We all have a sweet tooth from time to time (some more than others…). Believe it or not, there is a healthy version of just about every dessert you can think of. All you really need to do is substitute the bad stuff with better alternatives. And by ‘bad stuff’ I mean things like gluten and sugar.
Gluten-free flours and flour-substitutes abound and are trending in paleo-friendly sweets like brownies, cakes, and cookies. Lots of people have caught on to this trend and are taking advantage of it, due to increased gluten sensitivities. But you may not be aware of the dangers of sugar and the need to substitute that in your favorite desserts as well.
Besides the fact that it rots your teeth and makes you need to see a dentist more often, sugar is one of the most addictive substances on the planet—even more addictive than cocaine. It also happens to be in just about every processed food on grocery store shelves. Even if it’s not listed as an ingredient, some foods actually are metabolized by the body as sugar, including rice, bread, flour, pasta, as well as most fruits and starchy root vegetables like potatoes and carrots. Humans should not consume more than 25 grams of sugar per day, yet the average American consumes a lot more, thanks to our bread-heavy diet.
Sugar is one food that most people are just not willing to give up. But, if you knew the amount of healthy sweet treats you could create using viable substitutes, I’m willing to bet you’d change your mind! So that’s why I’m writing this post. Here are my top 5 favorite healthy alternatives to processed sugar that you can start using right away to modify your favorite desserts.
#1. Stevia. Stevia is an herb found in South and Central America. It’s up to forty times sweeter than regular sugar, without the calories or the blood-sugar spike. Because it has a slightly bitter aftertaste that’s similar to licorice, it’s been slow to gain popularity among sugar lovers, but I think it’s a great sugar substitute in beverages like tea and lemonade.
#2. Xylitol. This sugar alcohol occurs naturally in foods like berries, beets, and corn and is often found in toothpaste and sugar-free gum. It won’t raise your blood sugar, and lacks the bitter aftertaste of stevia. Because it tastes so similar to sugar, it’s a great substitute in baked goods like brownies, cakes, and cookies.
#3. Honey. This natural sweetener works great in just about anything! I definitely recommend it over agave nectar as a healthy sugar substitute. Though honey contains sugar, it’s a much better alternative to the processed varieties.
#4. Maple Syrup. Bye-bye Aunt Jemima with your high-fructose corn syrup! Maple syrup is one of the tastiest sweeteners and it’s great for much more than pancakes. Try putting it in your pumpkin spiced coffee. I promise you’ll be amazed at how great it tastes, and it’s much healthier than a Starbucks latte!
#5. Dates. There’s a reason why we find this delicious fruit in most raw brownie recipes. It’s a naturally-occurring food that just so happens to be a great sugar alternative! Its consistency also makes it ideal for the crumb crusts found on desserts like cheesecake and cobbler.
If you’re not sure how to substitute the above ingredients for sugar, just Google Paleo versions of your favorite desserts and see what pops up. Once you try the healthy versions, you’ll never look back!