Healthy Sweet Treats the Whole Family will Enjoy
BySarah Axtell, ND •July 24, 2014
Just because you want to lead a healthy organic lifestyle does not mean that you can’t indulge in something sweet every once in awhile. Growing up my mom always had cookies or brownies baking in the oven. There is nothing wrong with keeping some baked goods in the cupboard for an occasional indulgence. Here are some healthy alternatives to your typical cookies, ice creams, and brownies.
-Avoid white sugar, brown sugar, and high fructose corn syrup. For more info on WHY to avoid high fructose corn syrup, clickhere.
-Avoid the so-called “healthy” alternatives to sugar like evaporated cane juice and agave. Agave is like a “natural high fructose corn syrup.” In fact, the Glycemic Research Institute has halted its 5 year study on agave syrup because the side effects on diabetics were so serious. The Institute has legally ‘de-listed’ agave, and warned manufacturers that they can be held legally liable for the effects of agave. For the full story, click here.
-Maple syrup, dates, apple sauce, bananas and raisins are all good sources of natural sweeteners.
-When cooking with these alternative natural sweeteners, always combine a fat or a protein with it to prevent huge spikes in blood sugar.
Sugar’s Effect on Your Health
We all know that refined sugar is not good for you. But do you know why? First of all, it is highly addicting. Many people resort to sugar as an emotional coping mechanism when feeling down, depressed, stressed, or anxious. It does have an instantaneous effect on your neurotransmitters, making you feel good…but not for long. Eating something with refined sugar in it (which now a days is ubiquitous- its in ketchup, bread, crackers, and of course any sweets) spikes your blood glucose, causes a surge of insulin release, and then you immediately crash. These dangerous highs and lows of blood sugar and subsequent insulin release can lead to diabetes. Millions of Americans have Diabetes, and even more are at high risk. And its not just a disease of adults- currently, about 151,000 people below the age of 20 have type 2 diabetes. This exemplifies the importance of building that solid foundation of health at a young age with your kids. You have the power to mold your child’s taste buds at a young age. This means avoiding sugar for as long as you can and then in toddler-hood, when they are begging for a cookie, providing healthy options. See below for recipes.
An unfavorable glucose response (aka peaks and lows of blood glucose due to a diet high in refined sugars and carbohydrates) can not only lead to diabetes but also cancer. In fact, the Nurses’ Health Study found an association between elevated fasting glucose, fasting insulin, elevated glucose 2 hr postprandial, and a larger waist circumference with a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
So in addition to being highly addictive and increasing one’s risk for diabetes and cancer, sugar depresses the immune system. Diet is key to a healthy immune system. A diet high in vegetables, good fats, and protein is ideal for the promotion of a strong, vital immune system. Eating too much sugar can make you and your child more susceptible to acquiring viruses and bacteria.
And lastly, sugar can act as a stimulant to the brain, making children more susceptible to inability to focus at school and the new childhood epidemic, ADHD. In my experience at clinic, hyperactive children and children diagnosed with ADHD respond tremendously to a diet low on the glycemic index (ie. low in sugar) and high in vegetables, good fats and protein. See this great article on how diet influences ADD symptoms.
As a mama and one who likes to indulge in a sweet treat after dinner, I understand that deprivation is not the answer. The answer is providing you and your family with healthy alternatives.
Below are some must-have recipes sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Cocoa Brownies (From Clean Start, by Terry Walters)- Like I said, my mom always had brownies around the house. The smell of brownies is surely a comforting one. Although, the ones my mom made were the boxed kind loaded with white flour, sugar, and canola oil. Here is a DELICIOUS alternative to the glucose-spiking Betty Crocker version.
-1/2 cup apple sauce
-8 pitted dates
-1 ripe banana
-1/2 cup maple syrup
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup brown teff flour
-1/2 cup almond meal (see previous post on cooking with nut flours)
-1/2 cup cocoa powder
-2 tsps baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 F and lightly grease an 8×8 inch baking dish. 2. In a food processor, combine applesauce, dates, bananas, maple syrup and vanilla until almost smooth. (There will be some chunks of dates remaining).
