Healthy Sweeteners for the Holidays and Avoiding Overindulgence

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Dr. Kimberly Boileau

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There’s almost no way to escape the holiday baking, and most of us will probably agree that indulging is part of the season! It can be difficult to resist these sweet treats, especially when they only come around once a year.

This is where I like to recommend my, “Good-Better-Best” ideals. This entire category of holiday treats and sweeteners definitely falls into the “good” category. While it’s not optimal to eat a ton of sugar, when we do, we want to make sure that we’re still getting a tasty treat that’s a little healthier than consuming a whole bunch of regular sugars.

[bctt tweet=”Make sure you’re eating protein and fat with each meal to keep you full and avoid overindulging on treats!”]

With all of this indulgence, it’s hard not to feel guilty, but a few simple substitutions can help you feel a little better about your treats!

 

Xylitol

Xylitol is derived from the fibres of fruits and vegetables, and it’s commonly found in foods such as oats, husks, berries, and mushrooms. It has a sweet taste like sugar but is considered a sugar alcohol.

While Xylitol is granulated and similar in texture to white sugar, it is just as sweet and has about 40% fewer calories. Most diabetics are probably familiar with xylitol because it has 75% fewer carbohydrates and is absorbed more slowly than table sugar, resulting in much smaller changes in insulin levels in the blood. Be warned: sugar alcohols like xylitol can cause gastrointestinal irritation for some people, especially in amounts higher than 450g, but most recipes will not call for this amount.

Monk Fruit (Luo Han Guo)

Monk Fruit Extract or Luo Han Guo (Siraitia grosvenorii) is definitely growing in popularity these days and it’s not uncommon to see it as a sugar alternative in products like natural protein powders. It’s a fruit that normally grows in China and Northern Thailand and it’s calorie free, doesn’t have an aftertaste the way that stevia does and won’t affect blood sugar levels. It’s a really nice alternative to those who don’t like stevia, and is MUCH safer and healthier than using other sweeteners like sucralose/splenda/aspartame. I used it recently while experimenting with a ketogenic diet to make Indulgent Chocolate Peanut Butter Fat Bombs and they were delicious. Check out the recipe here! When baking with it, use half the amount of regular white sugar that’s called for.

Stevia

Stevia is a South American herb (Stevia rebaudiana) and has been used as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for hundreds of years. The leaves of this small, green plant have a refreshing taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar! Some prefer to use the liquid form of stevia to sweeten coffee or tea, and it can also be used in baking.

Some people struggle with the “metallic” aftertaste of Stevia, and if you’re one of them, I would encourage you to try a number of different brands before giving up on Stevia, as they don’t all taste the same and you may like some better than others.

[bctt tweet=”When using stevia in baking, each cup of sugar is replaced with half teaspoon of stevia concentrate powder plus 1 cup of apple fibre as a bulking agent.” via=”no”]

Honey

Honey makes baked goods moist and dense, which sounds just perfect for Christmas cookies. Some wildflower honeys can lend a special flowery flavor, and since it is 25 to 50% sweeter on the tongue, use three-quarters of a cup plus one tablespoon of honey to replace 1 cup of sugar. Reduce the other liquid ingredients in your recipe by 2 tbsp total. Unless the recipe includes sour cream or buttermilk, add a pinch of baking soda to neutralize the acidity, and to avoid over browning, reduce the oven temperature by 25°F.

Maple Syrup & Fruit Juice Concentrates

To lend a more distinct flavor, maple syrup or fruit juice concentrates can be used instead of sugar. Although it is not as sweet, the strong flavor of Grade B Organic Maple syrup is better for baking. 
For both maple syrup and fruit juice, use three-quarters of a cup for every 1 cup of white sugar and decrease the amount of liquids in the recipe by 3 tbsp.

Cinnamon Adds More Than Flavor

[bctt tweet=”For added flavor and extra sugar control, use cinnamon in recipes or sprinkle 1 tbsp over cookies, muffins, and cakes, or add to icing.” via=”no”]

Cinnamon decreases fasting blood glucose and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries to assist in the management of diabetes.

For those who need to be extra careful with blood sugar levels, check in with me about supplements to assist in healthy blood sugar management. Some people have found that incorporating Chromium picolinate can promote faster glucose uptake by tissues, while herbs like white mulberry leaf (Morus alba) can reduce sugar cravings if taken at each meal. There are so many great options we can offer and making an individualized plan just for you is what I do best.

 

All of the above sugar options are good, but a better way to manage things is to choose better sweeteners in conjunction with the avoidance of overeating. Here are some tips!

Ways to Avoid OverIndulgence

  1. Have a meal before you indulge. Make sure there’s protein and fat with each meal you have and that will help support better blood sugar balance. It’ll also keep you more satisfied and full of energy between meals and less likely to overeat holiday dessert and treats
  2. Make sure you’re hydrated. Thirst is a REALLY common reason that people think they’re hungry, so aim for about 8 cups of water or herbal tea per day. Don’t forget too, that coffee is dehydrating. Add at least an additional cup of water for each coffee you consume per day, and come to see me if you’re drinking coffee to maintain your energy levels!
  3. Choose a small plate. Studies have shown that bigger plates make your food appear smaller, so you’ll underestimate what you’ve eaten and are likely load up your plate even more. Choosing a smaller plate helps your brain realize just how much you’ve eaten
  4. Stop before you’re full! If you’re still eating by the time you feel full, you’re way past overdue! Especially during the holidays when we tend to overeat more, it’s best if you can a) leave room for dessert and treats at the end, and b) give yourself some time in between a meal and dessert. Take a rest! This helps your body catch up and give you proper signals about how full you are before it’s too late and you’re super over-stuffed.

 

http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/20/4/A618-c

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  1. Vikki Storry says:

    We love using Agave to sweeten our tea and fruit. It’s sweeter than sugar so we use way less of it. A few small drops in a cup of tea is all you need!

  2. Walter Risi says:

    We found this information very interesting and have forwarded on to our family

    Thank you. Walter