How One Sweet-Toothed RDN Gave Her Pantry A Low-Sugar Makeover
As a registered dietitian, it's pretty obvious how much I love vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. My Instagram is filled with colorful images of healthy vegetarian recipes that include lots of produce.
But I'm also one of those people with a second stomach reserved specifically for dessert.
I have a big sweet tooth and always have. Because I'm educated on the detrimental health effects of too much added sugar in our diets, I love to find ways to satisfy my sweet tooth and indulge with no- or low-sugar treats.
I also believe it is important to practice what I preach as an R.D., especially with a social media presence. If I recommend something to clients or on social media, it's either a lifestyle habit that helps me stick to my goals or is heavily backed by scientific research. One of my biggest tips (and something I do) to staying on track with healthy eating and nutrition goals is to keep a well-stocked pantry with plenty of essentials.
While this will ultimately look a little different for everybody, here's a list of some basics to get started:
- Cooking oils and vinegars: olive, coconut, avocado, and sesame oils, balsamic, red wine, and rice vinegars
- Canned goods: beans, legumes, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, tuna
- Dry grains: brown rice, quinoa, farro, oats
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
- Healthful sweet treats
If you’re like me and there is cake in the house, you’ll eat it.
Let's go into more detail regarding healthful sweet treats. If you're like me and crave something sweet every night, if there is cake in the house, you'll eat it. While it's delicious in the moment, more often than not, I end up feeling lethargic and run down after more than a few days of eating high-sugar treats.
That's why I like to keep healthier, lower- or no-sugar options in my pantry for when that craving strikes instead, while reserving those higher-sugar treats for special occasions. Here's what satisfies my sweet tooth—without the side effects of too much sugar:
- Dried fruit: While fruit contains sugar, it's different from refined, added sugar because it comes along with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Dried fruit is like nature's candy—and just a handful easily satisfies a sweet tooth. Some of my favorites include dried apple rings and figs. Just make sure there is no added sugar when you are purchasing your dried fruit!
- Lily's Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups: I might be addicted to these little cups of heaven. Dark chocolate and peanut butter is always a winning combination. Lily's sweetens their products with stevia—not sugar—so a two-peanut-butter-cup serving contains only 1 gram of sugar! I often reach for these treats as an afternoon pick-me-up and bring them along when I travel.
- Cacao powder: Cacao powder is not sweet on its own but is a versatile pantry ingredient that I use to make healthy, sweet treats. It contains several minerals, including iron, calcium, and magnesium, as well as fiber and antioxidants. One of my favorite ways to use cacao powder is in homemade hot chocolate with almond milk and maple syrup. I also stir it into plain Greek-style yogurt with a little honey and use it as a chocolaty dip for fruit slices or mixed with fresh berries.
- Medjool dates: Whole medjool dates may look brown and dried, but they are actually a fresh fruit. They're a good source of fiber, copper, potassium, and magnesium and naturally sweet with a rich caramel flavor. One of my all-time favorite sweet treats is one or two pitted Medjool dates stuffed with a scoop of nut butter and a hunk of Lily's salted almond dark chocolate bar. You'll thank me later.
It's easier to keep on track with your nutrition goals when you are prepared and well stocked with healthy options. I recommend starting with your pantry because these foods won't go bad for several months. And if you have a sweet tooth like me, remember that there is room for all foods in your diet, but there are endless possibilities for no- and low-sugar sweet treats when you're craving them.
Alex is a private practice registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food and nutrition blogger in Boston, MA. She uses her blog and Instagram Daisybeet to share easy, inexpensive meal inspiration and nutrition and lifestyle information. In her spare time, Alex can be found getting creative in the kitchen, pursuing fitness goals, or exploring the city.