dessert guilt free. I also find this helpful on my budget. I would love to make my dessert day Sunday (made the day before), so that Sunday can be the “Celebration” day. I love how many families in the past had a special dinner on Sunday, complete with dessert.

Two teaspoons at a time

My new dabble in cooking is keeping my sugar consumption  (including  unrefined sugars)  low per serving of dessert. Two teaspoons of sugar is not supposed to upset the mineral balance in your body if you are healthy. I will keep you updated on my progress. My first two recipes following that guideline, the Truffles and the Chai Hot Cocoa were a success in this household. But other recipes may prove a challenge, unless I supplement with stevia.

However, for everyday living, adding a bit of honey to a cup of tea with a splash of cream, or having some lightly sweetened roasted nuts can give you that bit of sweet you love without going over that limit. If you have gone completely without sweets for a couple of weeks, it’s actually amazing how nice just a little sweetness is.

Fruit for Snacks

We’ve had to cut back on fruit lately, but generally I like to serve fruit as part of a dessert or raw as a snack. We especially love to buy organic apples in bags of several pounds (so frugal) and cut them up and eat with nut butters. If you are having yeast issues, obviously you have to be careful even with fruit. But for most of us, adding several servings of fruit in won’t be much of an issue and will give us many antioxidants and other benefits. And if you are transitioning back into eating fruit, or just trying to cut back on natural sugars, you can always start with the less sweet fruits, like grapefruit, some berries, and green apples.

Mommy Treats

Probably because I am nursing right now, I am finding that I like my “treat” to be in liquid form, hence all of the recent recipes for hot beverages! But sometimes my husband gets a very dark chocolate bar for me and I will also have a square or two of that during the day. While I think that I really shouldn’t feel this way, I do find it gratifying to have a mommy treat during the day, whether is chai tea or a square of chocolate. Motherhood is as demanding as much as it’s wonderful, so I am always delighted if I can curl up with a good book and sip a gently sweetened tea. It’s the type of moment I completely took for granted before kids came around!

Breakfast Smoothies

When I feel like everyone is handling fruits well, we will also have smoothies for breakfast sweetened entirely with fruit (bananas are very sweet). One favorite recipe, Mango Orange Smoothie, is just as good as a dessert to me!

My goal would be to have everyone healthy and yeast free so that we can enjoy a moderate amount of fruit per day, and a lightly sweetened muffin, drink, or other goodie on most days, with a special “real” dessert once a week. All in all, I’ve found that when I had a season of having to be very careful with sweets for myself, I got quite used to not having it around. Now we have to be careful with my daughter as well (antibiotics can save lives, but the after affects can be very unpleasant). But I try to keep a reasonable balance for my family of having enjoyable sweets without overwhelming them with too much sugar. The above guidelines are some of the principles I try to keep in mind day to day, but they aren’t laws to control us, just guide us.

But just in case my dear readers think that I am a the epitome of self-control, I do sometimes step outside these guidelines. We recently ate at a friend’s house after we had not been eating sweets for a while. They served a wonderful homemade, naturally sweetened fruit cobbler. It tasted so good I ate no less than three servings. (Epitome of rudeness, I know!).  I would normally attempt to eat just one serving…..but self-control was a bit lacking that night!  And that’s not even mentioning the larger size sample of banana cake I had at New Seasons this week…..two days in a row.

One last thought for those, like my friend, coming off of an anti-yeast diet. If you find that the idea of eating sweets so consuming that it’s hard to resist, I would suspect that you are not quite ready to go off of your diet. Desserts, fruits, and sweets, should sound appealing to us, but not controlling.

Hopefully that gives a little picture of what we do. I would love to hear from my other readers as well! How often do you eat fruits and sweets? What are your personal guidelines?

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. says

    really great thoughts and ideas. I like the idea of having one day a week to serve dessert. We don’t have dessert very often but, at times when we do, we will have leftovers and it’s easy to pick at them during the week. That’s the hard part. Sometimes when we have a lot of leftover dessert from a get-together or something like that, I will freeze the rest so it’s not as tempting. 🙂

  2. Gi says

    I second your mommy treat of chocolate….Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate is a must for this mommy…one square a day (on most days. 🙂
    thanks for this post, it is a great reminder that a little can be enough.
    And for us we eat fruit, muffins with honey, pancakes with some maple syrup and our coffee has some honey in it. Oh and the coconut ice cream has maple syrup in it as well. That’s about what we eat on a weekly basis. Some weeks/season are better then others. 🙂

  3. Jessie says

    In terms of one piece of chocolate – I read in a book by Audrey Hepburn’s son that she ate one piece of chocolate every afternoon – but never more – one was enough.

    In terms of eating fruit without so much of the sugar affect, I would like to propose lacto-fermenting fruit. There are some recipes in NT and you can find some online. So far I’ve fermented apples / raisins, pineapple, and cranberry / orange relish. They are quite tasty & can stand in for fruit in some circumstances. (Some recipes are more chutneys with lots of spices – if you leave out the spices, it would be more sweet & less savory).

