Barbara’s Fig Bars

      It’s been a long time since I’ve had the leading brand of fig cookies, so I can’t accurately assess for taste… but one of my sugar-eating friends says they’re “tooth-achingly sweet.”
     Q: Does a cookie that’s made with figs (which are super-sweet already) have to have a whole lot of extra sugar added to it?
     A: Nope.
     Speaking for my own family: my preschooler doesn’t often ask for dessert, but when he does it’s great to instead have Barbara’s Fig Bars on hand (which is difficult, as I love to eat them myself.)  He doesn’t like the super-sweet fig cookies now, perhaps because his first introduction to fig bars was to ones that, though only sweetened with fruit products, taste darn good.
     Here are the ingredients in regular Fig Newtons, according to the Walmart website.  The sweeteners are in bold lettering.
     Unbleached Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Figs, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Whey (From Milk), Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Salt, Baking Soda, Cultured Dextrose, Calcium Lactate, Malic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Sulfur Dioxide Added To Preserve Freshness. Contains: Wheat, Milk, Soy, Sulfites.

     And here are the ingredients in Barbara’s Whole Wheat Fig Bars. (They also put out Multigrain Fig Bars and Raspberry Fig Bars. )Sweeteners are again in bold lettering.

Fig filling (Fig Paste, Pineapple Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid), Pineapple Juice Syrup, Whole Wheat Flour, Whole Barley Flour, Date Paste, Fig Paste, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Expeller Pressed Non GMO Canola Oil, Baking Soda, Salt.
     According to the labels I’ve checked, ( Nabisco’s… Barbara’s….) they have the same amount of calories (110 for two cookies.) Nabisco is (unfortunately) cheaper than Barbara’s, though, (the informal pricing I’m doing is coming up with about a $.40 difference) and they’re easier to find.   (Look for Barbara’s in the specialty sections of grocery stores, or in health food stores, or on-line.)
     Q: If you’re on a low-sugar diet and can afford it, are Barbara’s Fig Bars worth hunting down and paying a little more for?
     A: Try ’em.  You’ll most likely say “Yup.”
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“Sugar-free” candies: beware the yumminess

Image credit: Screenshot from Amazon. Blue arrows added by me for emphasis.(Screenshot originally from Amazon, found at Ethan Siegel’s post “Weekend Diversion: The Last Detox Diet You’ll Ever Try!”  on his blog Starts With a Bang on Science Blogs. )

    “Sugar free” candies are great, in moderation, for those of us who can’t eat real candy without getting severe blood sugar highs and lows. One of my favorite weekend routines is to go to the local candy store with my son, who fortunately does not have my blood sugar problems.  (We don’t allow him many sweets, but we do let him have treats here and there.) I get him three white chocolate nonpareils, and I get myself three pieces of sugar-free almond butter crunch, and we sit and eat them outside on a park bench, and we are happy.  And then I have bad gas for the rest of the day, and my family isn’t quite so happy.  But for me, those few minutes of being able to enjoy candy with my son are worth it.   Eating too much sugar-free candy can do more harm than just causing gas, though.  If you can stomach it, read these v. funny customer reviews on Amazon of sugar-free gummy bears to see what I’m talking about.
      Esther Inglis-Arkell also has a good piece on What Turned Sugar-Free Candies Into Super-Laxatives over at io9.com. She talks about what kind of sweeteners are used in the candies and why they affect people the way they do. Here’s her advice:
The main problem seems to be that, when they pick up a product that’s sugar free, most people think, “Oh great, I can eat more,” when what they need to be thinking is, “I have to eat less.” The maximum noneffective dose for maltitol is 0.3 grams per kilogram. The fifty-percent effective dose, or the dose at which fifty percent of people are affected, is 0.8 grams/kilogram. About 25 grams of maltitol is a laxative for children. Forty grams is a laxative for adults. So think of fifteen gummy bears as a decent dose.
     Moderation, moderation, moderation, moderation…. 

