The holiday season is upon us which means sugar is everywhere — from brownies and cookies to "healthy" foods like granolas, yoghurts, and smoothies. It is festive-y, it is lovely, it is addictive and it is potentially harmful - increasing your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Since we have all been told that sugar isn’t the healthiest food, it’s natural to wonder if there are any healthier alternatives to sweeten the deal (meal).
What is wonderful is there’s no shortage of options out there (for real).
Read on to learn more about some healthier alternatives & sweet ways to treat your body (and sweet tooth) right this holiday season and beyond:
How much should you consume daily?
According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily and no more than 9 teaspoons daily for men.
Some Healthier Alternatives:
Agave (60 calories/tablespoon)
Agave is 50 percent sweeter than sugar (25 percent more calories than sugar), so you tend to use less of it, and this then balances out the calories. It is considered as low GI because it is 90 percent fructose – use it in moderation because diets very high in fructose can affect insulin resistance in your body.
Honey (64 calories / tablespoon)
Honey is composed of mainly glucose - the simplest form of sugar, making it a good option for post-workout and mid-afternoon snacks such as smoothies. Worth noting is that processing of honey actually increases its antioxidant capacity (contrary to popular belief that natural, raw honey is superior). Enjoy some in hot tea to help soothe a scratchy throat.
Molasses (58 calories / tablespoon)
Molasses is a byproduct of the sugar-making process and its quality and grades are determined by when it’s extracted during the processing. Blackstrap molasses is the darkest and most nutrient-dense grade - a tablespoon provides over 10 percent of your daily recommended intake of some minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium. And the lighter grades are less nutritious and higher in sugar content, so always go for the darker grades of this sugar.
Maple Syrup (52 calories / tablespoon)
Real maple syrup, not the pancake syrup (dyed corn syrup) you use for breakfast, might be a better alternative because it is natural and unrefined and thus contains more nutrients like riboflavin, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and potassium than other sugars. Spread it over waffles or use it in homemade granola.
Sweetener (0 calories/ tablespoon)
A calorie-free sweetener like stevia may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar as it is considered “all natural” and is zero-calorie. Despite it being natural, this sweetener is 300 times sweeter than sugar!
Here Are Some Sweet Swaps to Help You Get Your Sugar Fix the Healthy Way:
Swap in an equal amount of applesauce (no sugar added / homemade) for a half cup of white sugar in a batch of cookies or muffins. The natural sweetness from an apple is perfect in a mid-afternoon treat.
All berries add a dose of antioxidants that refined sugar can't offer. Simply add berries to any baked good, cereals, and smoothies.
Spice up your morning jo or tea with cinnamon. This super spice adds a subtle sweetness without adding any calories.
With antioxidants and fibre, dried dates will sweeten any baked good and smoothies. Go for the natural, no sugar added ones.
For a daily dose of vitamin C, squeeze some lemon / grapefruit juice into your cocktail (or plain water!) instead of soda or gin. It will add a sweet & sour kick and quick boost of immunity to any beverage.
Bottom line: Cut out processed foods and sugary beverages. Consuming whole, natural foods is the simplest solution for those who need that sugar fix (and for optimal health!). Eat mindful, not mindless.