Satisfying a Sweet Tooth Without Sugar

img_3237Spring is knocking at the door and often with the warmer weather we start thinking about our diets. If winter is a time for comfort food then summer has to be the healthy season. Going sugar free is not as painful as it sounds, or really quite as crazy.  Four years ago I put myself to the test to see if I could live without added sugar. The truth is when we look at the list of ingredients of nearly everything that is store bought there is some form of sugar included. Our taste buds have become conditioned to need things sweetened and I find it rather scary.

Four and a half years later and I still have not had a grain of added sugar, at least not intentionally, and that includes maple syrup, stevia etc., and all forms of artificial sweeteners which I truly detest. I am sure there have been the occasional sauces in restaurants with sugar added, even the odd meal, but I take after my Father who hated all sauces and I am not a sauce person either, I don’t eat dressings and so the possibilities are very slight. But it is purely a choice and not a medical necessity. I still eat honey, albeit very occasionally, I eat lots of fresh fruit and I drink champagne and red wine, of course!

Our French friends think I am quite mad, they all eat healthily but they don’t do fad diets and they do eat sugar, a little coffee is always taken with sugar, a little dessert after dinner, bien sûr, they don’t do large portions but they do have a little something sweet to finish a meal, but our friends have got used to it and no one even questions my choices anymore. But we really do not need sugar, and I regard it as a poison. I had no reason to do this other than a desire to lead the healthiest lifestyle possible. I also interestingly had no withdrawal symptons!

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I cannot deny I still watch the children eat a KitKat, especially when they break it with a satisfying crack right under my nose (yes I used to love the odd KitKat)! or an After Eight mint, or a piece of chocolate or a sweet biscuit and I think I’d quite like a mouthful. But it’s not a huge desire, just a mere passing fantasy, a brief moment when I think that would be nice. Likewise I admire the pastries in the boulangerie, I buy croissants for guests and family breakfasts at the weekend but I don’t eat them and I don’t feel as if I am missing out. At the same time I also don’t feel the need to make anybody else follow my lead, just because it is what I want to do. So I don’t consider myself a sugar free bore!!

p6040137I still bake, because I absolutely love baking. I adore making chocolate cakes and classic sponge cakes, meringues and desserts. In fact I am always the dessert chef in the family and someone else taste tests for me. I’m strict I won’t even try a tiny little bit! But making a cake or brownies for the children is a hobby, so I am rather glad they still enjoy them at the weekend!

 

 

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However every now and then I do like a sweet fix. I’ve learnt to cook all sorts of things without sugar and here are a couple of recipes plus a firm favourite, focaccia, because every time I post a photo of it on Instagram I get several messages asking how to make it.

Now the first is a fairly new idea I’ve come up with. I used to love crumbles. Rhubarb in the spring, blackberry and apple in the autumn and I missed those childhood desserts, just like my granny used to make. So I played around until I found a good crumble topping that worked. We were all guinea pigs with my efforts, some better than others, but this one has become a firm winner, even with all our sugar eating kids!

APPLE CRUMBLE

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8 apples peeled and cored and chopped
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger

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Place the apples and spices in a saucepan and add enough water just to cover the bottom and gently simmer for about 15 minutes.

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Meanwhile make the crumble mixture and heat the oven to 180C/350F

Crumble Mixture

100g (3.5 oz) rolled oats
200g (7 oz) Flour
200g (7 oz) salted butter at room temperature
1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
2 large teaspoons honey

Combine the oats and flour and spices in a large bowl and gently crumble in the butter with your fingers so that it resembles a coarse mixture. Then add the honey and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Place the prepared apples in a heat proof dish and spoon over the crumble mixture.

IMG_1407Place in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes.

Delicious served with cream whilst still warm from the oven.

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Another simple go to recipe when I want something a little sweet to go with a cup of tea in the afternoon has to be Banana Bread. It’s easy and delicious.

BANANA BREAD

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125g (4.5 oz) wholemeal spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon allspice
50g (2 oz)  butter, softened (I use salted butter)
100g (3.5 oz) raisins
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
3 large bananas mashed
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
4 dates (optional)

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line a loaf tin with baking paper. Put all the dry ingredients into the mixer and turn on to low.

Add all the remaining ingredients excluding the dates and mix further.

Place the mixture in the prepared cake tin, pressing four dates along the top (optional) and bake for about 40 minutes. Test with a sharp knife; if it doesn’t come out clean, cover with some tin foil to stop the top burning and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Turn out onto a cooling rack and try not to eat it all at once!

Finally, my go to favourite bread recipe, fantastic with soups in the winter, with salads in the summer and whenever you have friends over and want something just a little more than a baguette.

