This year for Lent, I gave up sugar. Sugar is a broad term, so let me clarify. I did not give up fruit or unsweetened dried fruit. I did give up sugar, whether refined or unrefined (like Sucanat and turbinado sugar) and other high-sugar sweeteners like maple syrup and honey. Even though natural sweeteners like xylitol and stevia are technically not sugar at all, I decided to challenge myself and give those up as well.
Now that I’m almost half way through the season of Lent, I thought I’d share with you some of the things that help me curb my sweet tooth. Sugar is addicting (and detrimental to our health) and those cravings do not go away over night. This has not been easy, but there are ways that I’ve been able to satisfy my urge to eat sweets without any sugar at all.
1. Use cinnamon. Cinnamon is one of those spices that lends a sweet flavor and sprinkling it on different foods is just enough to give the illusion of a sweet treat. Cinnamon mixed with unsweetened apple sauce can taste like dessert.
2. Turn to nut butters. Nut butters, even the natural kind without added sugars, have a sweet quality to them. Sometimes if I have a craving for a sweet, a quick teaspoon of peanut butter does the trick. Yes, I eat peanut butter by the spoonful. Doesn’t everybody? It also works to spread a bit on an apple, bread, or cracker. Delicious.
4. Just add Dates. Dates, when chopped or pureed with water into a syrup, are a great natural sweetener. They are high in sugar, so moderation is key, but they do the trick when you want something sweet without adding refined sugar. I use them in my different snack balls and bars and cookies, too.
5. Eat more sweet vegetables. If you include more sweet vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and bell peppers in your diet, you will naturally crave less sugar. Some of these will do the trick if you eat them raw or juiced, but this especially works well when they are cooked and their natural sweetness comes out even more.
6. Eat a sweeter dinner. When I eat a dinner that includes a”sweet” main dish, like my butternut squash apple soup, I am less likely to need a dessert to satisfy my sweet tooth after dinner.
7. Have a fruit smoothie. No added sweeteners are needed to enjoy a sweet smoothie.
8. Try some frozen fruit “ice cream”. It’s amazing what freezing a banana and other fruit and blending it in your food processor will do. We just had “strawberry ice cream” yesterday–we simply put a frozen banana+ a handful of frozen strawberries in the food processor and processed until they were a creamy consistency. So good!
9. Brush your teeth. I know that this one sounds weird. But I find if I brush my teeth right after a meal, I’m less likely to want something sweet following the meal. The toothpaste gives me a tiny bit of a sweet taste in my mouth and I don’t like eating right after brushing my teeth.
10. Eat cooked fruits. I find that a raw apple may not curb my sweet tooth, but if I roast it or saute it in a little butter and cinnamon on top, more sweetness comes out and it curbs my sugar craving. Cooked fruits are a delicious way to derail your sweet tooth!
Question: What’s your favorite way to satisfy your sweet tooth without sugar?