Sweet Treats (That are Healthy, Too!)
If you’re like me, you loooove baked goods. And now that you’re ready to start eating healthy, giving up your gooey, double chocolaty chip cookies and triple-decker raspberry cheesecake is a devastating decision that just might send you into a depression (or sugar withdrawal shock). Fear not! There are several great ways you can still make baked goods without spiking your insulin and suffering from the ensuing effects of obesity and diabetes.
Alternatives to baking flour:
This is by far my favorite gluten-free baking flour. Many alternatives to wheat flour are dry and difficult to use, but almond flour is moist and delicious. It also has tons of health benefits, including being high in monounsaturated fats (we talked about those in this post). On top of that, almonds have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease and are high in Vitamin E, magnesium and potassium. You can buy almond flour from many groceries stores, but Trader Joe’s carries a store brand that is by far cheaper than any other brands I have found. If you have a food processor, you can also make your own almond flour by chopping your almonds up until they are a fine, grainy texture.
Coconut flour is a little different than almond flour in that is lighter and a bit drier. While I would stick with almond flour for cookies and other harder baked goods, coconut flour is great for light, fluffy foods like cakes and muffins. Coconut flour is a gluten-free, low-carb flour that makes it ideal for anyone wanting to lose weight, stick to a gluten-free diet or those dealing with diabetes. Because of its dryness, coconut flour is often paired with eggs in recipes, so be aware of that when you are preparing your shopping list. If you are trying to stay away from eggs for whatever reason, you should probably stay with almond flour.
Alternatives to sugar:
Of all the sugars and sugar alternatives available, I believe honey to be the healthiest and most beneficial. Honey will not spike your insulin as much as sucrose and other sweeteners, but it will provide the energy boost you might normally feel from eating something with sugar or artificial sweeteners. Honey has also been proven to help with upper respiratory infections, as it possesses anti-bacterial and anti-viral qualities. Try to buy your honey locally; a farmer’s market is usually the best place, as they often have honey that has not been pasteurized or filtered and is therefore higher in nutritional value.
As far as sugars and sweeteners go, although honey is probably the best for you, all sweeteners are dangerous in large quantities. There are several different “raw” and “natural” options, including Stevia, Raw Turbinado sugar and Agave sweetener, but the truth is they are all high in fructose or sucrose, which will cause the insulin spikes that can lead to obesity, diabetes and other problems. When it comes to sweetening your sweets, the best advice is just to limit the amount you use and the amount you consume. Just because you make a batch of almond flour cookies doesn’t mean you should eat the whole thing right away. They will certainly be better for you than a carb- and sugar-loaded batch of wheat-flour based cookies, but you shouldn’t devour them like they’re as healthy a bag of carrots. Moderation is the best policy when it comes to sweets, so enjoy, but don’t over-indulge!