Journey Away from Sugar

March 19, 2013 in Blog Recipes, Foodland Chronicles, Health, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Psychology of Food by Joyce Bunderson

As you know if you’ve read my old post about sugar and junk food, we prefer sweetness from birth. What a surprise! I remember what a tough time I had 30 or 40 years ago when my children were little and I believed that I always needed to have cookies on hand for them. (O.K., I ate my share too.) I remember commonly being overly hungry in the late afternoon – right when I was ready to prepare dinner. At that time, in my life, I was not educated in nutrition, nor did I understand that it would have been better for me to eat a little something than push myself to not eat from noon to six. So the struggle would often start with me winning. Not always, more often than I would have liked, it would end with my hand dipping into the cookie box. Of course the carbs in the cookies would cause the release of serotonin and endorphins and my brain would make me feel better fast – to be sure, that calm satisfied state doesn’t last for long – before I knew it, back to the cookie box. Looking back on that, I notice that I never went to the shelves looking for a can of lentils or beans. A second sarcastic surprise in the same paragraph!

Sweet sugary snacks just make almost all of us crave more and more – no it is not just a problem for me. Cookies, candy, crackers and chips and other simple carbohydrate snacky things that don’t have much protein can give you a quick boost; but it’s often short-lived and you’re quickly back to a craving, ravenous state.

A little side story here: When I began to study nutrition, I learned about legumes and their benefits. I began to have a small handful of peanuts as a late afternoon snack – it worked like magic to sequester my appetite safely away from less healthy choices, and help me wait until the meal. I should mention too, that as the years went on, I also stopped having cookies readily available.

If you’re struggling with craving sweets, and you’re trying to stick to the 100 calories of sweets per day (women) or 150 calories (men) advised by The American Heart Association, then I send my understanding love. It can be tough to get away from the habit. I promise you, whether you go cold turkey (the first 48 to 72 hours can be tough) or use a more gradual approach, you can get over the sweet cravings. Finding other foods that you really enjoy, healthy real foods that can actually contribute to your health, fill you and distract you is one of the first steps after clearing the simple carbs out of the house, car and/or desk.

Do have some fruit, nuts, seeds, veggies or even some hummus and dippers handy; redirect yourself, distract yourself by eating a few nuts or fruit. I’ve not taken the ‘never again sweets’ path; but what I’ve done is allowed myself a small piece of chocolate each evening. Let me remind you: spare yourself by not going too long between meals. Most important, design what works for you as an individual.

Now there’s no point in telling you about all the research (and there’s a lot of it) in lowering cardiovascular risk by lowering cholesterol; or lowering blood pressure; or even in regulating blood sugar, all by increasing beans and legumes in the diet. If you think you don’t like them, you’re just not going to get them into your menus.

Why don’t we go looking for some of those nicely fiber-filled beans? Let’s be brutally honest here; compared to the simple, high glycemic value foods, beans don’t taste super good. They need to be spiced up and put with other enticing tastes.  I’ve never counseled a single person who went crazy binging on unadorned beans. You have to do something to beans to make them taste yummy. In this way they are like tofu. We don’t usually grab a can of beans off the shelf and start snacking.

The dietary recommendations for adults encourage us to have one to two cups of beans and peas per week. This is a goal that we’ve struggled to reach at our table. We like beans; it’s just that the cook/menu planner (that’s me) forgets to include them in the menu. One way that I’ve made some recent progress is by using hummus instead of salad dressing. This has worked out well during the past seven years or so.

I want to share a recent success. The new change was because Costco sold Sabra’s basil pesto hummus; Vic (Dr. Grandpa) liked the one I brought home ever so much better than the other two hummus varieties that I had been buying. He kept chatting about the basil pesto hummus; I kept looking for it; I kept not finding it. Then one day, I got to thinking why not make a basil pesto hummus myself? It was so easy and the best hummus that I’ve ever made or served. I don’t generally compliment myself so generously, but even I love it!  It was super easy and did something wonderful to my taste buds. I think I’d dip jicama, carrots, cherry tomatoes, whole grain crackers, or whatever I could find and I’d be really safe from cookies; if I still had a cookie problem. Make your beans and other legumes taste wonderful and you can have a taste treat and save yourself from the cookie monster.

I haven’t been publishing recipes for quite a while; but I thought that I’d make an exception. This is so easy (10 or 15 minutes) and so delicious; and lastly, don’t forget, so nourishing.

Green Basil Hummus


  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts
  • ¼ cup sweet basil leaves
  • 1 handful of washed spinach
  • 1 small bunch (about ½ inch of stems) washed parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 nice juicy lemon)
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • Several dashes Tabasco
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin


  • Heat the pine nuts in a small pan on medium high heat. Stir them when they start to brown. When most of them are browned, remove them from the pan into a plate to cool.
  • In the bowl of a food processor or strong blender (I used Blendtec.), place all the ingredients in the blender or processor and pulse until hummus is smooth. Add water to desired consistency. Note: I did not add any water to my recipe, but you may like yours thinner. Not adding water will facilitate longer lasting storage in the refrigerator.
  • It is a beautiful natural green color; a vivid, tasty flavor.  It is a combination of the parsley, spinach, and basil greens.  Very timely for St Patrick’s Day, the day after this post was written. Sorry about my timing; I did take the hummus to a St. Patrick’s Day potluck.

Serve with baby carrots, cucumber strips, jicama strips, celery, cherry tomatoes, pita wedges, whole grain crackers, or rustic bread as a dip, spread for crackers or sandwiches. It also works as a great yummy substitute for most wickedly fat-filled salad dressings.

Yield: Makes about 2 cups of hummus. The recipe can be easily doubled.

Double recipe of Green Basil Hummus

Nice consistency with no added water except on wet basil, parsley and spinach.

My green offering for St. Patrick's Day.