What would coffee, oatmeal or yogurt be like without a little sweetness? Most people agree that it would taste bitter, tart and extremely hard to swallow. However, adding packets of sugar every time you want to get your caffeine fix in or enjoy a "healthy" breakfast of yogurt or oatmeal, can lead to a blood sugar roller coaster and eventually weight gain or long-term health problems. We know that white sugar is not advised, that honey is high glycemic and caloric and, even though the FDA and ADA still stand behind artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda or Aspartame, it is still a chemical and therefore, probably not the best option all the time. So what exactly is left? How can you get that sweetness back in your life but still keep your health and weight in check?
Here a few options that will add natural flavor into your food without the blood sugar-spiking or fat building side effects:
1) Vanilla Extract: 1 whole tablespoon of this ingredient which is commonly used in baked goods, is only 38 calories and just a little over 1g of sugar. Adding it to yogurts or in any recipe that you want, will offer extra flavor that will keep your taste buds happy.
2) Cinnamon Powder: Not only rich in flavors, cinnamon has a long-list of health benefits as well. It contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering and blood sugar-stabilizing properties. Sprinkle some in your morning coffee or over warm oatmeal to satisfy your sweet tooth.
3) Fruit: It doesn't get any more natural than this. Fruits like berries, apples and oranges provide tons of sweet tasting goodness and are packed with vitamins, such as potassium and C, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants. Add berries and cooked apples to cereal or yogurt, or put grapes in the freezer for a sweet and low-calorie frozen treat whenever you want it.
4) Cocoa Powder: Who says you can't have chocolate? Cocoa powder in its natural, or sugar and butter-free state, is only 20 calories per 2 tbsp and has under 1g of sugar. This antioxidant-rich flavoring agent can be added to almost any food product and beverage. You can finally put that chocolate craving that's been gnawing at you all afternoon to rest.
5) Stevia: When all else fails, Stevia, which is a sugar-substitute derived from the plant Stevia Rebaudiana, is a newer calorie-free sweetener on the market that is another alternative to sugar. Unlike Aspartame, it is not derived from a chemical so it is thought to be safer and more natural. While the jury is still out on long-term consequences most research published to this date have found no dangers after consumption. It is 300 times sweeter than sugar and has little, if any, effect on blood sugars.