Every year between Halloween and Christmas, I see endless sweets brought into the place where I work at my day job. I watch in amazement each year as most people stuff these sugar-laden, nutrient poor “treats” into their bodies without giving it a second thought. The new year inevitably brings remorse as the scale is viewed in horror, and resolutions are set.
I am not saying that I am without my vices, but I have been tested time and time again with the same items as my coworkers, and I never partake. It is not that I am stronger, or better than them, but I do know about the impacts of eating these items and what that is doing to our bodies, especially the packaged and processed items. The fact that I am currently off gluten, dairy, eggs, almonds, and many other things (due to food allergies/IgG blood work results) kind of makes it impossible to eat most of these things anyways. I wouldn’t wish food sensitivities on anyone, but it makes it much easier to avoid things when the result of eating them makes you feel ill.
As a Nutritionist, I definitely walk-the-walk and forgo the empty calories and anti-nutrients that most sweet desserts, candies, and so on, include. I do have some sweet items, but as anyone who has cut sugar out of their life can tell you, the less you eat sugar, the less you crave it. For times when you’ve “gotta have it” though, there are some tricks to make your indulgences healthier, and have less impacts on your blood sugar and the impending energy highs and lows.
As I always tell my clients, if you want to have something to satisfy your sweet tooth, you should know what the ingredients are before you eat it (as with any food item). The less ingredients, the better and, of course, if you can’t make it yourself, find somewhere to get homemade goodies that contain nourishing ingredients.
There are many alternatives to white sugar that can be used, but my favourite is Stevia. Why? First off, it is *not* an artificial sweetener, which I counsel people to avoid like the plague, due to its potentially carcinogenic properties1. Stevia is made from the Stevia plant, which is a natural product (as long as you are buying pure, unflavoured and good quality Stevia). Another reason why I like Stevia, is that it does not feed Candida, so if you are suffering from yeast over-growth, then Stevia is your best choice. Xylitol is another option, but I know some people who have not reacted well to it, perhaps because it is a naturally occurring alcohol; however, it is found in most plant material.
Good choices for baking are to use organic raw honey or maple syrup. While these will still increase blood sugar levels, they are healthier than processed white sugar. If you are diabetic however, this is likely not your best choice. If you want something that has less of an impact on your blood sugar, I like Coconut Nectar for baking, which is not as sweet as honey or maple syrup, but has close to the same consistency. You could also use Coconut Sugar. Lakanto is another option, which is derived from the monk fruit, and Donna Gates swears by it as part of her Body Ecology program. Depending upon what you are baking, organic unsweetened apple sauce can also be used as a natural sweetener.
Date sugar is another option; however I prefer to use the whole date when possible, as it contains high amounts of fiber, which will slow the impact of the fruit sugars on one’s blood sugar levels. Some of my favourite recipes use medjool dates, which are then put in the food processor and made into all sorts of goodies. Note that they are very sweet though, so a little goes a long way. A final word about brown sugar…it is simply white sugar mixed with molasses, so don’t be fooled into thinking it is a healthy option. There you go folks, now you might be able to have your cake and eat it too!