Debbie Shaw’s Kiddies Crispy Party Buns

A LITTLE of what you fancy does you good.

Debbie Shaw’s Kiddies Crispy Party Buns

Well, no actually, all evidence points to the fact that sugar is damaging our health in a myriad of ways we are only beginning to understand.

Make no mistake about it, sugar is addictive and is set to be the ‘New Tobacco’ as it becomes abundantly clear that it’s an ingredient we absolutely don’t need, empty calories that pile on the pounds without nourishing us in any way.

Type 2 diabetes and obesity are increasing dramatically around the world but excess sugar is also linked to cancer, heart disease and of course tooth decay. International doctors, scientists and obesity experts are joining forces to put pressure on governments demanding that food and drink manufacturers cut the hidden sugar in processed foods by up to 30%.

Ireland’s leading obesity expert Donal O’Shea paints a grim picture: 25% of Irish children are overweight, 25% of adults are obese, while a further 40% are considered to be overweight.

In the UK, Action on Sugar has launched an initiative chaired by Professor Graham MacGregor, who also heads up CASH, which spearheaded the hugely successful campaign on salt reduction.

“Provided the sugar reductions are done slowly, people won’t notice. In most products in the supermarkets, the salt has come down by between 25% and 40%. Kellogg’s Cornflakes contain 60% less salt than they used to.”

The panel includes obesity experts and high profile scientists and doctors, including Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance — The Bitter Truth about Sugar, and professors John Wass, academic vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians, Philip James of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, Dr Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist, and Sir Nicholas Wald of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine.

Yoni Freedhoff, University of Ottowa, Canada, another advisor to the group, said: “Not only has added sugar found its way into virtually everything we eat, but worse still, the use of sugar as a means to pacify, entertain and reward children has become normalised to the point that questioning our current sugary status quo often inspires anger and outrage.”

Experts have calculated that reducing sugar in processed foods by between 20% and 30% over the next 3 to 5 years could remove 100 calories a day from diets, enough to reverse the obesity epidemic.

Deep down, we’ve all known this was coming. Over the years we’ve noticed many items getting progressively sweeter.

People are aware that fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes and biccies are loaded with sugar, but they are often amazed to discover that sugar can also be in many types of bread, soups and sauces.

So what to do?

Labelling can be confusing. Low fat does not mean low sugar and labels are often carefully worded to mask the reality. For most people, teaspoons are easier to visualise rather than grams. We now know that Coca Cola Original, 330ml and Pepsi, regular contain 9 teaspoons of sugar. Mars Bar 51g has 8 teaspoons sugar.

Even zero fat yoghurt can contain up to 5 teaspoons of sugar, while a tall Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino with whipped cream and skimmed milk was found to have 11 teaspoons of sugar.

In fact, I’m convinced that sugar itself has become more intensely sweet, since we are using a different imported sugar now that our domestic sugar beet industry is gone. Can this be my imagination? I’m awaiting the results of a scientific analysis. In the meantime we have been systematically reducing sugar in many of our recipes often without any murmur of complaint.

Sugar is unquestionably addictive, so cutting sugar out of our diet altogether is a big ask. It can certainly be done but one may have to endure a couple of weeks of ‘cold turkey’ then apparently the craving dissipates.

However, with a certain resolve it should be possible to cut out sweet fizzy drinks, sugar in tea and coffee, sweetened yoghurt and soups. There are still some supermarkets that have aisles of tempting sweets and bars as one queues for the till, perhaps it’s time for Mammies of the world to unite and demand support to help solve this global problem of obesity.

So what are the alternatives? Bananas are naturally sweet and can enable you to reduce or eliminate sugar in banana bread, muffins or buns.

Eliminate breakfast cereals from your shopping list and replace with porridge, a brilliant food which also includes fibre. Honey can be substituted for sugar or add a sprinkling of plump raisins or sultanas. Several of my grandchildren love peanut butter on their porridge. It sounds very odd, but it’s been their winter breakfast of choice for many years and keeps them sated until lunch time.

Completely eliminate sugar-sweetened drinks, SSDs as they are called. Make no mistake, sugar is addictive, so if you or your children are used to a couple of these drinks a day you’ll need to be full of resolve to kick the habit.

Substitute real apple juice with sparkling water or just water. Dried fruit and nuts or blueberries are good for snacks but why are we snacking all the time?

A bar of dark chocolate has less sugar but at least has the benefit of antioxidants.

Debbie Shaw’s Banana and Pecan Loaf

Serves 10-12

This is a lovely, moist loaf and a great way to use up over-ripe bananas.

See sugar-free version of this recipe below.

