One of the hardest things about maintaining a healthy diet is resisting the urge to indulge in delicious sweets and sweet treats. This is very difficult if you are a fan of artificial sweets and junk food with a high contribution of calories and very few nutritional benefits. However, integrating natural sweets and choosing certain artificial sweeteners can really improve your diet and lead to happier eating habits.
Have all natural candy
Choose breakfast foods that include large amounts of fruits and vegetables. Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day, and there are several options you can try for a healthy meal full of natural sweeteners, including:
A breakfast smoothie made with frozen banana, frozen strawberries or blueberries, coconut water, chia or hemp seeds. It offers you a lot of fiber and natural sugar, as well as energy in the form of hemp or chia seeds.
A breakfast smoothie made with spinach, seedless grapes, and coconut water or low-fat coconut milk. This hydrating shake will set you up for the day.
Greek yogurt with fiber-rich fruit like blueberries or raspberries, topped with ground nuts like almonds or pecans. Yogurt has around 9g of sugar, 20g of protein, and only 120 calories. Ground nuts are a good source of omega-3 fats.
Try frozen grapes. These frozen treats are naturally sweet and good for you. They are high in sugar and lower in fiber than other fruits; however, they are a good way to break the habit of eating sweets with preservatives and artificial sweeteners.
Put a few bunches of grapes in the freezer. Scoop out about 10 frozen grapes and eat them with a serving of nuts, like almonds, to keep your blood sugar from rising too high.
Eat a trail mix with dried fruit. If you snack regularly and tend to go for treats like gummy worms, popsicles, or chocolate bars, replace them with a trail mix with dried fruit.
Dried fruit alone can cause abdominal discomfort or bloating. A lot of fiber is also removed during the dehydration process. Combine dried fruit with dried fruit to make a trail mix, which is low in added sugar, no more than 5 grams per serving. Nuts will give you the protein, fat, and fiber that dried fruit alone doesn’t have.
Buy dried fruit such as crystallized ginger, apple slices, banana slices, dried apricots, mango or dried figs and mix them with the dried fruit for an easy snack when you crave sweets.
Choose dark chocolate, in moderation. If you have a hard time giving up chocolate candies, replace the milk chocolate with a piece of dark chocolate that has no added sugar. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants, is generally less processed than milk chocolate, and contains less sugar.
Try to buy a high-quality dark chocolate bar as a special snack. The strong flavor of dark chocolate should make it difficult for you to gorge yourself on food.
Add maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar to foods. These natural sweeteners contain minerals and nutrients that are good for you and taste great.
Maple syrup isn’t just for pancakes; add it to salad dressings, sauces, baked goods and on top of yogurt, or in smoothies. This contains minerals such as manganese and zinc. Look for natural maple syrup at your local grocery store.
Honey contains 21 calories per tablespoon, so only use a small amount per meal. It is sweeter and thicker than sugar as well as a natural source of antioxidants. Try putting honey on top of yogurt and granola to sweeten tea, on toast, or in oatmeal. You can also bake with honey by replacing each cup of sugar in a recipe with one cup minus 3 tablespoons of honey.
Agave is a liquid sweetener that comes from a cactus-like agave plant. The nectar is processed into a syrup, which contains 20 calories per teaspoon. Agave is lower on the glycemic index than other sweeteners, so it won’t cause your blood sugar to spike. It also has a neutral flavor that goes well with smoothies, tea, and baked goods. It is approximately 50% sweeter than sugar. However, it is considered processed sugar and is more expensive than honey and maple syrup.
Prepare desserts with sweeteners and natural ingredients. Integrate natural sweeteners like honey, agave, and maple syrup into your baking so you can avoid artificial and processed sugars. Try various recipes such as the following:
cashew, banana and coconut cream tart, sweetened with maple syrup
whole wheat, walnut, banana and honey loaf of bread, sweetened with honey
a popsicle of all fruits, prepared with fresh fruit such as watermelon, ice and a touch of honey to sweeten
dairy-free coconut and banana ice cream, sweetened with agave
Double dark chocolate and ginger sponge cake, sweetened with crystallized ginger and dark chocolate
Add artificial sweeteners to the diet
Understand the health concerns around artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners are used to sweeten foods and drinks without adding extra calories. Using artificial sweeteners instead of sugar can also prevent tooth decay and control blood sugar levels. However, all artificial sweeteners are chemically processed. There are many health and safety concerns surrounding artificial sweeteners; however, there is currently not enough research to link these sweeteners to cancer or other health problems.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all artificial sweeteners sold or used in prepared foods in the US. The FDA has set an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) amount for artificial sweeteners, around 15 mg per day for most sweeteners.
Avoid aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. These are three very common artificial sweeteners that can be harmful to your health. All are made with modified forms of sugar and are often difficult for the body to break down.
Aspartame is 220 times sweeter than sugar and is found in diet sodas, sugar-free chewing gum, and as a sugar packet. This is a synthetic sweetener sold under the brand names “Equal” and “NutraSweet.”
Currently, there is no conclusive evidence to link aspartame to cancer. However, it can cause headaches or upset stomachs in certain people and can create a bitter aftertaste when cooked, so avoid using it in cooking. People with a rare condition called phenylketonuria (PKU) cannot break down phenylalanine, a component found in aspartame. People with PKU should not consume aspartame.
Saccharin is 200 to 700 times sweeter than sugar and is sold as a “tabletop sweetener,” commonly known as “Sweet n’ Low” or “NectaSweet.” It is approved for use as a food additive in beverages and processed foods by the FDA; however, it is known for its unpleasant metallic and sweet taste. It doesn’t break down well on high heat, so it shouldn’t be used in baking or cooking.
Sucralose, also canned Splenda, is sold in yellow sachets and is 600 times sweeter than sugar. This sweetener is found in many products, including soft drinks, cereals, and baked goods. Sucralose can withstand high temperatures, so you can use it in cooking and baking. However, like aspartame, sucralose can cause headaches and digestive problems.
Choose stevia leaf extract. This sweetener is derived from the leaf of a South American shrub and is a natural substance that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia-based products include “Truvia” and “Pure Via.”
Stevia is a natural sweetener that has no artificial chemicals. You can also use stevia in cooking and baking. The FDA has approved the use of rebaudioside A (stevia leaf) as a sugar substitute; however, the whole leaf and crude extracts, which are commonly sold as supplements in health food stores, have not been approved.
Keep in mind that stevia has a stronger flavor, so always follow the recommended conversions on the stevia-based product’s label when baking and cooking.