Sweet without the sugar – my go-to, no-guilt recipes
After a sugar-induced holiday season last year, Adam and I vowed to have a sugar-free January and clear our bodies of the stuff. We made a pact to not consume refined or added sugar in any of our foods, which immediately eliminated a lot of desserts, sugar-laden store-bought snacks, and unnecessary extra calories that were hidden in everyday products (cereal, granola bars, yogurt, bread, spreads and condiments, etc.)
After the initial difficulty that was the first few days (okay, week) consisting of constant cravings, I was hooked three weeks in. I had more energy, felt less bloated, had fewer headaches and generally felt better. So, once February 1 rolled around, I was committed to continuing the sugar-free life – I’d seen the light!
It’s been 11 months so far and I cannot express the virtues of a sugarless diet enough. Over this period, I’ve experimented with a lot of recipes and learned to make a bunch of new dishes that conform to this diet. I’ve loved to bake ever since I was a child, and have been elated to learn through this process that I can still make insanely tasty sweet dishes without using refined sugar (and, of course, eat them in moderation).
It’s been fascinating to find out firsthand that you really don’t need the gobs of sugar in food to make it delicious. The following recipes are proof of this – try these treats and you will immediately see for yourself!
Store-bought granola bars (even the organic, ‘healthy’ ones) contain plenty of added sugar (often in the form of cane sugar).
This recipe by Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows is my favourite – I often make batches on the weekend and freeze them or keep them in air-tight containers to grab-and-go throughout the week.
I usually add shredded coconut, chia seeds and flax seeds to mine. Try also substituting dried cherries for other dried fruit: raisins, apricots, etc.
What is more warming on a cold fall day than a fresh crisp straight from the oven, baked with in-season farmer’s market apples?
After many iterations of throwing unmeasured ingredients together into a crisp, I’ve fine-tuned my dish to form this recipe, below. Try it with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on top.
- 5-6 apples
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- ½ tsp lemon juice
- Sprinkle of chia and/or flax seeds (optional)
- ½ cup butter (at room temperature)
- ¾ cup flour
- 1 cup oats
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- Sprinkle of walnut pieces or sliced almonds (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325*F
- Grease and lightly flour baking pan
- Peel, core and slice apples and place in medium bowl
- Add lemon and vanilla to apples and toss
- Place apple mixture in prepared baking pan
- In a bowl, combine flour, oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, chia and flax seeds
- Add butter and mix (knead) until dry ingredients are incorporated and crumbles form
- Add sprinkle of nuts to the mixture and stir
- Pour oat mixture over apples
- Bake at 325*F for 30 minutes or until apples soft and top golden
Few things are as satisfying as a cup of tea and warm banana bread on a chilly afternoon. This whole wheat-based one, from Cookie and Kate, is a hit with even the most sweet-toothed people I know!
Try substituting maple syrup/honey for applesauce if you find it too sweet.
This spicy, denser bread from Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar blog is also a winner. I used whole wheat flour instead of buckwheat flour, butter instead of coconut oil, omitted buckwheat groats and topped it off with almonds rather than pecans based on what I had in the pantry.
No-sugar eaters need their chocolate, too. This Oh She Glows recipe lives up to its name as “crazy good.” Other descriptors: addictive, delicious, luxurious.
Play with different variations, substituting nuts for frozen fruit or adding peanut butter and cinnamon.
Speaking of chocolate, the wintery months call for sipping it. My simple recipe uses almond milk and pure cocoa to create the perfect comfort in a cup.
You can also use soy, dairy, or your preference of milk.
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Pour milk into a saucepan over medium-high heat
- Add other ingredients and whisk
- Continue to whisk until smooth and hot
- Serve with cinnamon stick
Peanut butter pie
This recipe should come with a warning label: decadent! A surefire way to curb sugar cravings for the peanut butter-chocolate lovers out there (me, included).
After not eating sugar for quite a while, my sweet taste buds have become very sensitive and this pie definitely awakens them. I recommend eating this pie from Detoxinista in small portions, and reducing the amount of maple syrup used.
Try it with almond or cashew butter for a change. I suggest adding more coconut oil to the topping as mine was a bit thick for drizzling on top of the pie.
This ‘cheesecake’ recipe from LaurenConrad.com uses dates for a chewy and sweet crust, and has a delicious filling made tangy by the juice of two fresh lemons. It’s a little bit more time-consuming to make than basic cheesecake as it involves soaking cashews overnight and food processing, but with one bite, you’ll notice it’s worth the effort!