By Rosanne Rust MS, RDN, LDN —
A bit of sugar in the diet is fine, but for those with diabetes, high triglycerides, or those who are working on weight maintenance – there are lots of ways to cut back on sugar and still enjoy your favorite treats.
In addition to reducing sugar itself, you can also substitute low-calorie sweeteners to replace sugar in your diet. In the nutrition world, we call calorie-free or low-calorie sweeteners “non-nutritive sweeteners,” or NNS for short. One of the newer sweeteners on the block is allulose. Allulose is a low-calorie sweetener that exists in nature and in certain fruits (including figs, raisins, maple syrup). Since allulose is less sweet than table sugar, it’s often used in combination with other sweeteners, substituting for part of the sugar content. You may be seeing more products with allulose on your grocery shelves soon, including reduced calorie baked goods, salad dressings, juices, jams, syrups, puddings and coffee mixes.
If you’re concerned about how NNS may impact your weight, you can rest easy. A meta-analysis of 15 randomized clinical trials and 9 cohort studies that evaluated research about the relationship of NNS and body weight showed no association between the consumption of NNS and increased weight or fat mass. In fact, results of the analysis indicated that substituting NNS for sugar may actually induce a modest amount of weight loss. Of course using NNS also helps control carbohydrate intake, which is important for blood sugar management in diabetes. All these health benefits are especially good news as we face the time of year known for social gatherings with indulgent foods.
During the holidays, I give you permission to treat yourself, but I don’t want you to go overboard. Try using some of my simple tips to reducing the sugar in your favorite holiday meals.
6 Simple Ways to Reduce Sugar during the Holidays
- Enjoy a low-sugar breakfast. A nice warm bowl of oatmeal or a scrambled egg with a slice of whole grain toast is a good pregame on feast days. You don’t want to skip breakfast, but you’ll have no problem enjoying dessert later if you balance out your morning.
- Bake from scratch. This allows you to control ingredients, and reduce the recommended amount of sugar in recipes. This will not work for some baked goods, but will work for others. You can easily reduce the sugar in your pumpkin or fruit pies by simply using less. If your apple-cranberry cobbler calls for 1/2 cup of sugar, use 1/3 of a cup. Or you can substitute a NNS for the sugar if you prefer to maintain the same level of sweetness.
- Enjoy your vegetables. Plan lots of great vegetable-based side dishes for your holiday meal. Remember, veggies don’t have to be steamed and bland! Add olive oil, a touch of butter, spices, or chopped nuts to your veggie dishes. Roast vegetables for easy clean up and robust flavors. Adding more vegetable-based sides to your table will not only provide you with lots of vitamins and antioxidants, but will fill you up so you won’t overindulge in desserts. It’s all about balance.
- Put together a coffee bar after dinner with dessert or the following morning for overnight guests. Swap the sugar bowl for sugar free syrups, sweeteners, and real whipped cream.
- Make your own whipped cream. Not only does this make desserts extra special, but you can reduce the sugar in homemade whipped cream compared to store bought versions. It’s so easy: chill a medium-sized mixing bowl in the freezer for about an hour (not required, but will help the cream whip more quickly). Pour a pint of whipping cream into the bowl, add one packet of low calorie sweetener, a teaspoon of vanilla extract (if you’d like), and whip using an electric mixer. Cream will gradually thicken. Continue beating until cream thickens and forms peaks.
- Create a low-sugar signature cocktail or “mocktail.” Offering a signature beverage when you entertain is festive, but sometimes “fancy drinks” can really be filled to the brim with sugar (and therefore higher in calories). Use sugar-free beverages such as diet ginger beer, club soda, sugar-free lemonade, or diet cranberry juice as your mixers to reduce the total sugar and calories of the cocktail.
Rosanne Rust MS, RDN, LDN is a registered, licensed dietitian-nutritionist with over 25 years experience. Rosanne is a paid contributor to Allulose.org. As a Nutrition Communications Consultant she delivers clear messages helping you understand the science of nutrition so you can enjoy eating for better health. Rosanne is the co-author of several books, including DASH Diet For Dummies® and the The Glycemic Index Cookbook For Dummies®. A wife, and mother of 3 boys, she practices what she preaches, enjoying regular exercise, good food and festive entertaining. Follow her on Twitter @RustNutrition.