3. In a separate bowl, combine teff flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix as briefly as possible to incorporate all ingredients. Transfer to baking dish and cook approx. 20-23 mins. Remove from oven and let cool before cutting.
Makes 16 delicious brownies! For a real treat, combine with vanilla hemp milk ice cream for an ice cream sundae. See below.
Coconut Balls- These make a delicious protein-packed, sweet snack or desert. Your toddler will love helping you make these and will also love eating them!
-1/2 cup dried fruit (I like dried cranberries, raisins, and dates)
-1/2 cup nut butter (I like sunflower seed butter or almond butter)
-1/4 cup sesame seeds
-1/4 cup almonds
-1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
-1/4 cup dried coconut flakes (set aside for later)
In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except for the coconut until it has formed a paste-like consistency. Form into tbsp-size balls and roll in coconut to coat. Store in tupper-ware or freeze.
Ants on a log- I am simply reminding your of an old childhood favorite. The raisins on top are sometime all you need to satisfy a sweet craving. And of course the protein packed nut butter helps stabilize that blood sugar.
-nut butter (my favorite is almond and sunflower seed)
Spread the nut butter on the celery stalks and top with raisins.
Devil’s Food Carob Cake- This cake is DIVINE! I got the recipe from Dr. Jenny Tufenkian, a Naturopathic Doctor. The pecan coconut icing is to die for!
Adapted from Recipes From An Ecological Kitchen ,by Lorna J. Sass.
1 cup flour (1/2 rice, ½ buckwheat)
1/2 cup roasted carob powder, sifted
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup organic canola or other vegetable oil
1 cup soy, rice or almond milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Grease one nine inch round pan or a 6x 9 inch pan. Flouring and or placing parchment on the bottom is recommended if planning to remove the cake from the pan to decorate.
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix wet together in smaller bowl.
Blend the two together, do not over mix or it will get tough.
Pour batter into a prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
Set in rack and cool for 30 minutes.
You may doulble this recipe and bake in two nine inch round pans or a 9x 13 rectangle.
This also makes and excellent chocolate cake; just replace the carob with cocoa powder.
Topping ideas: before baking sprinkle with chopped nuts, coconut and/or carob chips.
Pecan-coconut frosting (From The Complete Food Allergy Cookbook, by Marilyn Gioannini)
1/4 cup oil or butter
1/2 cup honey/maple syrup
1/2 cup soy or rice milk (water or other dairy substitute)
11/2 teaspoons arrowroot powder
1 cup chopped pecans (or other nuts)
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla
Put oil/butter and honey in a small saucepan. Mix 1/4 cup of the milk/water with the arrowroot until smooth. Add the arrowroot to the honey/oil and the rest of the milk/water. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cook and stir over med heat for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add nuts, coconut and vanilla. Beat briefly and frost cake while still warm.
Makes enough for one 9x 13 or two top layers of nine inch rounds.
Ice Cream Alternatives- I’ve saved the best for last. Ice cream is my favorite desert. But conventional ice cream can be loaded with hormone-laden cow’s milk, high fructose corn syrup, thickeners and lots of other weird ingredients that you can’t even pronounce. And the low-fat versions can be even worse- they are filled with sugar to compensate for the lack of satisfying fat. Sometimes they can have up to 40 grams of total sugar per serving! Here are some of my favorite alternatives:
–Tempt (hemp-milk based ice cream). This variety can be hard so let it sit out on the counter for 30 minutes to soften before eating.
-Coconut Bliss (coconut-milk based ice cream). This is a creamy delight!
*Aim for ice-cream flavors with 15 grams of sugar or less.
Also, see my post on Chocolate Mousse of the Gods recipe. This is a great treat for birthdays for your little one. It’s made with avocados (you’ll fool everyone) and sweetened with dates and/or maple syrup.
You also may want to check out the recipe for Tahini Almond Cookies. Tahini is sesame seed butter and is a very nutritious addition to yours and your child’s diet. Delicious by the spoonful and also baked in cookies!
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.