In recent years, much of the restaurant industry has been quick to embrace food trends based on health. Gluten free? Sign us up. Vegetarian choices? We’ve got you covered. Less salt? Not so much, but we’ll try to accommodate.
But less sugar? I’ve hardly seen the needle bulge. Good luck trying to find, say, pancakes that aren’t topped with sweet sauces and accompanied by syrups, to say nothing of the sugar that went into the batter. Watch Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives or its Canadian version, You Gotta Eat Here, and it’s shocking, at least to me, how much “hidden” sugar is dumped into meat rubs, salad dressings and any bread products. Dessert? You might as well just be eating it by the spoonful.
Diabetes is supposed to be a North American epidemic. Yet I can’t recall eating at a single restaurant that catered to folks wanting menu items with less or no sugar or that were low on the glycemic index—a rating system that estimates how quickly different foods are converted to blood stream sugars; white bread, white rice and most breakfast cereals fare particularly badly here.
Maybe it’s this way because celiac disease or a food allergy can provoke an immediate reaction. Diabetes, on the other hand, is a long-term disease, and sufferers aren’t likely to suddenly pitch forward into their bowl of honey-laced granola topped with a sugary fruit yogurt. And for many people, sugar makes things taste better, at least in moderation.
I’m a Type 2 diabetic and find it extremely challenging when road-trip dining to navigate these sugary waters. I abstain from desserts and sweet drinks. But I do like a good burger or pulled-pork sandwich, and it troubles me how much sugar is tossed into the meat, the bun and any toppings and sauces. I suspect I’d only draw blank stares if I asked for low-sugar versions of these dishes.
So while it’s bad news, perhaps the latest revelation that excess sugar consumption can significantly increase the risk of heart disease will help push the food and restaurant business into offering more low- and no-sugar choices. Now, that would be sweet.