Jul 30, 2015

7 Swaps for a Healthy Sweet Tooth

Are you trying to eat healthier, but finding it hard to ignore the siren call of the ice cream truck and the allure of the checkout candy display?

Eating healthy isn't about deprivation. That's unsustainable and no fun! Because a healthy lifestyle is about balance, it's totally fine - great, in my opinion - to indulge in chocolate bars, ice cream, and so on from time to time.

Since indulging in the 'real thing' multiple times a day won't be great for your health or well-being in the long run if it's every day, however, here are some healthy swaps that to satisfy your sweet tooth without sacrificing your health goals!

Swap dried fruits for fruit snacks.

Why go for a cheap imitation that's filled with processed sugar and unnatural colors and flavors? Dried fruits give you the nutrition of fresh fruits, with all the fiber, vitamins, and minerals that Skittles and Starbursts lack.

Since they're dried, the sugars in dried fruits are higher than in fresh fruits. But they're natural sugars paired with other nutrients, so it's still better to enjoy dried fruits than fruit snacks! I love all dried fruits, but raisins, dried mango, dried apricots, figs, prunes, banana chips, dried pineapples, and dates are all sure to deliver that yummy sweetness you desire!

Swap frozen bananas for ice cream. 

Blend frozen bananas with vanilla extract for vanilla nice cream, with cacao powder for chocolate nice cream, with dates for a sweet and fruity nice cream, and so on.

Find this recipe here
You can also have fun with yummy toppings like trail mix, nuts, granola, and so on to jazz things up! It's sweet and creamy, just like ice cream - but full of all the benefits of fruit!

If you're more in an ice cream novelty mood than a scooped ice cream mood, frozen bananas are still great. Instead of freezing them whole or in chunks and then blending them into a creamy soft serve-like dessert, cut the banana in half across the middle, stick it on a popsicle stick, and dunk it in melted dark chocolate (or a healthy blend of coconut oil, cacao, and your sweetener of choice)  before freezing. Feel free to sprinkle on nuts, seeds, or whatever else you desire.

Frozen Chocolate Bananas recipe
Photo from Epicurious, by Yunhee Kim
Wa-la! It's frozen awesome.

Sometimes I'm lazy and just eaten the frozen bananas, un-blended and un-decorated. They're still a deliciously sweet and creamy treat! The key is to use super ripe, spotty bananas. And ALWAYS peel your bananas before you freeze them - I learned that the hard way!

Even if you're skeptical, just try it - I bet you'll be impressed!

Swap frozen grapes for popsicles.

With frozen grapes you can spare yourself the food coloring, processed sugar, and artificial colors of classic popsicles, but still get the fruity refreshment of the childhood summer snack!

Any type of grapes, whether purple, green or black, will do. Just be sure to wash them before you freeze them. If you wash a bunch and pop them in the freezer all at once, being sure to replenish your stores whenever you're running low, you'll have a healthy, vitamin-rich sweet treat on hand all summer long!

Swap protein bars for candy bars.

This isn't the seventies. Protein bars come in all sort of delicious, decadent flavors now!

You do have to be wary of the decadent nutritional stats that can come with some of the bars. Sometimes when a chocolate-caramel-nougat protein bar sounds, looks, and tastes like a candy bar, it also has all the sugar and fat and unhealthy additives of a candy bar.

That's why I love Quest bars!

They come in all the indulgent flavors of the less healthy bars, but feature a whopping 20g of protein and a ton of filling fiber. Since they're made for bodybuilders, figure watchers, and people who just want to eat well to look and feel well, they're also very low in sugar. 

You can freeze them microwave them, bake them, or eat them straight out of the wrapper - there's no wrong way to eat a Quest bar! My favorite at the moment is the Mint Chocolate Chunk bar (above) but Cookies & Cream and the White Chocolate Raspberry bars are also definite winners. 

Swap dates for caramels.

Ooey, gooey medjool dates are fill of fiber and vitamins (instead of just processed sugar, like caramels) but they'll satisfy any caramel craving!

Photo from A Fig-Mint of My Imagination
I love to top them with a smear of nut butter and/or stuff them with carob chips, chocolate chips, almonds, or peanuts for an extra treat. It's so yummy!

Swap fruit juice-seltzer mix for soda. 

Regular soda is like drinking liquid sugar and diet soda is full of unhealthy artificial sweeteners. Make your own healthy drink by diluting fruit juice with seltzer water for a sweet, flavorful, and bubbly beverage. You get great nutrition from the fruit juice and mixing it with the water make the drink more hydrating and lower in sugar.

I grew up drinking it and it's a great summer beverage choice!

Swap flavored Greek yogurt for pudding.

They're both creamy and sweet, but the flavored Greek yogurt offers calcium, B vitamins, important minerals, and satiating protein while all that the pudding offers is a great deal of sugar.

Pudding will leave your stomach grumbling soon after, whereas Greek yogurt will keep you satisfied and energized until your next meal, all while helping you take care of your bone health!

As always, balance is key. Sometimes we should all go for the 'real thing,' but sometimes healthy swaps are can be just as satisfying. A healthy mind in a healthy body is always the goal!

What are your favorite healthy swaps?

Do you have more of a sweet or savory tooth? I definitely have more of a sweet tooth, by far! I almost always (as in, probably 99% of the time) choose sweet over salty snacks.

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