Why Sugar Is Bad And What You Can Use Instead


How much sugar are we really eating?

Sugar has become a hot topic.  In excess it makes us fat.  The problem is that MOST of us are eating it in excess.  We’re probably eating more than we think because it hides in MANY everyday “non-sugar” foods such as tomato sauce, fat-free salad dressings, marinades, crackers, yogurt, bread etc.  According to Forbes, American adults are eating 22 tsp of sugar per day and what I found even more horrifying is that the average American child eats 32 tsp of sugar per day!!!  WHAT?!?!

The American Heart Association recommends that most women get no more than 100 calories a day of added sugar from any source, and that most men get no more than 150 calories a day of added sugar. That’s about 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

According to the American Heart Association, children up to age 8 should take in no more than 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Older kids and teenagers should limit themselves to no more than 5 to 8 teaspoons of added sugar each day.  Wow – we are REALLY exceeding the recommended amounts!!!

Why is sugar bad?

There are many names of sugar but let’s talk about one of the most common types of sugar –  table sugar – white sugar also called sucrose.  It originates from sugar cane or sugar beets but is highly processed.  When we ingest sucrose, our bodies use enzymes to break it down into 2 (equal) compounds – GLUCOSE and FRUCTOSE. 

Glucose is our body’s main energy source.  It is found in every living cell on the planet.  Glucose is essential and when we don’t consume enough of it, our bodies manufacture it.  It comes from the carbohydrates (grains, veggies, fruits ) that we eat.  Glucose is either used immediately for energy or stored in the muscle cells or liver as glycogen for later use.  Insulin is secreted in response to glucose in the bloodstream and facilitates the entry of glucose into our cells.  The secretion of insulin is a good thing because it causes the hormone leptin to be released.  Leptin is an appetite controlling hormone that tells us when we are full.

Fructose on the other hand, has a different metabolic pathway and is not a preferred energy source for our muscles or brain.  We have no physiological need for fructose and our bodies do not manufacture it.  Fructose can only be metabolized in the liver (putting additional strain on our liver).  Fructose is more lipogenic or fat-producing than glucose.  It does not stimulate the production of insulin and as a result does not trigger leptin.  In fact, studies have shown that fructose raises our levels of grehlin (the hunger hormone and signals us to eat!) 

If we eat small amounts of fructose it is not a problem and the fructose will be broken down into glycogen (like glucose is) and stored in the liver for later use.  The problem arises when our liver is full of glycogen (which is becoming common) and we eat a lot of fructose, this overloads our liver and forces the fructose to form into fat.  This can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (which is the most common liver disorder is developed countries).

One of the popular sweeteners used today is High Fructose Corn Syrup (read a label of any processed food and you are sure to find it!).  HFCS consists of 55% fructose and 42% glucose (and 3% other sugars).  Fructose is twice as sweet as glucose and this syrup mixture became (in the 1960’s) a inexpensive alternative to sucrose.  There is a debate on whether table sugar is worse than HFCS but two things are for sure – High Fructose Corn Syrup is genetically modified, and a highly processed substance.  This form of sweetener is in SO many packaged foods and is definitely one to avoid.

I just need to pause and make an important point VERY clear.  You may be reading this and think to yourself “Fruit contains fructose so therefore I must stop eating fruit because it is going to make me fat”.  I need to tell you emphatically that thinking is WRONG!!  And here is one of the best explanations that I found in an article from Scientific American:

“Drinking a soda or binging on ice cream floods our intestines and liver with large amounts of loose fructose. In contrast, the fructose in an apple does not reach the liver all at once. All the fiber in the fruit—such as cellulose that only our gut bacteria can break down—considerably slows digestion. Our enzymes must first tear apart the apple’s cells to reach the sugar sequestered within.” 

Do you see the difference?  Eating fruit will NOT make you fat.  Fruit is a WHOLE food.  It has antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.  It has not been processed so our bodies must process it.  Loose fructose coming from a highly processed food just slides right into our liver – bam!

This article went on to give a great example of how fruit will not make your gain weight.  “In a small but intriguing study, 17 adults in South Africa ate primarily fruit—about 20 servings with approximately 200 grams of total fructose each day—for 24 weeks and did not gain weight, develop high blood pressure or imbalance their insulin and lipid levels.”

I would hazard a guess that you don’t even come close to eating 20 servings of fruit a day so you are safe!!

