The New York Times issued a 7-Day Sugar Challenge and I’m thrilled to participate! Each day I’ll share a tip and an easy recipe from my new book, Half the Sugar, All the Love, to get you started on your way to cooking with less added sugar. If you’ve already got a copy of Half the Sugar, All the Love, you’re ahead of the game! If not, grab your copy HERE.

Added sugar looms large in packaged foods, and it’s a big reason why our consumption of added sugar is so high. Adults and kids are consuming three times more added sugar than is recommended. Recent studies have shown that 1 in 5 adolescents are pre-diabetic, babies and toddlers are consuming high amounts of added sugar when they shouldn’t be having any at all, and there might be a link between sugar and anxiety given the connection between your gut and your brain. 50% of our added sugar intake comes from sugary beverages. The other 50% of the added sugar we consume comes from the foods we eat. The reason we are consuming so much added sugar is not just because of cookies, cakes, and sodas, although those foods are a big part of the problem. Sneaky sugars show up in foods that you don’t even think are sweet, like sauces, dressing, soups, and condiments. Then there are the foods you think are healthy, like granola, yogurt, and energy bars, that can contain more added sugar than a candy bar. Added sugar adds up quickly in your diet when you’re not looking!

Day 2: Real Food Vs. Processed Food

For Day 2 of The New York Times 7-Day Sugar Challenge, your goal is to stop eating the added sugar lurking in processed foods. Parker-Pope recommends, “start by cutting just one packaged food item from your snacks or meals and replace it with a single-ingredient, whole food.”

Salad dressings are one of the easiest places to start. My favorite is the Creamy Poppyseed Dressing in my Harvest Mason Jar Salad.

Mason Jar Salad with Creamy Poppyseed Dressing | Half the Sugar All the Love | Jennifer Tyler Lee

I was surprised to learn that my favorite packaged dressing contained over 18 teaspoons of added sugar in the jar! So I remastered it. The Creamy Poppyseed Dressing in Half the Sugar, All the Love is sweetened with pears instead of added sugar. It takes just a few minutes to make in the blender and can be used for dressing salads, as a dip for chopped vegetables, or as a marinade for chicken and fish. You’ll find the recipe on page 194.

As for other packaged foods on your grocery list, learn to read the nutrition label to spot added sugar. Remember, there are about 4 grams in 1 teaspoon of sugar. A good rule of thumb is to keep added sugar per serving under 5 grams or 1 ¼ teaspoons. Choose unsweetened products when possible. Avoid sugar substitutes, both natural and artificial.

Looking for more healthy swaps for processed foods? Try these:

Nut Free Homemade Energy Bars

Persimmon Chips

Brussels Sprouts Chips

Roasted Chickpeas

Ready for Day 3? Click here for Day 3: Eat Fruit!

Half the Sugar, All the Love is packed with over 100 recipes to enjoy your favorite foods in a healthier way. The secret is using fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to sweeten instead of added sugar. It’s available wherever books are sold.

Half the Sugar, All the Love by Jennifer Tyler Lee