I have pretty much grown up with a sweet tooth. I’ve always loved sweets, and frankly, I tolerate them really well. I was never one of those kids who ate too much Halloween candy and got a horrible stomachache or something. (Actually, I was never one of those kids who trick-or-treated, but that’s another story.) So it’s fair to say that I enjoy sugar. But I’ve been taking steps to avoid consuming so much of it.
I was reading a post by another blogger, Katie, in which she was semi-reviewing Michael Pollan’s newest book, Food Rules. In this book, he keeps it short and apparently gives simple rules of eating which are supposed to be practical guidelines for people who are trying to make better choices in their diet. One of these “rules” really bothered Katie, though, and it bothers me too:
#39 Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself. [Katie says:] When I read this, I had homemade pumpkin ice cream, coconut pie, homemade potato chips and leftover rock candy from Christmas tempting me to wander through the kitchen and “graze”. As an at-home mom who loves to cook, I could keep us too well-stocked with hazardous foods!
“Cooking yourself” needs the caveat of “from healthy recipes” or “without white flour or sugar”. You know how bad white sugar is for people, right? However, this rule would work well for most people and might encourage healthy cooking from scratch.
I think that just encouraging people to cook at home doesn’t mean they’re going to cook using great ingredients. I use recipe websites all the time, and frankly, it’s just as tough to find semi-healthy recipes in those places as it is finding them in restaurants.
I was reminded of all this because I was surfing the King Arthur Flour recipe website today (http://www.kingarthurflour.com/). I cannot deny that many, many of these recipes sound delicious. I was actually searching for a cinnamon-related recipe, because I have a Costco-sized container of yummy cinnamon that I really want to bake something with. One of the most popular recipes that came up was a Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake recipe that sounded amazing. Except… once I started looking at the ingredient list, it started looking not-so-amazing. The cons: 1) Plenty of All-Purpose aka WHITE flour. I’m guessing that you can’t necessarily swap it out for a healthier flour, but you could probably at least add in some white whole wheat flour (which King Arthur sells) or a whole-grain flour. 2) This was the real kicker for me: there is a buttload of sugar. Wanna know how much? Combining the amounts in the streusel topping, filling, and cake: a little over 4 cups of brown and white sugar. Um, that’s a lot. The King Arthur sites lists the sugar amount in one piece as 36 grams. For comparison’s sake, that’s about 1/2 of a 20 oz. bottle of Mountain Dew. And really… how many people are going to stop at one piece? (There are 24 servings in one pan.)
I’m not saying you can’t ever eat things like this. What I am saying is that I hope people don’t take what Michael Pollan says at face value. You cannot eat “all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself” unless you want to suffer the chronic illnesses that everyone else in the country is experiencing: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. Treats like this cake should be saved for a special time… a really, really special time, in fact… sheesh. Have you ever actually made a cake with that much sugar before?! I don’t THINK I have…
Anyway, I am trying to be a lot more conscious of what kind of desserts I make, because I’m starting to understand that yummy dessert does not have to mean sugar overload. It’s a really good idea – especially if you enjoy making/baking desserts fairly often – to try to use healthier ingredients in your cooking. For sugar, I have stopped using refined sugar and am not trying to use only cane sugar, maple syrup, agave nectar, or honey. Even some of these are not necessarily healthful… but they’re definitely better quality than refined sugar and flour.
I am slowly gathering healthy dessert recipes; if you have any that you love, shoot em my way! Maybe sometime soon I will share my recipe for peanut butter and honey cookies… mmm… oh, and if you have a moderately healthy cinnamon-y recipe, will you let me know? That jar is still so full!