Just in case you are still not convinced that you should give up sugar, here are some dangers of excess sugar that you may not know about.  Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D., highlighted these studies in her article in the Huffington Post:

  • – A 2013 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association provided strong evidence that sugar can affect the pumping mechanism of your heart and could increase the risk for heart failure.
  • – A 2012 paper in the journal Nature showed evidence that fructose and glucose in excess can have a toxic effect on the liver similar to the metabolism of ethanol — the alcohol contained in alcoholic beverages.
  • A 2009 study found a positive relationship between glucose consumption and the aging of our cells.  Sugar actually promotes wrinkles.
  • A 2010 study in children found that excess fructose intake (but not glucose intake) actually caused visceral fat cells to mature — setting the stage for a big belly and even bigger future risk for heart disease and diabetes.
  • A 2012 study found that excess sugar consumption was linked to deficiencies in memory and overall cognitive health.
  • A 2013 study estimated that 180,000 deaths worldwide may be attributed to sweetened beverage consumption. The United States alone accounted for 25,000 deaths in 2010. The authors summarize that deaths occurred due to the association with sugar-sweetened beverages and chronic disease risk such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

So what CAN you use to sweeten your food?  That is a GREAT question.  There are many options and the surprising thing about these natural sweeteners is that they have great nutritional value!

Here are my 5 favourite natural sweeteners that we use in our house:

  1. Raw Honey – unlike white sugar (that is basically empty calories), raw honey contains B Vitamins (I like to think the Bees are giving us “B” vitamins), enzymes, antioxidants, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc and phosphorous.  You do not want to cook with raw honey.  Use it raw for it’s best nutritional value – for example, on hot oatmeal, toast, yogurt, salad dressings etc.
  2. Stevia  it comes from a plant in South America.  It has zero calories and zero carbohydrate.  It is 200 times sweeter than sugar so you do NOT use it in the same ratio as sugar.  It is heat stable so it is great to use in baking.
  3. Dates – come from a tree.  Dates contain potassium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and vitamin B6. They are easily digested and help to metabolize proteins, fats and carbohydrates.  They can also be used in baking.
  4. Coconut Sugar – contains iron, zinc, calcium, potassium, antioxidants, phosphorous.  It is low glycemic so it won’t spike your insulin.  It is easy to substitute for white sugar because it measures the exact same in baking.  I find it makes things slightly less sweet.
  5. Maple Syrup – contains manganese, calcium, potassium, and zinc. It is rich with antioxidants, so it will neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative damage. Select darker, Grade B maple syrups because they contain more beneficial antioxidants than the lighter syrups.

Those are my personal favourites.  I hope you feel compelled to reduce your sugar intake.  Take baby steps if you need to.  Your body will thank you.  You will feel SO much better!


School’s Back! Fast & Healthy Food Tips


Today’s blog is from my friend Jenn Burton, a mom and Holistic Nutritionist.  She has some great nutritional tips for school!  Thanks Jenn!!

Oh yes is it that time of year again…….just look at social media! Many of my friends posting back to school lunches, breakfasts. Everyone starts of with such good intentions but 5 days a week can be long preparing food for little ones and yourself. My little one will be starting school next year so I am some what lucky but I do make his lunches for day care so I can feel the pain.

Here are a few tips on how to manage time and providing healthy options for you and your children:

