Hello, my friends! It’s Friday and I have a new One Simple Change post to share with you today…all feels right in the world again :) I also have a great recipe for Pumpkin Scones!

Pumpkin Scones | Healthy Green Kitchen

I always planned to write a post about sugar but to be honest, I’ve been a little worried about doing so because…well…sugary treats are awfully popular in the blogosphere. But with October Unprocessed right around the corner (it starts Monday, people…go sign up!) and since Andrew did a great post on sugars and sweeteners just the other day, I was inspired to get going on my own.

Here’s the thing: I like sweets as much as the next person. But I also know first hand that eating too much sugar can be problematic.

At one point in my life, I ate quite a lot of sugar. This was back when I was a diet-obsessed teen: I craved and ate sugar pretty much constantly (as long as it wasn’t accompanied by fat…I avoided fat like the plague). Non-fat frozen yogurt was my very best friend and we got together to hang out several times a day. I’m not going to go into all the details here but suffice it to say that I really messed up my body by eating that way for years: my diet was terribly imbalanced and it really took a toll on my health. It took a real commitment to eating a balanced whole foods diet- one full of protein, high quality carbohydrates, and healthy fats (and I also gave up sugar for a little while) in order to get better.

I have a different relationship to sugar now. I don’t crave it like I did before because my diet is balanced. I use very little white sugar at all because I don’t think it fosters optimal health (I use it when I am canning, but that is about it): when I am sweetening something, I always try to choose organic, unrefined sweeteners that have some redeeming qualities (see later in the post for suggestions).

How do YOU know if you are someone who should be concerned about sugar? Well, if you eat packaged/processed foods, your diet may be pretty high in sugar (and likely high fructose corn syrup) because things like breakfast cereals, donuts, cookies, cakes, candy, and sodas are loaded with it. These foods also contain unhealthy fats, preservatives, and other chemicals, so I hope you don’t rely on them too often. There are so many healthy things to have for breakfast other than packaged cereals, and if you want to eat baked goods, then I suggest you make them yourself. A dessert made at home with high quality ingredients such as unrefined sweeteners, organic flours, and real butter is much better for you and your family than something you buy at the store made with less-healthy ingredients.

There is also a lot of sugar added to packaged foods that are marketed as healthy. Manufacturers add sugar to replace the fat in low-fat foods; many brands of granolas and yogurts have quite a bit of added sugar, too. Read. The. Labels. And make these foods yourself if you are so inclined. I have a few different granola recipes here on my blog, and I have a recipe for homemade yogurt, too.

So, would it be best if we all didn’t eat any sugar at all? Some health experts seem to think so, but I don’t necessarily agree. I think we can eat less without eating none at all.

I honestly believe we’re programmed to love the taste of sweet things because our body needs them. I don’t think all sweet foods are bad for you…I think they are fine when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet (and as part of a lifestyle that includes plenty of physical activity). I know there are people who are avoiding not just added sugar in their diet, but naturally sweet fresh and dried fruit and root vegetables because they are afraid these foods are bad for them. I think these fears are completely unfounded; I believe all of these foods to be quite healthy as long as they are not consumed in giant amounts (I don’t think anything should be consumed in giant amounts).

If you feel as if you are addicted to sugar/have a tendency to overeat sweet foods, be sure you are eating enough food, and enough protein and healthy fats…eating a nutrient-dense whole foods diet with enough calories distributed throughout the day seems to help people who tend to binge on sugar when they eat it! (One caveat: be careful about eating too much dried fruit- I once went on a month long dried mango rampage, then found out I had a few cavities…I don’t think it was a coincidence.)

While I do suggest avoiding processed store-bought baked goods (not just because they are high in white sugar, but again because they contain unhealthy fats, preservatives, etc.), this does not mean you cannot enjoy treats…you can bake your own! What should you use when baking or otherwise sweetening foods at home? I suggest exploring the range of natural (and preferably organic and fair-trade) sweeteners on the market: examples include sucanat™, rapadura™, and coconut sugar, raw unprocessed honey (this is why I got my own bees), real maple syrup and molasses. I also use jaggery and palm sugar on occasion, as well as organic fruit juice. All of these are less refined/processed than sugar (they also contain some minerals so they are not 100% empty calories). I used to feel good about agave but then I started reading bad things about it so I don’t really use it any more. If you do want to use it, make sure to look for organic, raw agave. See this for a full list of unrefined sweeteners…there are many I didn’t mention here. Note that some of these are more processed than others; again, go with the ones that are the least processed.

