Healthy Food Substitution
Naturally Sweet Treats
'The Best Sugar-Free Cookie!' - you only have to browse Pinterest or Buzzfeed to be offered a tempting selection of 'healthy' desserts and treats that you can add to your home-cooking repertoire. Delve a little deeper though, and you'll often find that they replace the sugar with an artificial sweetener, which many now believe could be harmful. Some recipes offer natural sweeteners such as stevia or xylitol as another alternative, but even they could have a downside.
When the natural sweetener stevia entered the market it was widely applauded for being a great, viable natural alternative to artificial sweeteners, and more soon followed. It has a near zero calorie count and of course it is made from the natural leaf of a stevia plant, but unfortunately there are downsides. As you use a much lower amount than regular sugar, it can alter the texture of baked goods, and some find it has a bitter aftertaste. In many ways though, the biggest downside is the same as that of artificial sweeteners. Put simply, when you eat something sweet, the body expects the calories that come with the sweetness; when they don't materialize, you crave more of the sweet stuff, and so on. Sweeteners, either natural or artificial rarely satiate you.
What's The Alternative?
Honey is great for naturally adding sweetness - it has a lower GI than white sugar, and if you buy Manuka or Raw Honey then there's also added nutritional and immunity boosting benefits. A little goes a long way - try swirling a teaspoon into a bowl of Greek yogurt with some blueberries and raspberries for a delicious breakfast or snack at any time of day. Bananas can also be the basis for a great sweet treat - chopped frozen banana can be blended with yogurt for a soft 'ice cream' without added sugar, and the flavor options are endless - try adding frozen strawberries, or peanut butter and cacao for a peanut butter cup style!
Make Your Own!
If you're craving cookies or cakes then the best way to eat a healthier version is to make your own. Often the amount of sugar in a recipe can be cut down by as much as half without affecting the flavor, although you might want to try cutting it down gradually. Another great alternative is to use coconut palm sugar - you can buy it granulated like regular sugar, but it has a much lower GI, so you won't get the sugar high followed by the slump. Some recipes can also be altered to substitute some of the sugar for mashed bananas or unsweetened applesauce - again though, you may have to experiment to find the right balance.
A Healthy Balance
Whichever option you choose, remember that the healthiest option is to just reduce the amount of sweet treats you eat. Keep them as just that, occasional treats. If you're used to having dessert every day you may find it tricky at first, but your taste buds will soon adjust and after a few weeks you'll likely stop craving them at all.