I am heading in to day 12 of my 21 day cleanse and I thought it was a good time to address a sweet little food that quite often has a firm grasp on both me and my family members: Sugar. Ah yes, we all adore our sugary treats and no one more than my lovely 9-year-old daughter who I’m convinced would be quite happy to exist solely on candy, white chocolate, suckers and gum. This creates a real source of friction in our house because my older kids truly feel it is their right as children to enjoy candy. What’s a mom to do?
And here is my dirty little secret- I really like it too. I grew up eating a ton of candy and junk and there is this little voice inside my head that keeps saying “Come on, let the kids eat the candy. You did and you are just fine.” But deep down I know that’s a total cop-out for a number of reasons.
First of all, “sugar” has changed considerably since I was a child. The sugar that my grandma and mom would use for baking or gave us in treats has mostly been replaced with highly refined sugars and artificial sweeteners. The approximately 26 tsp of sugar the average Canadian is consuming on a daily basis is largely coming from substances that would be unrecognizable to past generations. My parents didn’t know that the food industry was conspiring to keep us addicted to their products by adding sugar-like substances (aka high-fructose corn syrup) to packaged breads, yogurt, juice, cereal, lunch meats, snacks and countless other foods. Also, research and education has improved dramatically over the last 40 years as to the short and long-term effects of sugar on our bodies. New scientific studies are linking increased sugar consumption with obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for treats. Heck I’m often the one baking them! And I don’t plan on crashing the next birthday party my kids are at as the Sugar Police. But I’m starting to realize that in my house- it’s not just an occasional treat anymore. It’s something that is handed out and often expected at playdates, at school, after soccer games, at dance, after school, after meals and to celebrate any and all milestones (think potty-training).
Even though my kids will probably complain bitterly, I am resolved to serve less refined sugar in my home. Of course we’ll still have treats but I’m going to attempt to reprogram all of us into making candy and sweets the exception rather than the rule.
Once the kids walk out the front door, they’ll be making their own food choices. I’m sure they will have their fair share of sprinkle donuts, candy, chocolate bars and pop but I’ll feel better knowing that somewhere in the recesses of their brains they’ll hear my voice gently encouraging healthier options.
I have also been very aware of my own sugary cravings during this cleanse (and I’m positive the killer headache I experienced on day 3 was a direct result of my over-indulged sweet tooth). Especially after dinner I find myself poking around for some dessert. Here are some of my favourite sweet things from the past 12 days:
And the very best one of all – Almond Milk Shakes! There are endless variations of this delicious treat and I am having a blast testing them all out. I start with homemade almond milk, add some fruit and dates and presto – I’ve got a creamy delicious shake. FYI- dates are my go-to sweetener during the cleanse, but I am also a fan of other natural sweeteners like agave nectar, maple syrup, molasses, maple sugar, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup and stevia in my baking and cooking. Feel free to experiment with these sweet products and I would love it if you would share your best tricks and tactics for combating the sugar monster with me in the comments.
Homemade Almond Milk
2 cups raw almonds
Approx. 4 cups water
Soak almonds in water overnight in a medium bowl with enough water to cover completely.
In the morning, drain and rinse almonds and pop them in a high-powered blender with 4-5 cups of fresh water until smooth.
Using a nut sack or fine mesh sieve, strain pulp from the milk.
Store strained milk in a glass jar in the fridge (because it is all natural – homemade almond milk will separate when it settles so give it a shake before you serve it)
Basic Vanilla Almond Milk Shake
2 cups almond milk
2 cups ice
3 pitted medjool dates
1 frozen banana (optional)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (or a pinch of vanilla bean powder)
1 tsp maca powder (optional)
Blend and enjoy!
Strawberry: Add 1 cup of strawberries (with the green leaves)
Creamsicle: Add 2 frozen clementines (peeled)
Chocolate: Add 2 tbsp. of raw cacao powder
Chocolate & Peanut Butter: Add 2 tbsp. of raw cacao powder and 2 tbsp. raw almond butter
Blueberry: Add 1 cup of frozen or fresh blueberries
You get the idea. Be creative and have fun with it!