Sweetener Swap: 5 Alternatives to Sugar

It’s so easy to reach for that sweet, inexpensive, white stuff when you’re mixing up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. White sugar is delicious! And no matter how healthy we become (some days… after many, many attempts), we will still prefer the taste of white sugar in our treats.

As parents, we can either accept sugar defeat, or we can try using a few healthier alternatives at home to drastically cut down the amount of sugar our family is consuming.

Photo courtesy of StockSnap

Photo courtesy of StockSnap

Here are 5 sweetener alternatives and the best ways to use them:

Honey

An obvious choice but hey, what other sweetener on the planet has enzymes, minerals, vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants galore, and is good for combating seasonal allergies and protecting your digestive system? I use honey in my kid’s treats a lot! Honey can be pricey to bake with, but it’s best not to heat raw honey to retain its incredible health benefits. Use it in ready to eat treats, such as drizzled on yoghurt, porridge, or toast with nut/seed butter, homemade lemonade and salad dressing.

Maple Syrup

Another sweetener choice is maple syrup. It also contains plenty of antioxidants and minerals like zinc, manganese, potassium, and calcium. It can be quite affordable too if you stock up at one of Ottawa’s farmers markets in-season. Whereas honey is best eaten raw, maple syrup is awesome in any way including baked goods, homemade granola, glazes for roast vegetables or BBQ ribs.

Ripe Bananas / Apples / Pears

You can’t go wrong with adding fruit. Diced or pureed, fruit adds a lovely aroma to baking and produces incredible moisture. Not to mention it’s just about the healthiest way to go. What better way to use up that spotty brown banana and half-wrinkled apple that your kid forgot in his lunchbox over the weekend? Sweeten smoothies, muffins, pancakes, homemade popsicles…get creative!

Photo by  Jennifer Pallian

Coconut Sugar

Before you say ‘I’m healthy, but not that healthy’, try coconut sugar in your coffee. It has a slight caramel flavour like brown sugar and no, it doesn’t taste like coconut. It’s another sweetener that is packed with awesome nutritional benefits and has a low glycemic index. Use it just like sugar in your coffee, tea, sweet bread, cookies or add a touch to your tomato sauce.

Dates

Don’t pass this one by. Dates pack a HUGE nutritional punch and can save your baking without compromising taste. Psst, moms... they help you metabolize proteins, fats, and carbs. Really! Quickly soak and finely chop dates (or blitz with a few tablespoons of soaking liquid), and add them in the same ratio as sugar to sweeten your baked goods. They are wonderful in your favourite baked treats, added to oatmeal or yoghurt, and as snacks for your kids and babies!

It’s hard to give up sugar, perhaps it’s unavoidable, but it’s not as hard as it seems to swap it out. Give these alternative sweeteners a try and you may find that one or all of them will work wonders in cutting down your consumption of sugar. Your kiddos likely won’t bat an eye at your sweetener swap and you’ll be one happy mama for it.

Post written by Tatiana Westberg.

6 Tips for Staying Healthy through the Holidays

by Jayda

The holiday season is upon us. The season of parties, celebrations, and get togethers. Many of these events involve food, lots of food. A time when we all fall, to some degree, off our respective wellness wagons. Here are 6 tips to help you stay within arms reach of that wagon.

1. Stay Active

Let’s be honest, we will all consume more calories/food/sugar than we should over the holidays. Keep moving. Continue your normal workout routine, or adopt a new one. Round up your friends and family and go out for brisk walk around the neighbourhood or play snow tag after that heavy meal. Aerobic exercise stimulates the release of appetite regulating hormones.

2. PRE-Eat At Home

Don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation of the dessert buffet being served at the holiday party. Eat a meal rich in whole foods at home before you go; you will be less inclined to make poor food choices driven by a ravenous appetite. Remember to eat breakfast. A nutritious breakfast will set the tone for your day. Additionally, feed the kids one of their favourite meal before attending holiday parties. This a great way to avoid behaviours related to hunger, in the case of  a delayed or late meals. Children are easily distracted at parties and may not eat to fullness so by pre-eating you can relax and enjoy your meal knowing that they had a wholesome meal at home and anything they eat at the party is a bonus.

3. Focus On Activities

Plan to meet friends and family for an activity in lieu of a meal. An afternoon of tobogganing or skating will take the focus off food and burn calories. Bonus! Too cold? Bust out the board games, get crafty or plan an indoor scavenger hunt. Host the activity between major meal times and serve a healthy snack or light meal.

4. 'THIS' then 'THAT'

When plating your food fill up on healthy, whole,  foods first then hit the dessert table. Consider incorporating all five flavours (pungent, sour, sweet, salty and bitter) when choosing foods. By satisfying all tastes, you are less likely to experience cravings after a meal.

5. Eat Mindfully

Eat with awareness, not just awareness of foods but rather awareness of the experience of eating. Mindful of the smell and taste of your meal. How does the food make you feel? Savour it. Enjoy it. Don’t forget to breathe. Take your time eating. Take a deep breathe between bites. Allow your body to feel full before going for a second helping.

6.  Stay Hydrated

Drink water, lots of water. Water will dilute the effects of the alcoholic holiday beverages and help flush the extra sugar out of your system and curb those cravings.

What do you do to stay healthy during the holiday season?

Jayda Siggers is a Mom of 2 ( JWS, 6 and LLS, 4), a nutritionist, a coach at Clean Plate Cleanse, a master mediator living under a co-dictatorship, whole food advocate, trying to live a little greener everyday.

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