Taking refined sugars out of a child’s diet is a positive step, as foods which harbour this refined sweetness usually carry other preservatives, colourings and nasties that impact on a child’s health and wellbeing.
There are several natural sugar alternatives that do not have the same effect on spiking blood sugar levels and causing surges and lows in energy. The following are all suitable for cooking and replacing sugar. It is worth noting that all replacers are still to be used in moderation with the human diet being at its best when the sweet taste is obtained from fruits and vegetables.
Raw Honey: Full of beneficial enzymes, nutrients and vitamins. Great for sweetening smoothies, wholesome treats and to spread on snacks.
Agave syrup: obtained from the agave cactus, this syrup does not spike blood sugar levels as other sugars do. A unique taste suitable for sweetening beverages, making slices etc. I have found in baking muesli bars that agave syrup doesn’t quite offer the stick that honey does in the final product.
Stevia: An extract from the stevia plant which contributes minimal calories and carbohydrate. Stevia extract can be as much as 300 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is usally found in liquid, tablet and powder form and as such is only suitable for sweetening when it is the flavour, not the volume of the sugar that needs to be replaced eg; you cannot use it as a cup for cup replacer for sugar. Having said this there are several cookbooks available that utilise stevia as a sweetener. Flannerys sells stevia powder that is in its natural form ie; as a ground plant. In this form you can mix it with your flours and create some healthy, sweet tasting slices and treats.
Xylitol: It may sound like a chemical but xylitol is a natural low carb, low calorie sweetener that is derived from plants like the birch tree and berries. Xylitol has a pleasant aftertaste and can be used as a cup for cup replacer for sugar in cooking (it makes a mean cheesecake). Xylitol has also demonstrated antibacterial properties and is utilised in some dental friendly chewing gums.
Fruit Juices: You can also utilise natural juices to give sweetness to many cooking projects. There are countless recipes that now utilise juices instead of sugar to sweeten the food.
The general rule is that sugar should be consumed in moderation. If you do choose to use sugar in your cooking it is far better to utilise a raw cane sugar such as Rapadura than a processed white sugar that is devoid of nutrients but high in energy. Rapadura retains much of its vitamin and mineral content and is considered to be the wholefood version of white sugar.
All of the products mentioned above are available in Flannerys Natural Grocers. Please feel free to come instore and discuss their use and application with the friendly staff.