110g (4oz) white spelt flour

110g (4oz) brown spelt flour (Ballybrado)

1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice

1 teaspoon of salt

75g (3oz) Billington’s unrefined caster sugar

2 tablespoons of maple syrup

1 large egg, beaten

75ml (3fl oz) of sunflower oil

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

65g (2 1/2oz) pecan nuts or walnuts, chopped

4 large ripe bananas, well mashed

Place the flour, salt, finely sieved baking powder and caster sugar into a large bowl.

Lightly mix the egg, oil, vanilla and maple syrup together and add to the dry ingredients, mixing very gently.

Fold the pecan nuts and mashed bananas into this mixture with a fork, being careful not to over beat or mix.

Place in a lined and oiled 900g (2lb) loaf tin and bake in the preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 for 1 hour.

Allow it to cool in the tin before turning out.

For a Sugar-Free Version: You can also make this bread very successfully omitting the 75g (3oz) of caster sugar and ensuring that the bananas are very, very ripe and it’s equally as delicious.

Debbie Shaw’s Figgy Flapjacks

Serves 4-6 (makes 25 bars)

Tin size — 19cm x 30cm or 11 ½ x 7 ½ inches

175g (6oz) of porridge oats

50g (2oz) butter

2 scant tablespoons of golden syrup

1 ½ oz light brown sugar

2 tablespoons of honey

25g (1oz) sunflower seeds

25g (1oz) pumpkin seeds

25g (1oz) toasted sesame seeds

150g (5oz) of figs, roughly chopped

25g (1oz) apricots, finely diced

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°/Gas Mark 4.

Blend the figs in a food processor with 5 tablespoons of boiling water to make a paste.

Line the base of the tin with parchment paper and oil the sides with sunflower oil.

Heat the butter, brown sugar, honey and golden syrup in a medium-sized pot until melted and add the other ingredients.

Mix the fig mixture with the other dry ingredients and add to the melted sugars and butter. Stir thoroughly and place in the lined tin.

Press firmly into the tin with a palette knife and bake for 30 minutes until lightly golden brown.

Allow to cool completely before cutting. Store in a tin or airtight container.

Debbie Shaw’s Medjool Date and Coconut Rounds

Makes 25

This is a no-cook, egg-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan cookie that takes minutes to make.

½ small ripe banana, mashed (optional)

225g (8oz) Medjool dates, stoned

250g (9oz) of whole almonds

1 heaped tablespoon of raw cocoa powder

1/4 scant teaspoon of vanilla extract

110g (4oz) desiccated coconut

Whiz the almonds in the food processor until they are the size of breadcrumbs.

Add the raw cocoa powder and pulse. Add the banana (if using), vanilla, and dates and blend to a paste.

Shape the mixture into a log with your hands and roll in the desiccated coconut.

Cut into rounds or roll into truffle-sized balls and roll in desiccated coconut and give them as presents.

Hot tips

Alternative sugars from natural sources — brown rice syrup, date syrup, maple syrup, honey and agave syrup — are all available from health food stores. XyloBrit or Xylitol is a refined sugar made using fruit or Birch tree extracts.

You can use this as a 1:1 direct replacement for refined white caster sugar in baking. The Tate and Lyle brand, which is a blend of caster sugar and stevia, can be also used as a 1:1 direct substitute for refined caster sugar in baking. Available from good health food stores.

Debbie Shaw will be presenting more healthy recipes in her “Feel Good Food – Let’s Cook” course at Ballymaloe Cookery School on Monday, Jul 2, at 9.30am to 5pm. This one day course offers fresh, simple and seasonal recipes for energy, vitality and optimal health.

Debbie Shaw is a chef and Nutritionist and runs “Apple A Day Nutrition”. Contact 086-7855868 or

The booking office is open for Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine on May 16-18.

There’s an incredible line-up with international food heroes such as René Redzepi, Diana Kennedy, Simon Hopkinson, Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

There will be a cocktail of wine and drinks experts, Irish participants will include chefs Ross Lewis, Paul Flynn and Clodagh McKenna. Check out the website or call (Monday to Friday 10am-5pm) 021-4645777.

Debbie Shaw’s Kiddies Crispy Party Buns

These buns are a great way to get essential fats and B-vitamins into kids and they are pretty tasty too.

The protein in the seeds prevents a sudden blood sugar rise that some sugary treats cause which make kids hyper!

Makes 20-24 depending on size

3oz (75g) 60% dark chocolate, melted

2 1/2oz (62g) puffed wholegrain brown rice or puffed quinoa (available from Health Food Shops)

3 1/2oz (82g) pumpkin seeds

1oz (25g) sunflower seeds

1oz (25g) toasted sesame seeds

1oz (25g) flaked almonds, broken up

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Melt the chocolate and add all of the other ingredients stirring well to coat.

Place in paper cases, press down gently and allow to set.

If you are in a hurry, pop them in the freezer for 5 minutes and they set quickly.

More in this section