As a runner and someone who is concerned with eating a balanced, healthy diet, I have been really watching my sugar intake recently. Although I’ve generally been eating healthy for quite some time, the amount of sugar I realized I was consuming daily was pretty high. Using myfitnesspal as a food journal for years to monitor calories, protein, carbs and the like, once I started paying attention to the “sugar” column, I was really surprised! I have a soda maybe once a month, and I try to only eat desserts/sweets on the weekends or special occasions. I pretty much exclusively drink black coffee, water, and then a glass of wine or beer every day. So where was all this sugar coming from? Turns out, it sneaks in in all kinds of forms. Dairy products, most things in bottles, including pasta sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, even taco seasoning, as well as in fruit in all of its forms (jams, fruit yogurt, juice, etc.)
Sugar and its ill effects have gotten a lot of attention lately, and it seems like there are two main camps of people: The first type distinguish between “good” or “natural sugar,” such as those in fruit and milk, and “bad” sugar, anything processed or added to enhance sweetness or flavor. These people say that it is fine to eat lots of natural sugars, but to limit bad sugars. The second school of thought does acknowledge that natural sugar is better than processed, but suggests that ALL sugar produces negative effects, and should be consumed in moderation. After reading a lot about sugar on the internet, I’ve decided to count all of my sugar intake for the day towards my recommended allotment of 45g, but also trying whenever possible to only eat natural sugar, and eliminating processed sugar.
So how has this worked out for me? I pretty eat the same types of items, but not in the same way. In the grocery store, I’ve started scrutinizing my “go-to” brands, in many cases switching to those with less sugar. FYI, “organic” doesn’t always mean less sugar. I make my own taco seasoning, salad dressing, and stopped buying greek yogurt with fruit already added. As it (finally!!) warms up in my area, I stop eating oatmeal (another sugar sneaker, even though I thought it was healthy) and start drinking smoothies. In my small town, there is only one smoothie shop, and they have about 10 varieties on their menu. EVERY one has at least 40 grams of sugar, with some topping out over 70. For a SMALL!! Last summer, my fiancé and I made our own smoothies almost daily. A lot of times we just threw whatever fruit/yogurt/juice we happened to have in the house in the blender. As such I never calculated the sugar content, but I’m guessing the OJ, strawberry yogurt, and other high sugar fruits weren’t as virtuous a choice as I thought.
As many people do when they need answers, I turned to google. I searched for “low sugar smoothie recipes,” “green smoothie recipes,” “high natural protein smoothies.” And what did I find? Lots of high sugar, not so healthy recipes. So I decided to create my own, and it was surprisingly easy, only 3 ingredients: Naked Kale Blazer, plain greek yogurt, and frozen fruit. I wanted a juice that was mostly vegetable based, I don’t get enough greens even though I try. My grocer had plenty of juices, green and not, and so I read the labels of any that sounded good. Many were quite high in sugar. I settled on Kale Blazer because it had the highest number of veggies and the lowest grams of sugar. It also contains a hint of ginger and lemon, which are said to be great for digestion. I use Chobani plain greek yogurt, again because it has the least amount of sugar, and is a great source of natural protein. Finally, I scoured my frozen fruit section for a blend that is, you guessed it, low in sugar. I settled on a package of strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple chunks. The result? A not sweet (I mostly taste celery) but still pretty good smoothie. I like to pair it with some cheddar cheese and a hard-boiled egg for lunch.
Low Sugar Green Smoothie (that appears pink) 😉
1/2 cup frozen strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple chunks
1/2 cup Chobani plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup Naked Kale Blazer juice
*optional- I throw in a couple of leaves of mint or basil (whatever I have a lot of) from my herb garden for a little extra flavor
Blend until smooth, blend with ice for a thicker smoothie
443 mg Potassium, 2g Fiber
18g Sugar, 13g Protein
A good source of Vitamins A, C, Calcium, and Iron