Foodie Friday: Sweet Tooth?

So, you’ve decided to follow a healthier lifestyle and make better food choices – but can you still have your cake and eat it too?

Why yes, yes, you can!

Thank goodness there are natural sweeteners and other substitutes out there to fulfil our need for something sweet every now and then.  Some great, natural sweeteners that are perfectly fine to use and that won’t spike your blood sugar include:

  • Xylitol
  • Stevia
  • Erythritol

Yes, sugar is also natural, but it is so very bad for you, because of the blood sugar spike it causes.  Avoid sugar at all cost – and do look out for it hidden in all processed foods!  Right, so these sweeteners all differ in sweetness and strength and they won’t act exactly the same as sugar in a dessert.

Xylitol is the most like sugar in taste, however I find it much sweeter and would use half of the amount of sugar.  Be aware though, that xylitol is poisonous to animals, so in an animal household, it’s risky to use…

Stevia has a very sweet, very specific taste – I’m personally not a fan – and you would use about a knife-tip amount for every 1 tsp sugar equivalent.

Erythritol is also very similar to xylitol and can be used in the same ratios.

Try and avoid other, chemical sweeteners, even if they are low in carbs, it’s just not Real Food.  But that is just the sweetener part, what about flour substitutes in baked desserts?

This is a tough one, because there are plenty of substitutes such as nut and seed flours, but they do NOT act the same as wheat flour. The most commonly known and used nut flour is almond flour and it is one of the most versatile low carb ingredients.  It is not so simple as taking a conventional recipe and swapping almond flour in for wheat flour. Almond flour lacks gluten, a protein found in wheat that helps baked goods rise and hold their shape. It also has much higher fat and moisture contents than wheat. All of these factors need to be considered when making an almond flour recipe.  Almond flour recipes typically require more eggs and more leavening agent to help them rise properly. Almond flour recipes may also contain less oil and liquid as well, to account for the high fat content of the nuts.

Coconut flour is a different beast altogether from nut flours, and is actually the by-product of coconut milk production.  The trick to working with coconut flour is accepting the fact that it requires a lot of eggs to give it structure and a decent consistency. It can be a little shocking to see half a dozen to a dozen eggs in a recipe, but as you try it out, you will see that it works. The end results are rarely too eggy or rubbery. You will also be surprised to see how little coconut flour is used in most recipes. It’s incredibly dense, but expands remarkably with the added eggs and liquid, so you typically only need about a third of the amount you would need with conventional flour or nut flours.

Always start with some tried and true low carb baking recipes to get a feel for these new ingredients.  The best {and easiest} sugar-free desserts to stick to, that will be most satisfying and ‘real’ are things like cheesecakes, ice creams, chocolate mousse…  Desserts that require the least changes.

And then of course CHOCOLATE!!!  Dark chocolate – 70% and higher – is an excellent treat! It’s good for you, with all sorts of anti-oxidants, etc, and also very low in sugar, naturally.

A word of caution though – if you’re really addicted to sugar, then even a low carb, sugar-free dessert will have you craving sugar.  It’s that sweet taste that can often trigger our sugar cravings, and it’s a slippery slope from there.

For some great sugar-free, low carb dessert recipes – please visit: http://foodiegoesprimal.com/category/dessert-low-carb-treats/

Heidi Visser

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