  • Smoothies – put all ingredients a night (except the frozen items). Add wonderful foods like chia, hemp, protein powders, sneak greens in. In the morning all you need to do is add the frozen fruit and or ice, blend and serve.
  • Energy Balls – great for grab and go either for school snacks, before or after sport snacks. Alternatively, you can buy “Good for Me” products (school safe), they are great but a bit pricey. See the recipe below.
  • Cut up veggies – cut a bunch of veggies and store in a bowl of water to keep fresh and crisp, this way you can just grab and add to lunches. Pair it with hummus and there is a great snack. The best veggies to keep in water are carrots, celery and radishes.
  • Easy Breakfast – oatmeal is a great start to the day. loaded with fiber, complex carbs and protein. This will stabilize blood sugar and keep you full for a longer period of time. Helps to avoid 3pm afternoon crash. Add food such as hemp hearts, chia seeds, cinnamon, maple syrup and berries. Rolled oats cost pennies in bulk and can feed big groups of people and quick and easy to make.
  • Lunches – lately I have been roasting veggies and bbq’ing chicken breasts to add to wraps or a big green salad. This makes for a quick lunch or dinner. Add greens, hummus, cheese. I buy most of my poultry from Howards Farms which are located north Newmarket/Holland Landing area. They sell a 5lb box of chicken breasts for $28.00. They also attend the Newmarket Farmer’s Market, they sell out very fast http://www.freewebs.com/howardsfarm/.
  • Dinners – invent in a crock pot or an insta pot, it can be a lifesaver for those cool and busy days. You can cut up everything at night and throw it in the morning, set the time and walk away. I bought a insta pot last year and haven’t used it to it full capabilities yet but it does have great features where you can sauté right in the same pot, this has saved dishes for me! My go to’s for the insta pot are spaghetti and meatballs, fajitas, soups and stews.  Another fast idea is to make taco salads, literally cook ground chicken (make your own taco sauce to avoid any sulphates and it is yummier anyways), cut up tons of veggies, greens, sour cream, avocado. Buy the yummiest taco’s from a health food store called “Casa Fiesta”. Make a big batch so everyone can take for dinner and lunches. See below for homemade taco mixture.


Energy Balls

  • 1 cup of large flake oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/3 ground flaxseeds
  • ½ cup nut butter or sunflower seed butter for school safe
  • 1/3 maple syrup
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • Add in any of these yummy additions – hemp hearts, protein powder, cinnamon, chocolate chips
  • Mix and roll with hands, store in fridge

Recipe courtesy of Schwartzman http://www.rachelschwartzman.com/


Homemade Taco Mixture

  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Mixed together all ingredients. When using the spice mix, use about 2 tbsp per pound of meat. Brown your meet and drain fat. Sprinkle with seasoning and add 1/3 cup (may vary) of water. Simmer until water is absorbed.

Recipe courtesy of Family Fresh Meals

Look for my next blog on how to shop for your family at Costco!

~follow your bliss~

How To Set & Achieve Your Fitness Goals

A photo by Will van Wingerden. unsplash.com/photos/cZVthlrnlnQ

Achieving health and fitness goals is not as simple as saying you want to lose weight or get fit.  There are proven ways to properly set realistic goals AND actually reach them.  Follow these steps to help you formulate the best goals and get you on the right track for achieving them.

#1 Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Using this acronym will help you write out your goals.


You need to be clear on exactly what you want to achieve.  Saying you want to get more healthy or lose weight is too vague.  Getting specific with numbers is crucial.  For example:

For body shape:

“I want to lose 10 pounds in the next 3 months”

“I will lose 4% body fat in the next 4 months”

For Fitness:

“I want to be able to do 10 pushups on my toes by Christmas”

“I want to do an unassisted pistol squat by next September”

“I want to run a 10K race by spring”

for Heath:

“I want to reduce by sugar intake to 25 grams per day”

“I want to make homemade healthy dinners 5 nights per week.”


How will you track your progress?  When you are specific with your goals it is much easier to measure your improvements and know if you are on track.  It is helpful to take your long-term goals and break them down into smaller pieces.  For instance, take your 3 month goals and set up smaller weekly and daily goals with action steps to help you move in the right direction.


If you can not envision yourself achieving a goal then it is not the right goal for you.  There are things that people would like to achieve but if they can not actually SEE themselves accomplishing it then they will never be able to achieve it.  Make it do-able.

I also find that it is hard for people to know what is an achievable fitness goal.  This is where your Fitness Trainer can help.  For instance, losing 1-2 pounds a week is a realistic and achievable goal.  Losing 1% body fat per month is another realistic goal.  You can ask a Trainer to help you chose an achievable goal.


Is this goal important to you?  How will your life change if you achieve this goal?  Make sure this goal is something YOU want and not something that you think you want based on external pressures from people around you.  You need to have a big reason WHY you are bothering to go after this goal.  Be clear on what you want but be even clearer on WHY (more on this at #3).  Otherwise you will quit when things get tough.


There needs to be an end point.  Once you have decided on your goal, you need to set a realistic end date and work towards that goal in achievable steps.

#2 Be accountable

I can really speak from experience on this one.  I have set many goals.  Written them on paper, looked at them regularly, had a plan but never told anyone and guess what?  I failed.  I feared the feeling of embarrassment if I shared my goal and never hit them.  But here’s the thing, sharing your goal makes you accountable.  Sharing your goals allows your biggest fans to be your cheerleaders.  Sharing your goals makes you keep going when you want to give up.