Some people may want or need to try low carbohydrate sweeteners like stevia or one of the sugar alcohols (like erythritol)…note that I have no experience using either one, but have heard good things from diabetic friends who do.

Whatever you do, don’t use artificial sweeteners. These are about as far as you can get from a natural food. They may have no calories, but your body still secretes insulin when you consume them because they taste sweet and your body is expecting sugar. So the insulin is floating around, but it has nothing to do…not good. The use of these will then cause you to crave sugar even more because the released insulin really wants some sugar to deal with. And another thing: artificial sweeteners contain known toxins…if you use them, please give them up. This means diet soda people, which you already know you shouldn’t drink.

Most all of the baked goods/dessert recipes on my blog are made with natural sweeteners, and here’s one I recently posted over at MindBodyGreen: Pumpkin Date Scones (which also happen to be gluten-free and vegan).

Recipe for Pumpkin Date Scones

Ingredients:

*9 ounces almond flour (about 2 ½ cups)
*1 1/2 ounces coconut flour (just under 1/2 cup)
*2 teaspoons non-aluminum baking powder
*2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
*6 tablespoons demerara sugar (or another unrefined granular sugar) plus another 2-3 teaspoons for sprinkling on top of the scones before baking
*3/4 cup packed canned organic pumpkin
*1/4 cup organic coconut oil, warmed so it’s a liquid, if necessary (coconut oil will melt in hot weather, but will be solid when the ambient temperature is cooler)
*1/4 cup chopped organic pitted dates (I soaked my dates in water for about 10 minutes to soften them before removing the pits) or raisins

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Combine the almond and coconut flours in a medium bowl and whisk with a fork. Add the baking powder, the salt, and the sugar and whisk again.

3. Add the pumpkin, the coconut oil, and the dates or raisins to the flour mixture. Combine all the ingredients with a wooden spoon (or your clean hands) until a ”shaggy” dough forms. If the dough seems too wet, you can add a bit more almond or coconut flour.

4. Turn the dough out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a silicone baking pan liner) and flatten it into a thick circle. Cut the dough into eight equal triangle-shaped pieces, and then sprinkle the top of the scones with the additional organic sugar (press the sugar down a little so it adheres to the scones).

5. Move the pieces apart a bit so the scones are separated from each other by an inch or two, then bake until they are starting to brown on top. Start checking at 15 minutes, but these should take 18-20 minutes to bake. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving.


pumpkin date scones

So what do you think? Do you already limit your refined sugar intake/use natural sugars? Or are you a white sugar fiend? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this week’s One Simple Change.

 

27 Comments

  1. 1

    Suzanne — September 28, 2012 @ 9:59 pm

    I try to limit sugar, don’t really eat processed food but love chocolate. It’s my weakness, I am going to take your advice and try using organic sugar rather than the processed white sugar I use, although i think some recipes need to have the fine granulated variety. Very good post I always learn so much.

    • Winnie replied: — October 8th, 2012 @ 11:55 am

      Thanks Suzanne for your comment. I am lately using granular coconut sugar in recipes that ask for white sugar…it works really well!

  2. 2

    Bethesda Locavore — September 28, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

    Oh, this one is so hard!!! I am definitely a sugar addict. When I force myself to “detox” from it, I feel fantastic and the cravings go away, but then ONE sugary treat and I’m back on the sugar train. I find it really tough to self-limit. (Today! Was just having sugar issues today!) Thank you for the timely post!!

    • Winnie replied: — October 8th, 2012 @ 11:56 am

      It’s a real struggle…I know! I am ok with really small amounts but I know that’s not the case for everyone. Do you eat enough protein/healthy fats? Try increasing those two things to see if it helps the cravings go away.

