How many times have you said, “I’m cutting out sugar for a week”?
Or, “No. More. Candy.”?
Or, “I’ll just eat one or two” then you’re 2/3rds of the way through the gummy bag before you wake up and wonder, “What just happened?!”?
(Hand raised over here).
Sugar is a sneaky little bugger that whispers sweet nothings of, “Just have one more bite. You deserve it.”
We become addicted to the high and we can’t stop craving that powdered sweetness (especially when we’ve been up every hour trying to coax a cranky munchkin back to sleep).
But it’s obviously not good for us in large quantities. It can impact our energy, mood, gut, heart, immune system…
So it’s smart to cut down on the amount of sweet stuff you eat. No, you don’t have to go crazy and throw out every bit of sugar in your house. Just trying to consume less is a great start.
Yes it isn’t good for you. Yes it’ll probably make you feel like garbage and you’d be better off without it. But having little bites here and there is not the end of the world.
As Chris Kresser says:
“If every now and then you decide to indulge in a piece of dark chocolate or have a scoop of real ice cream made with refined sugar, you shouldn’t mentally and emotionally beat yourself up or force yourself into a week-long “detox” to make up for your dietary transgression.”
So yeah. Like I said, there’s no pressure to quit sugar for the rest of your life. Just eating less is awesome.
But if you’re trying to cut down on the amount of white sugar, and processed sugary stuff you eat, it can be challenging to just cut out the sweetness cold turkey.
Which is why I’m a fan of refined-sugar-free dessert options.
They aren’t health foods but they’re often healthier choices than the white sugar laden and potentially heavily processed stuff you may be used to (like Oreos. These are definitely better choices than Oreos 😉 ).
And that’s all we’re going for – giving you options so that you can feel better, have more energy, and still enjoy the food you’re eating.
That last point is crucial because the truth is that these alternative sweet treats need to actually taste good to you – or else what’s the point, right?
You don’t want to eat a “healthy dessert” because you feel like it’s healthy, but it’s not actually yummy. That’s just not helping you out in the long run.
You shouldn’t be eating any food – healthy or not – that you don’t actually enjoy.
A huge part of food culture is the joy and indulgence and deliciousness of it all. So if you’re munching on something that tastes like stale grass, it’s not hitting any of those points.
It’s not making you happy, it doesn’t feel indulgent, and delicious definitely isn’t the first (or 100th) word that comes to mind when you’re eating it.
And that’s a huge problem.
Because if you’re not happy with what you’re eating, that isn’t a sustainable way to eat. Eating “healthy” food that you’re honestly trying hard not to gag over isn’t doing your body or emotional self any favours.
Which is why one of my main goals with my clients who want to work on nutrition stuff is to help them come up with ideas and find healthier recipes that are actually yummy. I don’t want them to feel deprived.
Remember, you don’t have to get it perfect (yes, you can still have Oreos if you really want them). Perfection isn’t the goal. Feeling better – emotionally and physically – is.
With that in mind, here are 11 refined-sugar-free dessert options.
Sugar-Free Berry Crumble
This recipe from Gabby Bernstein is easy to make and super yummy.
I have a feeling you won’t miss the cup+ of white sugar that most crumbles usually have.
Orange Hazelnut Chocolate Bark
I’m allergic to nuts so I opted out of the hazelnuts in this recipe from Joyous Health but the great thing about chocolate bark is that you can mix and match and make your own flavour choices. Add a different nut. Ditch the orange and top it with dried cherries instead. Add some unsweetened dried coconut to it.
Sidebar: This stuff is so easy to make + my Munchkin devours it without a hint of wishing it was store bought chocolate.
There’s a reason pumpkin spice everything is a thing. So many people love it. Maybe it’s because it makes you think of the holidays and fun memories with family.
Whatever the reason, if you’re craving some pumpkin pie but want to eat it without feeling wired then tired, try Diane Sanfilippo’s version.
One of my favourite parts about living close to the mountains is camping. Camping = S’mores. Marshmallows have always been one of my favourite treats but I’m not a fan of all the artificial junk that’s in most store bought kinds.