If you keep your goals trapped inside yourself expecting to be internally motivated and inspired, I can tell you this – you will fail.  There are so many obstacles and bumps on the road to your success.  If no one knows what you are trying to achieve, it’s so easy to give up.  Finding the right people (a friend, an accountability partner, a coach, a trainer) to fuel your fire, keep you inspired and help you stay focused is so important.

#3 Find your WHY

You will need to dig deep and find out WHY this goal is important to you.  This WHY will drive you when you feel like giving up.  This WHY is something that is deeply emotional for you.  You just need to figure it out.  Here is a technique to discover your biggest motivators and your WHY: 

  1. Start out saying your goal – for example: “I will lose 5 pounds in one month”
  2. Then ask yourself “What will that do for me?” and answer that question.  For example: “My clothes will fit better.”
  3. Then ask yourself again “What will THAT do for me?” and answer that question.  For example: “I will feel better about myself”
  4. And keep asking this same question “What will that do for me?” until you reach the final answer.  THE REAL ANSWER.  You will discover what is really important to you.  You will discover your WHY and the deeper, emotional reasons you want to achieve this goal.  This is what you need to know in order to be successful.

#4 Fuel your FIRE, Everyday

You will not wake up every morning and feel motivated.  There are challenges and roadblocks that will constantly knock you down.  You will need daily inspiration to keep you fired up for your goal.  Here are some suggestions:

1) Positive self-talk.  We all have limiting beliefs that are stopping us from achieving our goals.  You may be surprised how negatively you talk to yourself when you really listen.  Examine your self talk and try saying positive affirmations out loud everyday.  You can post positive notes on your bathroom mirror or somewhere that you will see them multiple times a day.

2) Visualize yourself having already achieving your goals.  What will your life look like after you have arrived at your destination?  See yourself enjoying your success.

3) Look at motivating pictures to stay motivated and inspired.  Use photos or quotes.  Post them where you will see them daily.

4) Have a cheerleader, a coach or an accountability partner and check in regularly.  Choose someone who will pick you up with you fall.  Someone who believes you can do it.

5) Listen to inspiring music or watch motivational videos or read powerful books.  Anything that sparks the fire within you to keep on keeping on.

#5 Identify your obstacles and make a plan to overcome them

There will always be challenges on your way to success.  It isn’t going to be easy.  Take a look at what is stopping you from achieving your goals right now.  What are your roadblocks?  Do you have bad habits or sabotaging behaviours that you need to change?

For instance, do you sit on the couch watching TV and snack on junk food?  This is bad habit,  an obstacle that needs to be overcome.  But how?  Our habits become ingrained and so hard to break.  They are neural pathways that become stronger with repetition.  Think of a rut on a road that your car tire gets trapped in.  That’s what happens with our habits.  Getting out of that rut requires a new pathway.  And making a new rut in the road isn’t easy! 

One way to make a new neural pathway (and habit) is to use visualization.  For example, if you are a late night TV snacker (I’m talking to myself here!), imagine yourself sitting on the couch watching TV.  Visualize yourself getting the munchies for a fattening snack.  Instead of eating that sabotaging food choose a different response.  Visualize yourself getting up off the couch, and making a green tea or grabbing a book or going for a walk or snacking on veggies instead.  Choose a behaviour that you can substitute and actually visualize yourself acting it out.  This is the beginning of changing a negative neural pathway into a positive one.

Not all obstacles are bad habits.  Some are just poor planning and bad time management.  For example, if you haven’t taken the time to pack a healthy lunch you may be stuck for good options and only have unhealthy choices available.  We need to be prepared and plan ahead.  That being said, I just want to make one side note and say “sh*t happens”.  Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries.  You can NOT beat yourself up for being human.  Tell yourself it’s ok and move on.   

#6 Take Action, Everyday

Small actions are cumulative.  I heard somewhere that people overestimate what they can achieve in a day and underestimate what they can achieve in a lifetime.  Do not assume that small, daily acts towards your goals are not going to add up – they are!!  Staying consistent is the key.  Taking actions towards your goals everyday will help you get to where you want to go and help you stay focused. 

I hope that helps you on your road to success.  Happy goal-setting!