With the newfound understanding that fat does not make us fat, we are now piling our plates with heart-healthy meats, fishes and oils that can help to keep us satiated and slim. But, if the avocados aren’t the culprit, what is?
Sugar. As with all things processed and modified, refined sugar is the nemesis of your waistline. Aside from an obesity pandemic, refined sugar is attributed to all manner of health conditions from diabetes to candida and even cancer.
However, ditching the refined sugar need not mean all the fun and treats must disappear from your diet. There are a plethora of sweet alternatives readily available to help you stay trim while still allowing for the odd indulgence.
It is worth noting that all sugars, refined or otherwise are still sugars. Overconsumption of these is never advisable. However, by making a few sensible swaps and enjoying these alternative sugar replacements in moderation, they can form part of a balanced diet.
The following natural alternatives make for great refined sugar substitutes and can be utilized in all manner of dishes from sweet to savory.
Coconut sugar is a popular paleo baking choice and is a great option when looking for a replacement for granulated sugar. Containing small amounts of crucial vitamins and minerals, coconut sugar is a must in your healthy baking pantry.
- Good for: Cakes, biscuits, muffins, cookies, sauces, pastry and crumbles
- Tips: If you are looking to create cookies with a bit of bite, coconut sugar creates the perfect crunchy consistency
- Ratios: Coconut sugar can be used in recipes in place of regular granulated sugar; use three-fourths the amount of coconut sugar to the recommended amount of granulated sugar
An unrefined natural sugar alternative, it may surprise you to know maple syrup provides some nutritional benefits. From vitamins and minerals to fighting inflammation, maple syrup is one of the healthier natural alternatives to sugar. It is important to opt for pure grade “A” or grade “B” maple syrup that is free from additional additives.
- Good for: Cookies, biscuits, pastry, sauces, marinades, pancakes, cakes, muffins and granola
- Tips: Try adding a little maple syrup to a spiced tomato sauce to create your own sugar-free ketchup
- Ratios: Maple syrup works very well in most baked goods by using three-fourths the amount of maple syrup to the required amount of sugar; you can replace maple syrup in a one-to-one ratio in some recipes, but you will need to adjust your other liquids accordingly to ensure the right consistency
Undoubtedly the most nutritious and guilt-free sugar on this list, blackstrap molasses possesses a phenomenal array of health benefits. This nutrient-dense syrup is rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants, can help to stabilize blood sugars and soothes joint pain and inflammation.
- Good for: Puddings, sauces, marinades, cookies and spreading
- Tips: Add to savory dishes to add sweetness to meat marinades
- Ratios: Use 2 tablespoons of molasses to replace 1/2 cup of sugar in a recipe; this works best in cookies and small bakes
Dried Fruit and Jam
This has all the flavor and sweetness of natural fruit but intensified. Dried fruit and sugar-free jams not only provide additional sweetness to a recipe but can also contribute a valuable dose of nutrition. High in fiber, vitamins and minerals, fruits can be used to add sweetness and texture to both sweet and savory dishes.
- Good for: Muffins, cakes, sauces, no-bake bars, cookies, caramels, snacking, energy balls, soups and stews
- Tips: Fruits and fruit jams are excellent at binding ingredients, particularly in no-bake treats; dried figs and dates can be blended simply with oats and nut butters to create a satisfyingly sweet and simple energy boost; soaking and blending your dried fruits first will give you a thick, sugary paste, which you can stir into cookie dough to create deliciously chewy cookies
- Ratios: Add a tablespoon of jam to sauces and gravies for extra flavor and to help thicken; swap dried fruit for up to half the required amount of sugar in cookies and no-bake treats
A plant-based sweetener, stevia has gained popularity in recent years becoming a mainstream refined sugar substitute. Take care when selecting your stevia as many brands offer a highly processed version, which can include additional unhealthy additives.
- Good for: Cookies, biscuits, tea, coffee, marinades and sauces
- Tips: Stevia is intensely sweet, so use sparingly and taste as you go; it works best in small bakes and sauces, which may only require up to one teaspoon of stevia per recipe
- Ratios: Around 2 1/2 tablespoons of stevia will give a recipe the equivalent sweetness of 1 cup of regular sugar
Cinnamon is a naturally sweet ingredient as well as being a powerhouse of nutrition. Packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, this warming spice is also purported to ward off infections and protect against allergies.
- Good for: All baking and adding to hot drinks, granola, spiced savory dishes, soups and stews
- Tips: While you wouldn’t want to replace the entire amount of sugar with cinnamon in a recipe, cinnamon is a terrific addition to recipes that you wish to keep low in sugar as it adds a subtle sweetness that won’t spike your blood sugars
- Ratios: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons in your healthy recipes to add additional warmth and sweetness
Carob is the chocolate alternative that dreams are made of. Incredibly sweet, fruity and a little bitter, carob is intensely rich and makes an ideal sugar-free chocolate substitute. With such an intense flavor profile, you may find you need not add any additional sweeteners to your recipe.
- Good for: Drinking chocolate, ice cream, brownies, cakes, cookies, fudge, frosting and sauce
- Tips: Heating carob is an art and has a tendency to separate and clump together unlike melted chocolate; however, blending it at room temperature with a little coconut oil and nut milk will give you a silky smooth “chocolate” sauce without the trouble of using a double boiler
- Ratios: Use as you would cocoa powder in baking or drinking chocolate; you may wish to use slightly less as the flavor is intensely rich
To crush those chocolate cravings why not whip up a batch of sugar-free cupcakes with a chocolatey carob frosting. So simple to make, all you need is 1/2 cup of carob powder, 3/4 cup of coconut oil, a tablespoon of maple syrup and a good pinch of sea salt. Blitz on high speed in a food processor to create a fabulous pipeable frosting.
Better still, add 2 tablespoons of dairy-free milk of your choice to the frosting, and blend again to create an indulgent sugar-free chocolate sauce. Perfect for pouring over ice cream.
If you want to know what foods will help you restore your natural vitality and get slim and stay slim, then check out the Best Foods That Rapidly Slim & Heal in 7 Days program.