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Prairie Fare: How can you tame a sweet tooth?

"Mom, why are they called cookies instead of 'bakies'?" my 17-year-old daughter asked me. She was scooping cookie dough onto a tray for a 4-H food entry in the fair.

"You bake cookies. You don't cook them," she continued.

She likes to test me with unusual questions on a regular basis. I pondered her question a bit and then replied.

"According to most sources, 'cooking' actually includes any food preparation that involves heating. When we hear that someone is baking, we think of cookies, pies and breads. Technically, baking is a subset of cooking. Right now, technically, you are engaged in cooking," I noted.

"Mom, do we have more sugar?" my daughter asked as she began mixing another type of cookie. I think she was tired of my continued explanation and went to our storage pantry probably thinking "yak, yak, yak."

I think "cookies" are now "bakies" in the Robinson household.

We did not consume all these cookies in one day, by the way. Most of them went in the freezer, so we were not tempted. I think most of us realize that eating too many "sweets" can lead to weight gain.

As she continued her cookie/bakie-making extravaganza, I thought about sugar a bit. Is sugar "good" for us or "bad" for us? Technically, sugar provides calories and carbohydrate without nutrients such as vitamins or minerals. However, a moderate amount is considered OK.

As a food scientist, I appreciate the functions of sugar in foods. Besides sweetness, sugar helps with browning and, in jams and jellies, serves as a preservative. As a nutrition professional, I also know that moderation is key when it comes to added sugars.

On food product ingredient statements, sugar can have several different names. For example, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, molasses, nectar, sucrose and many other ingredients fall under the umbrella of "sugar."

Sugar occurs naturally in foods. Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk, and fructose is found naturally in fruit.

If you look at the Nutrition Facts label on most foods, you will see "sugar" and the number of grams per serving. In this case, "sugar" includes natural and added sugars. In the future, we probably will see "added sugars" separated from natural sugars and listed separately on food packages.

Many scientific studies have focused on the relationship between sugar and health. The American Heart Association has advised no more than 6 teaspoons (about 100 calories) of added sugars. If you drink one 12-ounce can of a sweetened beverage, you are consuming nearly double the current daily limit.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines preliminary scientific report includes a discussion of added sugar. The Dietary Guidelines are used to set nutrition policies for the U.S. and are the basis for nutrition education tools, such as MyPlate (http://www.choosemyplate.gov).

According to the report, strong scientific evidence shows that higher consumption of added sugars, especially in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, increases the risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

The report also said that moderate scientific evidence shows that consuming higher amounts of added sugars, especially in sweetened beverages, is associated with hypertension, stroke, other cardiovascular diseases and dental decay.

If you have a sweet tooth, what can you do to help moderate your intake?

* Trim your intake of sweetened beverages. If you drink sweetened soda or other beverages, switch to water or noncalorie versions. Try making your own "flavor-infused water" with added fruit such as oranges or lemons. If you can't break the soda habit, look for the small cans available in some stores.

* Read ingredient statements on breakfast cereals. If a sweetener is one of the first few ingredient on the ingredient statement, the cereal has lots of added sweeteners.

* Try reducing the sugar in recipes. See the NDSU Extension Service publication "Now Serving: Recipe Makeovers" (http://tinyurl.com/recipemakeovers) for more information about modifying recipes.

* If you want a naturally sweet beverage, opt for 100 percent fruit juice instead of sweetened beverages. Keep in mind that whole fruit is more nutritious than fruit juice.

* Use condiments such as ketchup and salad dressing sparingly.

* Choose canned fruits packed in water or fruit juice instead of syrup.

* If you make cookies or bars, freeze them and take out smaller amounts at a time.

In a Prairie Fare column about picnics written a few weeks ago, I included a lemon bar recipe. I would like to provide another version with even fewer ingredients. If you cut out or otherwise saved the "3-ingredient Lemon Bars" recipe, please throw it away. Some people had issues with the recipe turning out right. I think you will find this one to be a "keeper."

New and Improved 2-Ingredient Lemon Bars

1 (16-ounce) box of angel food cake

1 (15.75-ounce) can of lemon pie filling

Combine angel food cake and lemon pie filling. Pour into a 9- by 13-inch pan.

Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Makes 24 servings. Each serving has 80 calories, 0 grams (g) fat, 1 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber and 140 milligrams sodium.

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