  3. 3

    Fiona — September 29, 2012 @ 11:06 am

    Thank you for this post! I really only use sugar when baking, and try to always use demerara raw cane sugar and then still reduce the amount of sugar called for in the recipe a bit. Just wondering, when you use things like honey, real maple syrup, or fruit juice instead of sugar in baking, do you need to adjust the amount of dry ingrediants at all?

    I’m not lactose intolerant, but I also wonder about lactose. I have skim milk in my coffee and eat nonfat yogurt (with no added sugar) for breakfast or in smoothies, but have heard that the amount of lactose is higher in these products. But since lactose is a naturally occuring sugar, is there an issue with having non fat dairy rather than lowfat?

    • Winnie replied: — October 8th, 2012 @ 11:59 am

      Hi Fiona- yes recipes definitely need to be adjusted if you’re using liquid sweeteners. And I honestly recommend full-fat dairy over low fat- the fats help your body utilize the nutrients better- and balance out the carbs (sugars) in the dairy, as well.

  4. 4

    olga — September 30, 2012 @ 9:59 am

    great post, winnie.. and so so relevant. my most popular posts – cakes and sugary things. rare as they may be, they are definitely what people like to indulge in and comment on.

    my one guilty pleasure – an occasional diet coke w/my pizza. because i can’t justify HCFC – i think of diet coke as a lesser evil (perhaps mistakenly), but i want there to be a good alternative to that – like a mini can of coke w/sugar which i have so infrequently.

    • Winnie replied: — October 8th, 2012 @ 12:01 pm

      I hear you Olga- I drink a diet soda about twice a year…can’t bring myself to drink a regular one ever. Both are definitely best avoided, though! ps Hope the wrist is healing up nicely ;)

  5. 5

    Oui, Chef — September 30, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

    Great post, Winnie. I can’t claim to being even close to eliminating sugar from our diets, but I am using way more brown sugars that white these days, and would never dream of using an artificial sweetener. I love using honeys and agave when I cook too which helps combat the processed sugar devil.

    • Winnie replied: — October 8th, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

      Be careful about agave- a lot of brands are super processed and not terribly healthy. I think honey and maple syrup are way better for you ;)

  6. 6

    Hannah — October 1, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

    Wonderful post, Winnie! I love to bake and tend to lower the sugar content in recipes and try to use an alternative sweetener like maple syrup. I think it’s important to have balance, and treats are definitely part of that. Fortunately, dark chocolate and fresh fruit take care of many cravings! I’m excited for October Unprocessed. Love your scone recipe, too.

    • Winnie replied: — October 8th, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

      Hi Hannah,
      Thank you! I love baking with maple syrup- just wish it wasn’t so expensive! I agree about dark chocolate and fresh fruit…excellent ways to have something sweet and get some health benefits, too!

  7. 7

    October Unprocessed « Hy-vee Health State of Mind — October 1, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

    [...] on portion distortion last week, you know where I’m getting at).  So when I came across a fellow blogger who was promoting October Unprocessed I was totally on board to give it a go.  What is October [...]

  8. 8

    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — October 2, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

    This is a great post, Winnie… Thanks for sharing! I read Andrew’s post, as well, and they have both gotten me thinking quite a bit. For me, I struggle with the fact that I love to bake pastries, and it is difficult to get the same results from unrefined sugars as it is with good old granulated sugar. But, I am also realizing that I don’t need to bake nearly as many pastries as I do. I can reserve them for special occasions and learn to make “every day” baked goods from other, healthier options. I can’t wait to check out those scones because I have been craving pumpkin all week! They sound fabulous!

    • Winnie replied: — October 8th, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

      Thanks Jen! Yup- the key is probably to bake the sweet stuff a little less! Hope you try the scones :)

  9. 9

    Karen — November 20, 2012 @ 5:06 pm

    Hi Winnie,
    I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for replacing brown sugar in recipes? I know coconut palm sugar has a similar taste, but the texture is not the same so I’m worried about the end result. My husband has requested that I make his favorite sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving, but I want to make it a little bit healthier (if possible). It has a pecan pie-like topping that includes one cup of brown sugar. What do you think about mixing coconut palm sugar with molasses?
    Karen

    • Winnie replied: — November 20th, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

      Hi Karen,
      I have been using coconut sugar as a replacement for brown sugar in many recipes lately and I am getting great results. If I was making what you describe, I would go for it with the coconut sugar alone…I don’t think I would use molasses because it’s got such a strong flavor; also, the molasses would add liquid to the recipe so I think the topping would end up too runny. Sounds delicious, though…good luck!