Luckily they’re pretty darn easy to make from scratch. Here’s Laura Fuente’s recipe.
The Paleo Chef, Mary Shenouda’s recipe was so popular she started selling it in health food stores in the States.
Yep. It’s pretty darn delicious.
Caramel Apple Donuts (Or Doughnuts 😉 )
Don’t expect these to taste exactly like deep fried ones – they’re more cake-like – but they’re still delicious!
Fun Fact: Leanne Vogel actually grew up in my hometown – Calgary. So we both have memories of going to the Stampede and grabbing some midway food in the summer. But these guys will definitely make you feel better than those heavily processed caramel apples would.
One of Avery’s favourite foods as a wee bean was bananas. Which isn’t super surprising – they’re super sweet. And my love of these fried bananas from Rachel Schultz must be genetic 😉
I like to sub maple syrup for the honey. The maple flavour adds a nice touch. And fun fact: great quality maple syrup has some beneficial minerals and up to 24 beneficial antioxidants (especially the darker stuff) so it’s definitely a healthier option than white sugar.
Dairy-Free + Refined-Sugar-Free Ice Cream
While I love some great quality ice cream from time-to-time I don’t love how it makes me feel – bloated, tired, moody…
So if you’re in the same boat, try one of these dairy-free, refined-sugar-free ice cream recipes.
If you could eat frosting right out of the can, might I suggest you try this super quick healthier homemade version from Angela Liddon?
P.S. If you want to stick with refined-sugar-free, look for chocolate chips that are made without sugar or made with an alternative form of sweetener – like stevia.
While I understand convenience and needing to opt for store-bought stuff sometimes – you’re a busy mom – the best part about making things from scratch is that you know exactly what’s in whatever you’re eating. This means you really cut down on the artificial flavours, colours and preservatives – which your body will thank you for.
So no, you don’t have to always go homemade. I’m simply here to encourage you to try to make homemade options whenever you can.
Gluten-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free. Check. Check. Check.
There’s just something about the tang mixed with the sweetness that makes lemon cake taste so good, hey?
Try these ones from Julie Fagan to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Sweet Potato Brownies
Yes I get that it sounds weird but I’ve made my fair share of sweet potato brownies and Avery would be the first to tell you that they’re delicious.
They’re so good in fact she had to lick every trace off the plate! Ha! (Evidence below).
Make it Before the Cravings Hit
One thing I love to do most weeks is bake or make something sweet (without refined sugar) to enjoy whenever I get a craving throughout the week.
It takes an hour tops (usually – unless I have some toddler “help” in the kitchen 😉 ) to whip something up and that way I’m not tempted to grab a processed something over something that I know is a better option to help keep my mood stable, my gut happy and my sweet tooth satisfied.
Just remember – this isn’t about deprivation.
You don’t want to be that person in the corner at the party staring at the goodies on the table and wishing you could eat one.
If you want it, go for it. Mindfully enjoy it. You’re in charge. You get to decide what your food freedom looks like.
And once you start paying more attention to how different foods impact how you feel, act, sleep, work, play… I have a feeling you’ll be more inclined to swap out your Snickers for some homemade chocolate bark.
Sometimes that Snickers may be worth it.
Sometimes it won’t be.
You get to call the shots.
The bonus is that having these refined-sugar-free treats handy for your kiddo to enjoy as well may cut down on your toddler white-sugar-fueled tantrum episodes too.
One more thing before you go off and make some sweet treats… remember that these are for those times you want to enjoy something sweet without having to deal with the sugar hangover, bloat, and overall blah-ness that most conventional treats can gift you.
Just keep in mind that these are still treats. Going overboard with these is really no different than going overboard with the leftover Christmas chocolates.
So enjoy, indulge, but continue to be mindful and remember that balance is still a thing that we want in our lives.
Now I’d love to chat with you.
Tell me in the comments below, what’s your favourite dessert? Maybe we can brainstorm a healthier version together. Or do you have a go-to healthy-ish sweet treat?
Thank you for being here and sharing your two-cents. I love hearing from you.
Enjoy those sweet treats!
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