St. Dalfour’s Jam

     There are other fruit-based, low sugar jams on the market, but St. Dalfour is the best, both because of their taste (their Wild Blueberry esp. is incredible!) but also because of their variety.  Flavors range from Strawberry to Pear to Fig to Kumquat.
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     These photographs are taken from Amazon, which is a good place to order the jams from.  The jams can be found in many grocery stores, especially the high-end ones.  Weirdly enough, they can sometimes also be found in the bargain-based Christmas Tree Shops.
     According to the St. Dalfour’s website,
St. Dalfour is the first company to have applied special concentrated grape juice from which the aroma and flavor was removed during the jam production, which made it possible to produce naturally sweet 100% jam without added sugar. This method has its origin with the grandmother of Mr. Kistner, the president of St. Dalfour. During the First World War, sugar was very limited in supply and quite expensive. Because the Kistner family owned vineyards and had access to extensive supply of grapes, Mr. Kistner’s grandmother made jam with concentrated grape juice instead of sugar.
     Trying to satisfy cravings for sweet carbohydrates? St. Dalfour jam spread on a piece of good low sugar bread can make an effective substitute for a standard sugary dessert.
     Use the jams for sweetening plain yogurt instead of eating sugar-laden “healthy” yogurts.  (See Abigail Wise’s Huffington Post “Healthy Lifestyle” article Yogurts With More Sugar Than a Twinkie.)
     Serve the jams with cheese! The St. Dalfour website has several pairing suggestions, or stir them into cottage cheese, or soften a mozzarella stick in the microwave for 20 or so seconds and then dip it in a teaspoon of jam. (I especially like to have it with “Finnish Squeaky Cheese,” or juustoleipa, but that’s not easy to find.)
     Or if you need to use something sweet to signal your palate that you’re done eating after a meal, try indulging in a teaspoon of jam instead of something larger and more caloric. Quick and good = does the sweet-tooth-satiating trick.

Taking the “Fed Up Sugar Free for 10 Days Challenge?” Consider eating clementines! (Or not….)

Going on a low-sugar diet?  Participating in one of the no sugar challenges that’s popular now, such as The Fed Up Sugar Free for 10 Days Challenge? If you’re reading this in winter, get thee to a grocery store and buy a bag of clementine oranges.  These may help make cutting back on other sugary foods possible.

     The Fed Up Challenge is based on the Katie Couric movie Fed Up, which is about the over-abundance of sugar in modern-day diets and what this glut is doing to us all.
     The challenge does allow participants to eat fruit, especially because fruit has nutrients and fiber, and isn’t just empty calories.
     And if you’re going to allow yourself fruit…consider clementines.
     OMG clementines.  Super sweet, bursting with juice, and great for helping ward off winter colds.  During harder times parents put the then- hard-to-get oranges in their children’s Christmas stockings.  It’s easy to see why, as oranges are candy-type good.
oranges http://sunpacific.com/cuties.html
     Not everyone can tolerate “nature’s candy” well, though. Be warned that people who have problems with sugar intolerance might want to go easy on fruits like oranges, bananas, and grapes because they contain especially high levels of fructose.  (There’s a handy chart at Greatist in Caitlin Covington’s column Sugar Wise: How Fruits Stack Up that shows how many grams of sugar are in which fruits.)  Some of the accounts I’ve read of people on the challenge say that they gave up fruit on the last days.  A friend of mine who is on the ketogenic diet and loves it says that “sugar is sugar” and that he only eats avocados, as the sugar-content in most other fruits is too high.
     From what some others on the challenge say, though it would be near-impossible for them to make it through without eating fruit….And as someone who has been on a low-sugar diet for 27 years due to health reasons, I have to say that the knowledge that I will allow myself a couple of clementines before bed makes avoiding foods with added sugar (i.e. most other foods) much more possible during the rest of the day.