If you have a sweet tooth, you know that a desire for something sugary can be stronger than your self-control! And sweet tooth or not, if you’ve ever tried to eliminate or restrict sweet foods from your diet, you probably found that it feels unnatural.
The truth is, it is! Depriving yourself of sugar is often unsuccessful and in many cases, unnecessary. People have always consumed naturally sweet carbohydrates in the form of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and our ancestors would never have dreamed of avoiding or eliminating them.
But the problem is, today, a disproportionate amount of our sugar intake comes from candy or junk foods. Fifty percent of Americans consume a half-pound of sugar per day (180 pounds per year!) in their processed, refined, or artificial form. Treats like soda, cookies, pastries, ice cream, and white flour lack the life-sustaining nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables, and they don’t do much good for our bodies.
The better answer is to eat sweet foods the way they were intended to be eaten: in their natural form. Choosing treats made with fruit, nuts, and natural sweeteners like honey and vanilla will satisfy your sweet tooth—and give you a huge nutritional bang for your buck, too.
Here are a few easy, delicious suggestions to get your sugary fix, the natural way:
Muddled Berry Mocktail
Drinking a tall glass of this fresh, fruity, and naturally sweet beverage is wonderfully refreshing, plus a terrific boost of energy and a delicious way to prevent dehydration (especially good since sugar cravings are often an indicator that you’re dehydrated).
Directions: Add fresh, muddled blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries (or a mix) and mint to a large glass, add juice from of half a lime, and pour sparkling water on top. Mix well and enjoy!
Baked Apple with Walnuts, Cinnamon, and Honey
Drizzle a little natural honey on your fruit, and you’ll get some added sweetness complete with a dose of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that you can’t find in artificial and refined sugar. Plus, if you keep the skin on apples (and most other fruit), you get the added benefit of fiber. A sprinkle or two of ground cinnamon not only augments the flavor of the fruit, but it also helps to normalize blood sugar levels.
Directions: In a large bowl, mix 2 oz. of crushed walnuts with 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, and the juice of one lemon. Core two apples, score the skin around their middles, and place in a baking dish. Fill each apple generously with the nut mix, then bake for 30-40 minutes at 300 degrees until golden and soft through.
Banana and Cocoa Frozen Whip
This cold and creamy treat looks a lot like other artificial and refined sweet treats, but it’s totally natural, plus it contains things your body actually needs! Really ripe bananas provide tons of real natural sweetness and potassium, and cocoa gives a hint of chocolate flavor and a burst of flavonoids, which may have beneficial cardiovascular effects and protect the brain.
Directions: Put 3 large, very ripe bananas, 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons of natural maple syrup, and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract into a blender and liquefy. Then pour into individual small bowls, top with your favorite chopped nuts or dried fruit, and freeze until just frozen.
Greek Yogurt and Blueberry Smoothie
This absolutely delicious milky indulgence is one you can enjoy for breakfast, a snack, or dessert. Greek yogurt has more protein and a lot less sugar then regular yogurt, plus has beneficial bacteria for your intestines. Blueberries are little drops of natural sweetness packed with vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants that promote good health. And stevia, a natural sugar substitute, can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar depending on the form (liquid or powder)—but it doesn’t affect your bloodstream.
Directions: Put 1 peeled banana, 1½ cups of frozen blueberries, 1 cup of non-fat Greek yogurt, ¼ cup of water, and 1½ droppers full of liquid stevia (or 1 tablespoon of honey) into a blender, and blend until smooth.