Looking to satisfy your sweet tooth in a more nutritious way? There are many sugar alternatives that are much better for the body than highly-refined sugars that are being used in the processed food industry these days. In fact, a lot of the processed, white sugar that’s out there normally does more damage than good.
As someone who has always had a tendency towards sweet foods, but also incredibly sensitive to the effects of white sugar, I have spent a lot of time looking for ways to satisfy my sweet tooth in a more natural, plant-based way. Here are my top tips for your sweet cravings:
• Make a sweet spread. Using any dried fruit you like (apricots and dates are great), soak in hot water for 20 minutes to 1 hour. Then, drain off almost all liquid depending on what consistency is desired, and whiz it up in your blender until smooth. What you’ve got is a paste you can spread on toast, or use in cooking and baking. Make a larger batch and store in the fridge for a few weeks.
• Honey is a whole food sweetener. The great thing about honey, particularly the unpasteurized kind, is that it contains minerals and nutrients that make it more nutritious than sugar. Plus, honey is sweeter than table sugar, which means less is required. I like using honey in baking, and it’s great to use in sauces and dressings.
• Bananas. Let your bananas sit on the counter until they’re starting to get brown — this is when the sugar content is the highest. Then, use them in baking by mashing them up or cut them into chunks and freeze them to make a delicious Banana Nice Cream (recipe below).
• Chocolate cravings? A dark chocolate bar has 70 percent cocoa or more so a little goes a long way. These days, there are more companies coming out with chocolate that isn’t sweetened with sugar, like the brand Coco Polo, which uses stevia leaf. There are a lot of recipes online for making raw chocolate brownies — try 1 cup of walnuts, 1 cup of dates, 3-4 tablespoons of raw cacao powder, a tablespoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt, mixed in a food processor until starting to clump. Press them into a pan or roll them into balls – these can be kept in the freezer for a quick fix.
• Fruit. Local fruit is abound in the Pacific Northwest, and when it’s in season, the taste is phenomenal. Cherries, stone fruit and berries all make delicious snacks.
Banana Nice Cream
2 large bananas, sliced and frozen
1 cup unsweetened almond milk or soymilk
2 tablespoons smooth almond butter or peanut butter (read the label to find brands that contain just nuts and no added sugar)
Combine all ingredients into a blender and puree, turning off the motor and stirring the mixture two or three times, until smooth and creamy. Pour into bowls and serve (this can also be stored in the freezer like regular ice cream).
Learn more at www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating.
Jami Scott is a registered holistic nutritionist and the healthy eating associate coordinator for Whole Foods Market, Pacific Northwest region. She oversees a team of Healthy Cooking Coaches who work in stores to help educate people on how to eat less processed foods through the company’s Health Starts Here program. More information on cooking tours, supper clubs and community events is available at wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating