The temptation to overindulge in sugary sweets and snacks is something that many of us struggle with, especially around the holidays. While this time of year is meant for enjoying some of our favorite treats with friends and family, it’s not uncommon to let our sweet tooth get the best of us.
The problem with indulging in too many store-bought baked goods (processed carbohydrates) is that most are high in heavily-processed refined sugar, which rapidly breaks down in the body and induces large peaks and drops in blood sugar and insulin. Unfortunately, this is what often causes us to crave sugar periodically throughout the day, especially if we avoid fueling up with quality protein and fiber. On the flipside, naturally occurring sugar—like fruit or raw honey—contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which slows the speed of sugar absorption in the body.
F45 Sport Nutritionist Kim Bowman recommends preparing your own healthy holiday treats by swapping out refined sugar (brown and white sugar) for more natural sources. Additionally, adding a source of fiber like rolled oats, chia, and flax seeds to baked goods can also help to curb sugar cravings. These natural sugars will taste delicious in any holiday dessert, and are guaranteed to satisfy any sweet tooth:
Bananas and Dates
The best forms of sugar are found in whole foods like fruit, and bananas and dates are no exception. Fruit not only contains a natural source of sugar (fructose), but also plenty of antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals and gut-supporting fiber. Bananas and dates are particularly rich in fiber, which helps to slow the rate of sugar absorption in the bloodstream and prevents sugar crashes and fatigue.
One or two tablespoons of ripened mashed banana is an excellent alternative to white or brown sugar in pancakes, cookies, and brownies. Organic Medjool dates are not only one of nature’s best forms of naturally-occurring sugar, but they happen to taste incredible in a number of holiday treats like gingerbread bites and sticky toffee pudding.
Organic Manuka Raw Honey and Maple Syrup
Aside from fruit, organic maple syrup and organic raw Manuka honey can also be used. While these are healthier alternatives to refined sugar, they should be consumed in moderation since they are high in calories and do not contain any fiber. One or two teaspoons of quality organic raw honey or maple syrup is a great way to boost the sweetness of baked goods. What’s great about Manuka honey in particular is that it contains both antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
Organic, unsweetened applesauce makes an excellent sugar replacement and tastes delicious in brownies, cakes, and cupcakes. What’s great about applesauce is that it adds moisture to baked goods, which prevents them from becoming too dry and boosts flavor without an excessive amount of calories. Applesauce is also a rich source of fiber and polyphenols, which can improve digestive health and help regulate blood sugar to avoid large spikes and drops that occur with refined sugar.
Check out these three refined-sugar-free holiday desserts made with our favorite sugar swaps. We guarantee they’ll satisfy any sweet tooth!