Healthier Sugar Swaps to Start 2022
These days we are completely overrun with refined sugar. Not just in the obvious places like sodas, fruit drinks and candy, but it also hides in processed foods and pasta sauces, and all sorts of places you wouldn’t even think to look. The average child today consumes way more than the recommended limit of 25 grams (or 6 teaspoons) a day!! Refined, added sugars can lead to sugar cravings & weight gain, energy crashes & metabolic diseases, headaches, inflammation, and many other health conditions, like diabetes.
Many years ago we switched over to less processed sugars. Most of the time we use maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar in our baking. At home, I admit, we do have some organic cane sugar for the emergencies when someone needs “white” sugar for their coffee. We aren’t always perfect (who is?!?), but little swaps here and there contribute to little steps forward on the path to feeling better. And who doesn’t want to feel better. Here are some of the alternatives we use in our baking that you can try out too!
Pure maple syrup - made by boiling the sap collected from maple trees. Syrup trees are tapped in the spring, when the daytime and nighttime temperatures drastically fluctuate, and the tree moves sap up during the day, and down to the roots to prevent freezing at night. The sap is then boiled down to remove a lot of the water, and concentrate it into syrup. 100% pure organic maple syrup is our go to liquid sweetener in our baking, full of vitamins & minerals, and adding moisture, sweetness, and a lovely flavour.
Coconut syrup - made by boiling the sap of coconut trees. Coconut trees are tapped similar to maple trees, but at the top of the tree near the flowers. The sap is then boiled down just like maple syrup. This can be hard to find, so we tend to use maple syrup instead.
Honey - made by bees from the nectar of flowers. All honey gets filtered to remove debris, but regular honey gets filtered under high pressure to remove even more, so raw honey is best if you can get your hands on some. It still contains pollen, lots of vitamins, and antioxidants which have been shown to boost immunity. The flavour (and health benefits) can differ based on the flowers the bees source the nectar from. Play around and try different raw local honeys - clover, wildflower, etc. We use organic honey for added flavour in items that are already non-vegan (eg. our banana nut muffins), or to bind ingredients where maple syrup cannot (eg. our nut bars and some of our granolas use honey). It replaces corn syrup beautifully in home baking and candy making too. We also use it when requested, for someone following the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which has been shown to be especially helpful to children on the Autism Spectrum.
Coconut sugar - made by boiling all the liquid out of coconut syrup. It’s full of anti-oxidants and phytonutrients, a great replacement for brown or white sugar in your home baking, and a favourite in our baking!
Maple sugar - made by boiling all liquid out of maple syrup. It is surprisingly difficult to source in Canada compared to the USA, and also stronger in flavour compared to coconut sugar, so we tend to use coconut sugar over maple sugar unless we are going for lighter colour, like our gingerbread cookie icing. It also makes a great replacement for any granulated sugar in your home baking.
Fruit - like dates, raisins, banana, berries. You can puree fruit to add uniform sweetness and moisture, or as pieces/chunks to add bursts of flavour. We use rehydrated organic medjool dates to make caramel paste for our turtle brownies and turtle icing, or to sweeten fudgey bars. Bananas can be added to muffins as an egg replacer, and for sweetness & flavour (eg. our vegan chunky monkey muffins, banana nut muffins, chocolate banana muffins, or our banana smash cake). Pieces of fruit like blueberries, apples, and raisins, can be added for pops of sweetness and flavour, and to add a different texture & interest to your bakes.
Play around, test things out. Little swaps add up, and build your baking confidence!! Swapping refined sugars for better options isn’t as hard as you think.