We’re not gonna sugarcoat it — sugary snacks and desserts are bad news. If you think this warning is only for people who consume loads of sweets, you’re mistaken. It turns out, even “moderate amounts of added fructose and sucrose double the body’s own fat production in the liver,” according to a recent study. It’s also easy to underestimate how much sugar we’re actually having in the course of a day, effectively putting us at bigger risk. Even seemingly innocuous “healthy” treats like iced tea can be packed with loads of sugar. However, not all hope is lost! The good news is you can easily replace your fave treats with less sugary ones. Here are healthy alternatives to your favourite sugary drinks, snacks and desserts.
Skip iced tea for a homemade matcha latte
On paper, iced tea is a healthier alternative to soft drinks, but “healthier” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. A typical iced tea is still loaded with sugar, some almost having as big amounts as a bottle of soda. The most obvious solution is to just make your own iced tea sans the sugar. But without that sweetener, iced tea can be bland — even bitter — to those who are not used to the taste. Try a refreshing glass of matcha latte instead. Matcha, which in its purest form is sugar-free as it’s finely grounded tea leaves, is known to be high in antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and can protect your liver. However, be warned that matcha latte served in cafes and prepackaged ones can also contain a lot of sugar. So it’s still better to make your own — it’s easy.
Make your own at home: Prepare a small bowl and put two teaspoons of matcha and two teaspoons of hot water; whisk together in a “w” shape. You can also opt to sift the matcha first if you want a smoother texture. Then get a cup, fill it with cold milk (preferably plant or nut milk that’s unsweetened or has less sugar). Next, pour the whisked matcha mixture into the milk. Stir and enjoy.
Go for smoothies over milkshakes
Smoothies are the perfect alternative to milkshakes. Both are basically desserts in a cup, the only difference is one’s healthier than the other. Instead of ice cream and whipped cream, smoothies call for fruit and yoghurt. The natural sweetness of fruits combined with the dense texture of yoghurt makes for a satisfying, filling drink. Just make sure not to add any sugar; you don’t need to anyway.
Make your own at home: When making smoothies, it’s important to use whole fruits and not just fruit juice to make the texture dense. Start with no-fail single-fruit smoothies like mango or strawberry. Put the fruit in the blender (cut off the mango seed or strawberry top first), add in one cup of yoghurt, a cup of milk, four to five ice cubes then blend thoroughly. Pour in a cup and add more fruits as toppings if you like.
Swap ice cream for plain yoghurt topped with fruits
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like ice cream. This creamy sweet treat is one of those desserts that’s hard to give up, but skipping it from time to time is easier with an equally creamy alternative — plain yoghurt with topped fruits. Known for being good for your digestive health, yoghurt has the creamy texture of ice cream without the guilt. It has a strong sour, tarty flavour, but if that’s too much for you, it can be sweetened with fresh fruits.
Make your own at home: First things first, not all yoghurts are the same. Some frozen ones are guilty of having too much sugar. Flavoured yoghurt (including Greek yoghurt) are also packed with sugar, so it’s important to check the label. Once you’ve chosen a yoghurt, simply put some in a bowl and top it with fresh fruits. Avoid dry and canned fruits dripped in syrup because those can also have lots of sugar. Pick locally grown, in-season fruits instead.
Choose chia seed pudding over cake
Cake is the definition of guilty pleasure. It’s delicious; it comes in different flavours so satiety doesn’t kick in early and pairs well with most beverage. There’s really no occasion needed to have a slice. The only hitch is it’s full of sugar, a whole lot of it, from the frosting to the base. So the next time you’re craving cake, make chia seed pudding as an alternative. The texture is similar to a bite of cheesecake and it also has a sweet kick. Chia seeds also get bonus points for having the ability to improve blood sugar control.
Make your own at home: For newbies, it’s best to start with the most basic chia seed pudding recipe. Pour two to three tablespoons of chia seeds in a mason jar and add a cup of milk. Shake and stir. Then, put on the lid and refrigerate overnight. That’s it! If it’s not as thick as you want it to be, the trick is to add a little more chia seeds.
Pick popcorn and put down the chips
Feeling peckish? Chances are you’re gonna get chips. Put that plan on hold for a minute and consider that chips, more often than not, contain a lot of sugar in their flavouring. Even the chips themselves can raise blood sugar due to their high starch content. A better alternative is popcorn. And no, we’re not talking about the microwaveable ones that are drenched in butter. Go for freshly popped. It’s a low-calorie, whole-grain snack that can fill you up easily.
Make your own at home: Making stovetop popcorn is easy. Pour kernels in a stockpot and add olive oil enough to cover the bottom surface of the pot. Put on the cover and turn the stovetop on to medium heat. After a few minutes, you’ll hear popping. Wait until the popping stops (about five to eight minutes) before you turn off the heat. If you like, you can sprinkle a little parmesan, salt or paprika to spice it up.
Giving up sugary treats is easier than it seems. Just start with swapping one of your favourite drinks, desserts or snacks at a time. As they say, it feels impossible until it’s done.
(Cover photo from: Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash)