May 31. 2017 4:21AM

Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Less sugar, but still sweet


Banana avocado "ice cream" is a vitamin packed, sugar-free sweet. (JANINE GILBERTSON)


On a recent rainy night, I was scanning Amazon video with a friend, trying to find something interesting to watch, when we came across an Australian documentary called “That Sugar Movie”.

I wanted to watch it. It took a little convincing to get my friend on board, but I eventually succeeded.

The filmmaker, Damon Gameau, decided to switch his healthy eating regimen for one filled with processed foods and a consistent 40 teaspoons of sugar a day for six weeks. He tracked the results and conducted the experiment under the supervision of health professionals.

While 40 teaspoons of sugar a day might sound like a lot, the average American consumes a little over 42 teaspoons a day.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, 200 years ago, the average American ate only 2 pounds of sugar a year.

By 1970, that number grew to 123 pounds of sugar a year. Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar in one year, which equals 3 pounds (or 6 cups) of sugar per week.

Nutritionists suggest we should get only 10 percent of our calories from sugar; that would be 13.3 teaspoons per day based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

In the movie, Gameau kept his eyes on food labels and noted the amount of sugar listed in the products he consumed.

The change over a six-week period was shocking. Not only had he gained weight, but by the end of the movie he felt sluggish and irritated, and blood tests showed his liver functions had diminished. Returning to his previous healthy diet proved uncomfortable as he cut his sugar supply back, triggering headaches and flu symptoms.

The movie reminded me that when it comes to sugar, it’s always best to choose food in its least processed state, eat raw food or make as much as you can from scratch. Convenience products can often be hidden sources of sugar, so reading food labels is critical.

Even with something as harmless as a little tub of yogurt can have high sugar content. Some time ago, I finally stopped buying flavored yogurt and now go for plain, preferably organic yogurt, then add my own sweeteners or mix-ins (I use all-natural jam or fruit preserves).

If you have a sweet tooth, a banana-avocado “ice cream” is quick and easy to make and the natural sweetness in bananas can often calm a sweet craving. Although bananas have natural sugar, they also have beneficial vitamins and minerals and are an effective sweetener when blended with avocado, a nutritional powerhouse.

Of course, you can never go wrong when you choose vegetables. Learning different ways to enjoy vegetables is a great step forward to a healthier diet.

The movie really had an impact on my friend, who reported that he thought twice when adding sugar to his coffee the next morning and has adopted a new label reading habit at the grocery store.

Banana-Avocado 'Ice Cream'

2 bananas, peeled and frozen

1 avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced

1 tbsp almonds, finely chopped, if desired, for garnish

Add the avocado to a food processor and blend until smooth. Chop the frozen bananas into pieces about one inch long. Add the bananas to the avocado in batches, pulsing and blending until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with almonds before serving.

Sweet Greek Yogurt with Berries and Mint

1 cup plain Greek style yogurt

1 tbsp all natural jelly, any flavor, such as Bonne Maman preserves

2 tsp fresh mint, chopped

2-3 fresh strawberries, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Zucchini Carrot Fritters with Yogurt Sauce

For Fritters:

2 large carrots, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 large zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)

2 scallions, chopped

1 cup all-purpose flour, more as needed

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 cup milk

1 large egg

1/2 tsp pepper

Yogurt Sauce

2 tsp fresh mint, chopped

1/2 cup plain yogurt

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp honey

Place the grated zucchini and carrot on paper towels and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Transfer to clean, dry paper towels and allow to drain further as you prepare the batter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the milk and egg. Pour dry ingredients into wet; whisk until just blended (batter should be slightly thick).

Stir in the carrots, zucchini and scallions. Allow the batter to rest for about 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.

Meantime, make the sauce: Add the mint, yogurt, lemon juice and honey to a small bowl and stir well to combine.

To cook the fritters, set a medium skillet on the stove over medium high heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the bottom about 1/2 to 1 inch thick. When oil is hot, add the fritter mix (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup) and cook on each side about 3 minutes, until fritters turn light golden brown. Set on a platter lined with paper towels to drain.

Serve with yogurt sauce.