In my family, October is the month of birthdays. I did a little math, and I figured out that 60% of my husband’s and my immediate family was born in the month of October. This first week alone we celebrate three of them. That’s a lot of celebrating. That’s a lot of cake. That’s a lot of sugar.


I know for sure my kids are going to ingest a lot of sugar this weekend [my little one is turning four on Saturday. Hello cupcakes!] And we’ll be hanging with a lot of family so I know they’ll get way more treats than they normally do. I’ve mentioned before that adult women should only be getting a max of 100 calories a day from added sugar. But for kids it’s about half that, only 3 teaspoons or 12 grams a day. That’s not much, and sneaky added sugars can add up surprisingly fast.

I don’t want to make my kids into sugar-hoarding freaks, so I do let them eat a little sugar, I just try to keep an ongoing dialog about healthy choices. They are still a little young to really understand the concept of empty calories or the glycemic index. But we do talk about the fact that sugar, while it does taste good, can make us feel yucky afterwards when we get those sugar blues. So yes, they will eat some cake this month to be sure, but I am going to try hard to limit added sugars in other places in their diet. Not that they will ever know it.


Take this Sloppy Joes recipe I am serving for my daughter’s birthday lunch this weekend. Typically Sloppy Joes are loaded with added sugar from ketchup. Did you know one tablespoon of ketchup has 4 grams of sugar in it?!! [That seems so crazy high; I just have to recheck the label. Yup it really does. Wow!] A recipe for Sloppy Joes usually calls for about ¾ cup ketchup plus even more white or brown sugar added in too coming in at 10 grams of added sugar per serving! These Skinny Joes on the other hand get their sweetness from slow cooked (aka caramelized) sweet onions and plus only one tablespoon of maple syrup for the whole 12 servings. There’s no ketchup in these Joes at all. These come in at 1 gram of added sugar per serving. I think that’s quite an improvement. No?

ingredients for skinny joes

There’s something else about this recipe that is worth pointing out. It is the fact that one pound of beef serves 12 people. To give you an idea, normally a pound would serve about 4 people. The trick here is that there are lots and lots of finely chopped mushrooms added into the mix. But they’re blasted in the food processor first, so they’re virtually undetectable. They really help to cut down on calories. The results are that this bun-busting Sloppy Joe will come in at 241 calories, and it tastes as good (if not better) than the original. And we’ll still have room for cake.

skinny joes
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Prep Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 12 servings

Serving Size: Generous 1/2 cup each

Calories per serving: 241

Fat per serving: 6 g

Saturated fat per serving: 2 g

Carbs per serving: 25 g

Protein per serving: 15 g

Fiber per serving: 2 g

Sugar per serving: 14 g

Sodium per serving: 375 mg


  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 medium sweet onions, diced (about 3 cups)
  • 10 ounces white mushrooms, about 4
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, preferably grass fed
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch allspice
  • 12 whole grain buns, toasted if desired


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often until very soft, translucent and browned, 12 to 15 minutes. If onions are browning too quickly, add 1 to 3 tablespoons water.
  2. Meanwhile, pulse mushrooms in a food processor fitted with steel blade attachment until finely chopped. Alternatively, finely chop with a knife.
  3. Add mushrooms to the onions, and cook, until the mushrooms have release their juices and the liquid has evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes. Add beef, and cook, crumbling with a wooden spoon, until broken up, about 3 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle flour over the meat mixture, and stir to coat. Add tomatoes and broth and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, thyme, pepper and allspice and simmer, stirring occasionally until the beef is cooked through and the sauce is thick and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Serve on buns.


7 g Added Sugar