Ah, honey, honey
You are my candy girl
And you got me wanting you…”
- the Archies
This is the perfect song to describe our relationship with sugar. Sugar, also named honey, brown sugar, molasses, agave, coconut sugar, glucose, fructose, sucrose and over 40 other names, has us wanting it. And in unhealthy amounts! Nowadays, it is common to hear people say “I’m trying to quit sugar, but I always end up eating it at the end of the day.” Or, “I’m trying to cut out sugar, but I have the world’s strongest cravings.” For most of these people, they are putting themselves in a position where they will carry out their new sugar-free habit for a few days and then abandon ship by the weekend. Why is this? Because cravings and food tolerance levels take weeks to change. The same person who eats a sugar loaded yogurt parfait for breakfast, a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, a bowl of pasta for dinner and a giant bowl of ice cream for dessert, is the same person who says they are quitting sugar starting tomorrow. And the same person who will find themselves scraping the bottom of the container of ice cream that next night.
We’re here to help you discover the pathway to living a sugar-free lifestyle without having to sacrifice flavour, give up your favorite foods or having to experience FOMO at events. Gone are the days of boring sugar-free diets! Welcome to the world of eating your favourite foods, but healthier! It sounds like a dream, but we promise, it is a reality, thanks to sugar-free alternatives that give you the sweetness, without the blood sugar spike.
Healthy Swap #1: Fruit
- Instead of buying yogurt or ice cream with fruit that has been added to it, try buying plain yogurt and ice cream and top it with fresh fruit. Oftentimes the product is sweetened with a fruit-like jam that is loaded with sugar and provides next to zero nutrients. When you’re ready to take it up another level, look for zero sugar added ice cream or frozen yogurt!
- If you’re a baker, try using mashed bananas instead of sugar to give your muffins or breads a natural sweetness. Substitute applesauce for syrups when a recipe calls for it or trying skipping the crust of a crumble or pie and serving the sauteed fruit up with some sugar-free ice cream instead.
- This tip also works with jam! Instead of buying pre-made jams that oftentimes contain 10 grams of sugar per tablespoon, try mashing fresh raspberries, strawberries or blueberries on your toast or add slices on top for its refreshing flavor!
- When you are craving something sweet, turn to fruit as your first resource. Fruit contains micronutrients, water and fibre. These elements provide your body with key nutrients, hydration and slows down the absorption of the sugars into your bloodstream.
Healthy Swap #2: Natural Sweeteners
- This tip is the easiest of them all to implement. If you’re someone who likes to drink flavored water, add sugar to your coffee or tea, likes to bake or loves sweet things in general, this is for you! Swap out the sugar you use for stevia, monk fruit sweetener, erythritol or xylitol. All these alternatives are sugar-free, contain zero or minimal amounts of calories and do not spike your blood sugar. This allows you to eat them in moderate amounts to have your sweet treat, without having to cut out all things sweet and suffer the withdrawal cravings.
- Another positive thing to mention about natural sweeteners, is they act as a replacement and do not require you to create a new habit, you simply have to adjust the ones that you currently have! This increases the rate of success and adherence to a diet change as habit building takes up to 60 days before it become automatic.
Healthy Swap #3: Sauces & Syrups
- Believe it or not, sugar loves to hide in pasta sauces, pizza sauces, dips, spreads and you guessed it, syrups! The next time you are shopping at the grocery store, turn the label around and read the ingredients. Look for sugar, or one of its many different names, and then look at the amount of sugar per serving. Challenge yourself to make the same product from scratch, or to find a healthier alternative that uses a natural sugar-free substitute or if free from sugar in general.
- These small changes add up to the collective effort to abandon sugar all together and greatly reduces one’s sugar load as a whole.
Healthy Swap #4: Soda and Juices
- Ditch the sugar sweetened soda and join the world of stevia sweetened pop and waters. If you are a fan of fizzy drinks, there are lots of fruit-infused carbonated water options out there with zero sugar and calories, Even better, swap your soda out for naturally sweetened Sugar-Free Ener-C and you'll be getting the benefit of a multivitamin in a fizzy and deliciously refreshing beverage! Ener-C Sugar-Free Orange and Mixed Berry flavours are sweetened with erythritol and a hint of stevia.
- Juices can easily be replaced with plain water with a squeeze of lemon, orange, lime or your favourite citrus fruit! If you don’t love the acidity or tartness, try adding a splash of stevia to the mix to make it a bit more palatable. By ditching a cup of juice everyday, you can save yourself between 12-20 grams of sugar. Yahoo!
Healthy Swap #5: Chocolate
- You don’t have to give it up, we promise! But you do have to look for the dark stuff. Dark chocolate is rich in amino acids that support the same neurological effects that sugar elicits in our brain. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and micronutrients that help to support our body’s functions all whilst meeting our cravings.
- Look for a reputable dark chocolate company such as Zazubean or Lily’s Chocolate and choose the lowest sugar option. Some companies also offer a sugar-free option sweetened with stevia, but be mindful of the number of squares that you eat. Chocolate, sweet or unsweetened is addictive and one can easily eat the whole bar.
Healthy Swap #6: Candy
- Thankfully, a genius invented sugar-free candy so that a candy lover never has to give up their favourite treat! Brands such as Smart Sweets and Herbaland have created candy sweetened with stevia to give you the best of both worlds! The next time that you are craving your candy fix, reach for one of their bags of deliciousness and save yourself the cups of sugar you would’ve consumed if you had chosen the conventional option. No one can stop at just one candy…
- Another option is dried fruit! Be mindful of the number of pieces you eat though as fruits that are naturally higher in sugar usually contain water to help fill you up. By dehydrating them, we naturally remove their water content and make it easy to consume far more than we ever would if it was the whole fruit! If you aren't a DIY-er, you can find some delicious options at your local grocery store, like these awesome kiwi chips from chiwis - yum...
There you have it: Six easy, yet implementable tips to help you swap out sugar for a healthier alternative. Whether you’re making it from scratch or buying a healthier alternative, always read the label and look at the sugar content of the product and ingredients. You’d be surprised where sugar can hide.
-By Lindsay Mustard. Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist, firefighter-in-training and recipe-wizard with a burning passion for health and fitness. In her nutrition practice, Lindsay works with clients to craft a unique plan that is tailored to their specific health goals using a natural, whole food and supplement approach.