For a variety of health and social reasons, I’ve been tweaking a number of my recipes to get the sugar out. Table sugar, or sucrose, is obtained by refining the juice from sugar beets or sugar cane. Today, about 80% of the white table sugar consumed in the United States is manufactured from genetically modified sugar beets. A teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams of carbohydrates and is 20 calories.
As a nutritionist, I know that the preference for sweets is inborn. Unfortunately, food manufacturers recognize this also, and American consumption of sugar has risen dramatically. In 1890, the average person consumed 6 teaspoons of sugar daily, and by 1996; the average daily consumption had increased to 32 teaspoons of sugar! This is the equivalent of 130 pounds of sugar per year.
Some simple strategies to magnify the sweetness of food without boosting calories include serving food warm, as heat enhances the sweet taste. In cooking and baking, add sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cloves. A pinch of salt enhances all the flavors, including the sweetness. Enjoy real, fresh fruit and fruit juices, or those prepared without any added sugar, and be sure to read manufactured food labels carefully.
For those of us who strive to enjoy a more seasonal, local and organic diet, honey and maple syrup are the sweeteners of choice and refined white table sugar is not a typical pantry item. When contemporary recipes for baked goods call for white sugar, and I often try reducing the sugar in the recipe by 1/3 or ½. Sometimes I can substitute part of the sugar and decrease the liquid, and in some recipes, I can eliminate the white sugar entirely, using honey or maple syrup. For me cooking without sugar is a creative opportunity to use wonderful Maine grown ingredients to enhance the flavors of nutritious foods.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Bars
- 2 tablespoons butter at room temperature
- 4 tablespoons creamy or chunky all natural peanut butter
- 1 cup honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup whole-wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- ¼ cup chopped peanuts
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9” x 13” pan. In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together the butter, peanut butter and honey. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder and chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into the pan, spreading to the edges. Sprinkle the top of the bars with ¼ cup chopped peanuts. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes. Under – baking will produce a chewy bar; longer baking it is more like a cake. Cut into 24 pieces.