We are all aware of the term ’empty calories’ and the foods that are associated with them. Baked goods, processed foods, soda – anything with added sugar. Oh, sugar, you sweet little devil! That tasty sweetener has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease – and the list goes on. It’s becoming common knowledge that the ‘healthy’ choice is to avoid sweets and sugar altogether. But, that being said, there is a time and a place for a lemonade on a hot day. (There’s GOT to be, right??!) And, lemonade isn’t lemonade without a little sweet to balance out the sour. (Lemon water is also refreshing on a hot day, and a great alternative to lemonade, but I’m trying to prove a point!) Every now and again something sweet just hits the spot, and it’s not a bad thing to indulge – especially when you choose your sweetener wisely. The good news is that there are alternatives to sugar that will satisfy that sweet tooth without leaving you sugar-sick!
Stevia is a sugar alternative that is 150 times sweeter than sugar. It is extracted from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana, found in South America. Used by the Guarani peoples for over 1,500 years, Stevia is non-caloric and has no long-term side effects, making it an ideal alternative for diabetics and those watching their weight. (At Farm to Fit, we use local brand Fructevia to add some sweetness to our sauces, marinades, etc.)
Fruit is a great source of natural sugar, and comes in a range of strengths and flavors. Obviously it won’t work to sweeten your cup of joe, but use it as a sugar replacement in baked goods, or as a sweet treat on it’s own. Be sure to get the most bang for your buck by using fresh juice as opposed to juice from concentrate. Also, be sure that your applesauce or juice doesn’t contain any added sugar.
Date sugar is made by dehydrating the fruit and grinding it into a sugar. It is a whole food, high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s rich flavor makes it an ideal alternative to brown sugar. It’s only downside is that it cannot be dissolved in liquids. (Again, no help in the coffee department!).
Unprocessed honey is considered a superfood by many health practitioners due to the minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, antioxidants it contains. However, it does not retain these nutritional properties when cooked, so is best used as a side.
Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut Sugar is the new rage among health buffs, due to it’s low glycemic index. It’s made from the sugary sap of cut flower buds from coconut palms. (Note that some brands of coconut palm sugar are mixed with cane sugar -defeating the purpose. Be sure to check the label!)
I don’t know about you, but I’m craving a lemonade right about now…
3 cups water
1/8 tsp Stevia
Fresh mint leaves
Juice lemons and limes to make 3/4-1 cup juice. Mix in stevia powder, mint leaves and water. Serve over ice with a lemon or lime wedge for decoration.
Makes approximately 1 quart.
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