    • Dani says

      I love the idea of the fermented fruit–I am thinking for yogurt or oatmeal add-ins. What a great idea, and what a way to introduce LF fruit into the diet–it can taste a bit challenging for those that didn’t grow up with it!

    • KimiHarris says

      And don’t we all want to be just a little like Audrey. 😉

      Great idea with the fermented fruit. I believe traditionally they are used as part of a meal. Yummy!

  4. says

    Great post! It’s pretty in-line with what we do over here as well. I usually will make a homemade ice cream once every other week or so and maybe some cookies (grain-free with lots of good fat, usually sweetened with maple syrup) other times and freeze them. Then we can pull out one or two when needed. I like the super dark chocolate bars (80%) by Equal Exchange- I get them from Tropical Traditions. They aren’t too sweet or too bitter and there is NO soy lecithin (yay!).

  5. christine Taylor says

    My family’s appitite for sugar just kept increasing and increasing. So, I stopped making desert a couple of years ago. They don’t ask or expect it now. We do have desert when we have a fellowship meal at church. I buy stevia and use that in my coffee and tea. I am trying to avoid flour products. So, we don’t really use sugar. I do buy the really dark chocolate occasionally for a treat. Mostly we just stick to whole foods: meat, vegetables, fruit, raw dairy, some whole grains (barley, rice, quinoa, etc), eggs, etc..plus, fermented foods. I make my own salad dressing. so, I don’t have to worry about sugar in there either. We do have sugar in the house and I plan to use some to make some jam, but I haven’t done that yet…I keep thinking they don’t need the extra sugar.

    • KimiHarris says

      You know, it’s funny how that happens. When I find that we are eating more and more sweets, I do the same thing, just pull back completely to give it a rest. 🙂

    • Corinne says

      Have you looked into sugar-free jam recipes? I’ve never made them before, but I seem to remember seeing variations for sugar-free (and, if I remember correctly, sugar-substitute free) jam recipes in the pectin packet last time I made jam. It wasn’t in the Sure-Jell package, it was the store brand. I love making jam – been doing it most my life – and it’s so much cheaper than storebought! I was thinking of trying the sugar-free recipes next jam season myself. It won’t help the yeast/no fruit problem, but for those who have posted that they eat fruit just fine, it might be a nice option.

      About the single square of chocolate – my mom does that! I was so impressed at her self-control – I’m such a sugar junkie I’d eat half the bar. It’s been my ideal for a while. Some days are better than others. Kudos to those who have cut ALL sweets out!

  6. says

    Pickeld plums: umeboshi. Not really along the lines of dessert, but there is a traditional of fermented fruit.

    I also second the chocolate as an important splurge, but my recent spin on it has been buying unsweetened *really* good chocolate (75% by weight), mixing it with coconut oil or butter (10% by weight) and sweetening with a blend of agave/honey/a little powdered sugar (15% by weight). I may also add any flavors like lavendar, and basically making my own bark. It’s kind of a lot of work, but delicious. Alternatively, home made low sugar hot cocoa. I can generally make it with 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp sugar and be happy.

    My other regular sugar sin is maple syrup on hot cereal in the morning maybe two to three times per week. I don’t measure it, but typically it probably runs around 2-3 teaspoons. The goal of limiting to two teaspoons seems remarkably reasonable and clear. It would also be very difficult to cross the WHO max of 10% of calories (around 50 grams or 10-12 teaspoons for an moderately active adult and about half that for a child) from added sugars that way.

    I don’t limit fruit, though, and generally find that I do well on diet with plenty of fresh fruit when it’s in season. Off-season, I lean on home canned fruit and froxen so I tend to eat much less.

  7. Jana says

    We don’t use sugar around here at all on an every day basis, but I will use unrefined organic sugar (either a rapadura type or unrefined dehydrated cane juice) for special treats such as birthday cakes, where you can’t really substitute honey or other sweeteners. But those occasions are few and far between.

    For every day, we use raw honey in our coffee or tea, maple syrup whenever we have oatmeal (we love steel-cut oats, soaked of course) or pancakes (rare), and that’s about it. We do eat fruit every day, such mangoes, apples, oranges, bananas, grapefruit, frozen raspberries or blueberries, etc. Occasionally I will make cookies, but the last time I did so I tried using honey instead of sugar and it worked great! I find that I almost cannot bring myself to pull out the bag of sugar anymore, after going without it for so long. We never feel deprived with the raw honey, maple syrup, and fruit. And even when making Japanese food at home (so many recipes call for some kind of sweetener), I have started to use honey instead of sugar and it actually works very well! I do use mirin sometimes, but I wonder if that’s in a different category?

  8. says

    What a great post. Thank you for sharing. I’m constantly working at eliminating sugars out of my diet. I do agree with you on the Mommy Treats! Especially during these early years. Sometimes just a chai tea with a bit honey is all it takes to get me through the rest of a very long day. I will also indulge in a square or two of really dark chocolate here and there throughout the week.

  9. Elise says

    We drink quite abit of kombucha during the day…how does that factor in to sugar consumption? I am trying to limit the raw milk to 2 glasses a day because we do have some weight to lose.

