*Disclaimer: This blog post is written in partnership with the Canadian Sugar Institute and its team of Registered Dietitians. The author has received compensation for her time, as well as for products used during this workshop. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and are not influenced by the Canadian Sugar Institute.
Last week, I was fortunate to take part in The Sweet Spot Workshop with Chef Claire Tansey hosted by the Canadian Sugar Institute. Eight fellow Registered Dietitians and I gathered with Chef Claire and the Canadian Sugar Institute —virtually, of course—to make some yummy meals and talk about one of my favourite topics: sugar. With recipes developed by Chef Claire, our menu for the day was based on Health Canada’s new guidelines on sugar consumption which has been set to 100g of sugar per day based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Sugar is a word that is sometimes feared or misunderstood in our community. As a Registered Dietitian, you would not believe the number of times I hear statements like I’m going to cut sugar out of my diet. Sugar is as addictive as cocaine (it isn’t, by the way). Or I only use natural sugars. I believe all foods can be enjoyed, and I’m extremely excited to share my thoughts on how sugar, in all its forms, can have a place in everyday meals and snacks.
The different forms of sugar
Sugar comes in two different forms.
Natural sugars, as the name suggests, are found naturally in foods. Fruits, vegetables, and milk products all contain sugar in the state found in nature!
Added sugars include refined sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and concentrated fruit juice. They can be put in processed foods or added when preparing something from scratch, for example. Often these sugars are labelled as “bad.” However, that term can lead to confusion depending on the origins of the added sugar.
To illustrate what I mean, the question is sometimes asked: Are honey or maple syrup really better for you than refined white sugar?
My response would be: it depends on what “better” means to you. Buying maple syrup from a local sugar shack to support a local business? Then yes! Choosing honey to keep bee culture alive and for our environment? Then yes!
Whether you sweeten your tea with honey or refined white sugar, the end result is that sugar is sugar, and it will be used by your body in much the same way. Yes, maple syrup and honey contain more nutrients than refined sugar. However, it’s in such trace amounts that it makes very little difference in the grand scheme of things.
How does our body use sugar?
Sugar is the quickest way to fuel our bodies. Sugar molecules, or glucose, travel through the bloodstream and are transformed into energy. Most body parts can get their energy from the transformation of carbohydrates (into glucose), protein, or fat. But glucose is the only nutrient molecule that can reach the brain! That’s why sugar is essential for our body to function. Moreover, foods containing natural sugars also come with a variety of nutrients like fibre and protein which are important benefits to lead a healthy life!
So, should I avoid all added sugars?
Absolutely not. I believe there are no foods that should be completely avoided. Added sugar makes food taste better, gives it a better texture, and can even be used as a preservative. All foods can be part of a healthy and pleasurable lifestyle, including added sugars.
Look at the packaging. Notice a change?
The Nutrition Facts Table is being revamped! As a Registered Dietitian, I’m absolutely delighted by these changes mainly because I use the table as a tool on a daily basis -and at times even I can find it confusing myself. I think the updates are going to help me as a professional and make it easier for you as a consumer to compare products.
The old Nutrition Facts Tables provided the total amount of sugar(s) per serving. Fibre -just like sodium or iron- had their % of Daily Value (%DV) listed, but sugars did not.
Among other things, the new Nutrition Facts Table will include a %DV for sugars, whether they are naturally occurring in foods or added to food. The new %DV for sugar is based on the daily consumption of 100g of sugar in a 2000 calorie diet.
The industry has until 2022 to implement those changes, so you might not see them right away, but keep your eyes open – I know I will!
The % Daily Value : what does it mean?
The new %DV for sugar is based on the consumption of 2000 calorie per day, of which 100g would come from sugar. Some people need less than 2000 calories per day. Others need a lot more and that is completely okay! Overall, Health Canada’s guidelines state that a diet consisting of 20% of sugars is consistent with a healthy eating pattern.
What does 100g of sugar per day look like, really?
A 100g of sugar and 2000 calorie diet can be challenging to imagine, even for a Registered Dietitian like myself! The goal of the Sweet Spot Workshop is to provide an example of what 100g of sugar per day can look like and, even more importantly, how it can be included in a healthy and realistic sample one-day menu. Those of you who know me know that I don’t count calories or my macronutrients. My goal in participating in this challenge is to show that it’s possible to lead a healthy lifestyle with easy, balanced, and delicious meals!
What’s on the menu?
Chef Claire Tansey developed all the recipes for this sample one-day menu. She is a cookbook author and a former Chatelaine food editor. It was an absolute pleasure to work with her as we clearly share the same love for food and understand that eating for pleasure can be healthy too! I encourage you to check out her website and Instagram to get to know her work.
Together, we made Teriyaki Tofu with Bok Choy and an Apple Galette during this lunchtime workshop. The Canadian Sugar Institute also shared a few more of Chef Claire’s recipes, which I’m happy to show you. Here’s what’s on the menu:
Breakfast – Instant Bircher Muesli
This muesli is made with oats, nuts, seeds, and Asian pears. I used it to top a 2% Oikos pomegranate yogurt. It was an amazing alternative to oatmeal, and I will definitely use this recipe again for sure!
Total sugars: 36g per serving
Morning snack – Secretly Green Smoothie
Smoothies are a great option for a quick breakfast or as a snack when you’re on the go. Make sure to include protein in the form of Greek yogurt, as was used in this recipe, or even nut butter to make it more satisfying! As an extra bonus, this recipe has no added sugar. Instead, an extra ripe banana was used in this smoothie to make it super sweet.
Total sugars: 13g per serving
Lunch – Teriyaki Tofu with Bok Choy
This stir fry was ready in just over 15 minutes which also makes it a tasty and effortless meal. Claire’s recipe stands out by including a homemade teriyaki sauce that lets you control how much sugar and salt you wish to add to the dish. I served it with some wholesome brown rice.
Total sugars: 12g per serving
Afternoon snack – Apple galette
My initial plan was to save this galette and have a slice of it as an evening snack. To be honest, I just couldn’t resist. It smelled SO GOOD in my kitchen and it was absolutely delicious. The pastry dough was simple to make and was an amazing alternative to store-bought pastry. I’m excited to try this recipe out again by using other seasonal fruits!
Total sugars: 30g per slice (1/8 recipe)
Dinner – Roasted Vegetables and Hummus Pizza, with a Crunchy Coleslaw Salad
We love pita pizzas in this house! They are such a customizable meal! Using hummus as a sauce is a genius idea to add some protein to the dish! The coleslaw was crunchy and fresh too.
Total sugars: 3g (pizza) + 3g (coleslaw) = 6g per serving (1 pita pizza and 1/8 of coleslaw recipe)
Evening snack- Raspberries
After eating such nutritious food during the day, I was full! I still had a craving for something sweet, so I had a bowl of raspberries.
Total sugars: 8g per serving (3/4 cup)
Total for the day: 100g
Participating in the Sweet Spot Workshop was an unforgettable opportunity to learn and shed some light on how sugar can be used guilt-free while cooking. It was also a wonderful time spent with a fine group of colleagues who are all media dietitians!
Most of all, I hope that this has shown you that all foods are essential to make our body function properly and make us happy!
In the end, this workshop also has inspired me to take on the #SweetSpotChallenge myself. I’m excited to share a “What I Eat in a Day” challenge composed entirely of my own recipes! That’s coming up next week!