Healthy Sweets

By: CHRISTINA COLAVECCHIA

Let’s face it: we all crave sweets from time to time.  Eating delicious, yet healthy sweets and desserts, however, can be extremely difficult.  Healthy eaters often let their nutrition routines slip when it comes to desserts or sweet snacks – that chocolate chip cookie can definitely seem worth the sugar and calories.  Desserts and sweets can be healthy, though, and can provide the nutrients and grains your diet can sometimes be lacking.

Allison Wood, a nutritional enthusiast and author of “Sweet Alternatives,” a cookbook dedicated to healthy sweets, knows how important healthy eating is. After being put on a very strict diet by her nutritionist (no yeast, dairy, wheat or refined sugar), Wood scoured her local grocery shop for healthy alternatives to the sweets she had been eating all her life. She had no luck: every health-conscious sweet was extra expensive and tasted awful.

Wood began creating healthy dessert recipes and soon realized how great she felt the better she ate.  Wood explains that her “philosophy is to stick to whole grain desserts and sweets as much as possible and to look for foods that are as low on the glycemic index as possible.”

The Canadian Diabetes Association defines the glycemic index (GI) as a scale that ranks carbohydrate-rich foods by how much they raise blood glucose levels compared to a standard food.  Eating foods with a low GI may help to control blood sugar, control appetite and lower the risk of heart disease and type-two diabetes.  Wood says, “Not only do foods [with a low GI] have more nutritional value, they also help you crave less because they aim to keep your blood sugar steady.”  Sweets and sugary foods usually have a high GI, while whole grains and fruit are generally lower on the scale.  Use the GI Symbol Search to find out the GI of your favourite sweets and desserts.

Wood says that the hardest part of eating healthy is eating out.  “It’s hard to have a restricted diet when you aren’t able to make your own foods all the time,” says Wood.   “I settled for bringing snacks with me if I could, and doing my best to make good food choices as much as possible.”  Carrying homemade sweets with you or a healthy granola bar in your purse ensures that you know what ingredients and how much sugar you’re putting into your body.  Although Wood is dedicated to her healthy diet, she is adamant that in order to enjoy food and healthy living, you should control what you can and let go of the rest.  Eating a sugar-filled cupcake or cookie is not the end of the world.

Wood loves to bake with whole grains, spelt flour (a wheat-free alternative) and Agave nectar, which she uses as a natural sweetener. Baking and preparing your own sweets gives you the ability to restrict and control the types of ingredients you’re using.  When it’s impossible to bake or create your own, there are more and more alternatives you can find at your local grocery or health food stores.  Try “365 Everyday Value Chocolate Cherry Trail Mix,” which combines chocolate, peanuts, and cherries (150 calories per ¼ cup) or “Pepperidge Farm Gingerman Homestyle Cookies” (130 calories per 4 cookies).   Wood suggests reading the nutrition label carefully before choosing a product.

Try Wood’s delicious wheat-free and gluten-free Raspberry Coconut Squares:

Base

1 cup large flake rolled oats
¾ cup spelt flour
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup brazil nuts
Pinch of Salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. lemon rind
¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup

Middle

3 cups frozen organic raspberries defrosted
1 cup unsweetened pineapple (chopped finely in a food processor)
3 tbsp. minute tapioca

Top

¾ cup unsweetened dried coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9×13 pan.

Blend base ingredients in food processor and press evenly into bottom of pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, defrost raspberries.  On the stovetop bring the raspberries, the pineapple and the minute tapioca to a boil.  Decrease the heat to medium and stir until the liquid has reduced and the mixture has thickened (approx. 5 minutes).  When base is ready, spread the raspberry mixture evenly over the base and sprinkle the coconut on top.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the coconut is browned.

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Categories: Home, Sections, Your Lifestyle, Your Nutrition

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