    • Meghan says

      I found this article helpful in calming my fears about sugar consumption via kombucha: http://www.kombuchakamp.com/2011/02/sugar-and-kombucha-faq-top-10.html

      excerpt: “The sugar in Kombucha is for the culture to consume, not for you. When done fermenting, there will be about 1-2 grams per 8 ounce glass of unflavored Kombucha. By contrast, an 8 ounce glass of orange juice has about 24g of sugar. Natural carrot juices have 13g per 8 ounces. If fermented longer, say for 2 weeks, sugar levels in Kombucha are even lower.”

      Hope that helps 🙂

  10. Cath says

    We tend to avoid dessert during the week, but at the weekend I always make dessert for Sunday dinner. Last week I made a Pecan pie crust out of NT and baked it. Then topped it with sliced bananas and fresh cream. I topped that with some black and green grapes. It was kind of banoffee pie with out the caramel and went down very well with the children. So much so – guess what is for dessert on Sunday again lol

  11. Claire says

    I love this post. It is so comforting to know you all have the same issues/ thoughts about sugar. For me balance is key. Thank you and bless you all. Ps dries dates make a wonderful natural sweetner in crumbles and porridge. I use no sugar in my crumbles just dried dates!

  12. dawn says

    I also use dates and unsweetend applesauce with just a tiny bit of honey to sweeten bannana muffins. So yummy. Not grain free but really good. Much better for a quick breakfast for my husband than him stopping for a biscut or even worse a donut! Just grind the dates in the food processor with a little honey into a paste and it makes a great sweetner for baked goods.

  13. Magda says

    I’m on full GAPS now so I have my 2 tsp of honey in my morning tea and another tea in the afternoon (I still have Rapadura at work so I use 1 tsp of that – I’m going to get a small honey bear to keep there so I can use honey in my 2nd cup as well). I usually have 1-2 fruit a day and that’s about it. I made a batch of almond flour pancakes that called for 1/4 cup honey (the recipe made about 16 smallish pancakes). I found them sweet as dessert!! I’m going to cut the honey at least in half next time.
    I haven’t been baking lately at all. DH still buys his own candy (mostly wafer-type cookies) or his mom send him some from Europe (nostalgia, you know…). My 6.5 YO haves some chocolate or gummi bears once in a while. I didn’t realize how much sugar he was eating until I started counting: morning tea, yogurt, jam in his PB&J, etc… it really added up! I’m replacing sugar with honey in his tea (I use Rapadura) and I’m going to use plain yogurt sweetened with maple syrup or honey instead of commercial yogurt (might have to compromise there a bit..)
    Whew… sorry it’s so long. BTW on the chocolate bit: up until a few weeks ago I had a square of chocolate every day for years… I miss it, but hopefully I do well enough on GAPS where I can go back to my square of 85% dark chocolate a day.

  14. Crystal says

    Can you post some helpful links about eliminating yeast……..I think we may have a yeast problem with one of my girls and one boy THANKS

  15. Kim says

    I find myself overwhelmed at the moment. I have been on this food journey for 3 years now and have learned a lot and applies things, and have also gone through times of not doing very well. But I really struggle with the food that family, school, friends and church give to the kids. I am always wondering how to handle this? I rarely ever say anything as not to offend and often throw handfulls of candy away that the kids bring home. I would love to make desserts for the family, but they get so much outside the home it makes it difficult.
    Second, my son can’t eat gluten, dairy, eggs, yeast and a couple other little things. His diet has a lot of fruit in it. As we all eat a lot of fruit. If I were to help him more on some of his health issues what could I do about the fruit thing?

    • Samara says

      Hi Kim,

      One idea is to “trade in” sweets for other kinds of treats. For example, your kids agree to pass up sweets, and keep track of each one they pass up. When they hit 30, or however many you decide on, they get a trip to the zoo, or some other special treat. With younger kids, you can trade in a sweet for little things like a toy car, a couple new crayons, a toy necklace…
      Also, don’t worry too much! Their perception of “normal” will be what you tell them it is. They will default to that as they grow older.
      I do think you are doing right not to offend the givers of the sweets though.

      Best of luck.

  16. says

    I would love to hear more about the yeast issues, as well. My 3 year old daughter and 2 year old son both have yeast issues which flare up if they ever have a glass of juice or more than a small amount of sugar. I am totally off sugar (except for the dark chocolate square a day…wow- am I in good company or what?) so we do the dessert once a week thing as well, and it’s usually a sugar-free treat. Are the yeast issues preventable with young children? My youngest had antibiotics at one week old due to a high fever/virus, so that’s a no-brainer (he also has a milk allergy, which I think probably stems from those bacteria being killed at 7 days old), but my daughter has never been on any kind of medication. Would love to learn more when you have time…

  17. says

    We love your fudge recipe with coconut sugar for a treat. Personally I find I have to be an all or nothing kind of person. If it is in the house I will eat it! So I try to limit sweets to special occasions and avoid buying packages of sweets.

    A favorite quick dessert I make for guests is fruit crisp. I usually have all the ingredients available (but not put together so I am not tempted). I just fill a pyrex dish with cut apples or pears and berries and make a topping of equal parts butter, oatmeal, flour and sugar or honey. Delicious and fast!

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