Since a big part of this Healthy Belly Challenge is reducing sugar, here are a few ways I like to add sweetness to my cooking without using sugar:
- For savory dishes caramelize onions before adding to recipe.
- Pulse raisins, dried dates or other dried fruit in the food processor and replace for part of the sugar when baking.
- Reduce fruit juice to make a syrup, and replace for part of the sugar in a recipe (but you might need to adjust the liquid levels).
- Add mashed banana or grated apples to baked goods.
- Carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, acorn and butternut squash are naturally sweet, and can be pureed and added to baked goods, soups, sauces,etc. to increase sweetness, so sugar can be decreased in a recipe.
- Tomato paste helps thicken and sweeten sauces.
- Some alternative flours are sweeter than wheat. Try replace up to half the flour in a recipe for millet, oat, or toasted barley flour. The gluten content is much lower than wheat, so do some research on ratios for replacement before adjusting your recipe.
- Adding spices, a sour element (lemon juice, for example), a pinch of salt can help enhance sweetness. Sometimes it’s not sugar that’s missing, but some other flavor.
- Cream and coconut milk can be used in place of milk or water in some recipes to add a touch of sweetness.
- Roast vegetables or even fruit to enhance their natural sugars.
- Honey is up to 50% sweeter than sugar, and has several health benefits over sugar.
- Agave nectar is also sweeter than sugar and contains prebiotics, but like honey it could effect the moisture of baked goods.
Just remember that replacing one kind of sugar for another is not necessarily a healthy alternative. Do some research on health benefits and substitution methods to see what your best options are. My best advise is that we get used to sugar levels in our food, but that isn’t permanent; you can teach your body to like different flavors. It certainly doesn’t hurt to try!