SEA SALT AND ROSEMARY FOCACCIA

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500g (1lb 2oz) strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 tsp herbes de Provence
2 sachets dried easy blend yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
400ml (14fl oz) cold water

olive oil for drizzling
Sea salt and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary for cooking

28 thoughts on “Satisfying a Sweet Tooth Without Sugar

  • Sugar becomes less appealing after canning fruit in summer. Seeing how much goes into the preservation of something that is already so sweet is quite a deterrent. Because no sugar is grown here, it is purchased in big bags.

  • I’m making all of them! I have taken myself off most sugar and salt. Don’t miss them. It’s all in what your tastebuds get used to.

  • I have been impressed with your determination not to eat sugar. It really is a contributing factor to most diseases. Luckily I do not have a sweet tooth. However, a bit of sugar in a good cup of coffee, or a small taste of a home made dessert is such a great treat. I love to look at the beautiful pastries in a patisserie, but have no wish to sample.i think of them as another art form. My husband on the other hand……
    Ali x

  • please don’t take this as raining on your parade, what you are doing is admirable and many people would be better off if they did it too. However what you are doing is better termed satisfying a sweet tooth without adding sugar from the pantry. But bananas and apples and the rest of the fruit we eat have been domesticated, selected over the eons for sweetness among other things. See https://www.sciencealert.com/fruits-vegetables-before-domestication-photos-genetically-modified-food-natural Many fruits have been bred more intensely over the last few decades for sweetness; most of the apple varieties in the store (even in France) didn’t exist 50 years ago. So many of the recipes are adding sugar, just sugar from natural sources. Which is a good thing, at least you get the fiber and nutrients lacking in the white stuff, but for people trying to learn to wean themselves away from sugar cravings the fruit substitutes may not be as helpful as they want.

    • Very true words, I have always said I will continue to eat naturally occurring sugars in fruits etc. I am doing this for me not for any medical reasons. which I why I enjoy fruit, but I don’t use stevia or other sweeteners at all and honey only once a month or so. Mostly so the children will eat something I make!!!

  • Was delighted to read your post! Golly we do make excuses to feed the addiction – but sugar feeds cancers, and that’s reason enough for me to avoid it!

  • What a fabulous post, Susan ! Oh, we could be sitting in your garden at eventide and finish a bottle of Bordeaux and not stop talking on this theme ! Medically and nutritionally trained I know sugar is by far worse than fat and its overuse lies behind almost every First World disease. I do not have a sweet tooth, was not brought up in a home of desserts and managed to marry two guys who could not give a damn about anything sweet ! I do not order a dessert and have forgotten the last time I accepted a piece of cake – absolutely no problem ! I DO use stevia – it is truly natural; I also eat fruit and drink milk both of which contain sugar. No problem there. My p’problem’ lies in the fact I cook and eat Asian fusion 4-5 days a week – yes I have about a dozen different sauces in my pantry to male me and mine happy . . . – as I don’t do what most in Europe and the States do ./ . . I feel in balance. Adore my diet. I also have an affinity to dark 70% and over) chocolate . . . just a few squares a few nights a week . . . and my beloved wine naturally also has natural sugars . . . no biscuits, no snacks, no ‘health bars’ which are not . . . . am happy with ‘my way’ . . . but shall certainly copy your banana bread and focaccia tho’ am not a baker . . . .what a fun post !!

    • I think it is all about balance and doing what is right for us. I don’t like stevia, no idea why just don’t! Chocolate I actually like the 99% stuff, amazing but now it tastes ok, but I only have a square maybe at Christmas. Can’t really be bothered to buy it otherwise. Wine, sure that’s one of life’s pleasures and in moderation has its health benefits, which is good enough for me. And don’t get me started on the subject of health bars, or unhealthy bars as we call them in our family. So misleading for the general public. xx

  • Fab!! I once didn’t eat sugar for a year. It was tremendous! Totally agree with you. Well done you!!!!!! Don’t let anyone try to pull you down 🙂

  • Years ago I gave my Mom a cookbook filled with recipes about how to sweeten things without sugar. All the recipes used dates, applesauce, banana, etc. It is unfortunate that there is so much added sugar in many foods.

  • Congratulations on your efforts to eliminate sugar from your diet! I’lll have to try those recipes. Two “sugar-free” products which I’ve been using both contain Malitol, which I just read is a “sugar-alcohol.” Hmmm…

    • I try to eat only things that I make or that have very few ingredients and anything I don’t understand I try to avoid. Its about the only way because otherwise the list of things put in our food is quite horrific. I think it is slightly easier here in rural France though xx

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