  10. 10

    Eating for Health and Happiness, plus Yellow Cake with Lemon Curd | Healthy Green Kitchen — April 25, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

    [...] why you may want to eliminate wheat, gluten, and grains here. I wrote about dairy here. And sugar here. There’s a chapter on food sensitivities in my book (hooray! my book’s already up on [...]

  11. 11

    sarah — May 1, 2013 @ 10:46 am

    Hi,

    Im wondering whether you or anyone is adversely affected by stevia – I have been using SweetLeaf Stevia Sweet Drops in my tea daily, and last year I developed anaemia and could not think of any reason apart from the stevia, so I cut it out, and recovered, but I started craving a sweetener in my tea again recently so have been using the same brand for the past month, and i’ve been looking and feeling really tired and not “healthy” despite eating LOADS of healthy food, generally doing everything right! I dont know whether it is inhibiting the absorption of my food or something (i’ve heard this happen to someone, I read it online)

    Thanks

    Sarah

  12. 12

    Ricki — September 17, 2013 @ 10:23 am

    This is such great advice, Winnie! As you know, I no longer eat sugar at all and at the moment eat only low glycemic sweeteners (stevia, coconut sugar, yacon). I have found ways to create sweet treats that still taste delicious and like the “real thing.” I really believe, as you said above, that for people like me, staying away from sugar for the rest of my life is just imperative–and I was never diagnosed with high blood sugar, insulin resistance, diabetes, or anything “wrong” according to conventional medicine. I just know my body and my own reactions, and eating sweets triggers something in me that is definitely akin to addiction.

    I’d also love to read your reponse to Sarah, above–I have never heard of that kind of reaction to stevia (unless SweetLeaf isn’t pure stevia and something else in it is causing that reaction?).

    Oh, and of course these scones look amazing! Hopping over to MindBodyGreen right now to check them out! :)

  13. 13

    My Favorite 7 Real Food Recipes for Autumn — Nourished Kitchen — September 27, 2013 @ 3:18 pm

    [...] pumpkin date scones from Healthy Green Kitchen look amazing.  I’ve always loved dates – sweet and gooey [...]

  14. 14

    Aleena — September 27, 2013 @ 7:53 pm

    Hi Winnie
    The scones look nice except I am on GAPS and can’t have any sugar! (However they will probably taste fine without any!)
    I have read (on Mark’s daily apple) that production of coconut sugar is not sustainable and may lead to serious shortages of other coconut products (since it takes the nectar the coconut needs to grow). So it might be unrefined but unfortunately its not really “green”.
    Thanks

    • Winnie replied: — September 27th, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

      Hi Aleena,
      I bet they will taste fine without any sugar, too, because the coconut flour is sweet and so is the pumpkin. I have not read that about coconut sugar…I don’t believe everything I read on MDA but I will do some research and see what else I can find. Thanks for the heads up.

  15. 15

    The Beginner's Guide To Gluten Free Flours — September 30, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

    [...] Pumpkin Date Scones | Healthy Green Kitchen [...]

  16. 16

    Victoria — October 6, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    Hello!

    This is the first time I’m on your blog and I love it!

    I wanted to ask you, though, seeing as this recipe is gluten-free, if it’s possible to substitute the flours for regular, organic all-purpose flour (that’s what I use at home since neither my boyfriend nor I have any gluten intolerance). I’m dying to do these scones since it’s October, which basically translates to baking all things pumpkin! :)

    • Winnie replied: — October 6th, 2013 @ 9:38 pm

      Sure! Do you have a food scale? Go ahead and use 10 1/2 ounces of the flour you have instead of the almond/coconut flour combo…let me know how they turn out!

  17. 17

    Stacy — October 16, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

    What is the best way to store scones? How long can they be stored?