We’re not gonna sugarcoat it — sugary desserts and salty snacks are bad news. It turns out, even “moderate amounts of added fructose and sucrose double the body’s own fat production in the liver,” according to a recent study. Meanwhile, high salt intake could damage heart health and is linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer.
It’s also easy to underestimate how much sugar and salt we’re actually having in the course of a day, effectively putting us at bigger risk. Even seemingly innocuous “healthy” treats like iced tea can be packed with loads of sugar. However, not all hope is lost! The good news is you can easily replace your fave treats with less sugary ones. Here are healthy alternatives to your favourite sugary drinks and desserts and salty snacks.
Skip iced tea for a homemade matcha latte
On paper, iced tea is a healthier alternative to soft drinks, but “healthier” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. A typical iced tea is still loaded with sugar, some almost having as big amounts as a bottle of soda. The most obvious solution is to just make your own iced tea sans the sugar. But without that sweetener, iced tea can be bland — even bitter — to those who are not used to the taste. Try a refreshing glass of matcha latte instead. Matcha, which in its purest form is sugar-free as it’s finely grounded tea leaves, is known to be high in antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and can protect your liver. However, be warned that matcha latte served in cafes and prepackaged ones can also contain a lot of sugar. So it’s still better to make your own — it’s easy.
Make your own at home: Prepare a small bowl and put two teaspoons of matcha and two teaspoons of hot water; whisk together in a “w” shape. You can also opt to sift the matcha first if you want a smoother texture. Then get a cup, fill it with cold milk (preferably plant or nut milk that’s unsweetened or has less sugar). Next, pour the whisked matcha mixture into the milk. Stir and enjoy.
Go for smoothies over milkshakes
Smoothies are the perfect alternative to milkshakes. Both are basically desserts in a cup, the only difference is one’s healthier than the other. Instead of ice cream and whipped cream, smoothies call for fruit and yoghurt. The natural sweetness of fruits combined with the dense texture of yoghurt makes for a satisfying, filling drink. Just make sure not to add any sugar; you don’t need to anyway.
Make your own at home: When making smoothies, it’s important to use whole fruits and not just fruit juice to make the texture dense. Start with no-fail single-fruit smoothies like mango or strawberry. Put the fruit in the blender (cut off the mango seed or strawberry top first), add in one cup of yoghurt, a cup of milk, four to five ice cubes then blend thoroughly. Pour in a cup and add more fruits as toppings if you like.
Swap ice cream for plain yoghurt topped with fruits
It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like ice cream. This creamy sweet treat is one of those desserts that’s hard to give up, but skipping it from time to time is easier with an equally creamy alternative — plain yoghurt with topped fruits. Known for being good for your digestive health, yoghurt has the creamy texture of ice cream without the guilt. It has a strong sour, tarty flavour, but if that’s too much for you, it can be sweetened with fresh fruits.
Make your own at home: First things first, not all yoghurts are the same. Some frozen ones are guilty of having too much sugar. Flavoured yoghurt (including Greek yoghurt) are also packed with sugar, so it’s important to check the label. Once you’ve chosen a yoghurt, simply put some in a bowl and top it with fresh fruits. Avoid dry and canned fruits dripped in syrup because those can also have lots of sugar. Pick locally grown, in-season fruits instead.
Choose chia seed pudding over cake
Cake is the definition of guilty pleasure. It’s delicious; it comes in different flavours so satiety doesn’t kick in early and pairs well with most beverage. There’s really no occasion needed to have a slice. The only hitch is it’s full of sugar, a whole lot of it, from the frosting to the base. So the next time you’re craving cake, make chia seed pudding as an alternative. The texture is similar to a bite of cheesecake and it also has a sweet kick. Chia seeds also get bonus points for having the ability to improve blood sugar control.
Make your own at home: For newbies, it’s best to start with the most basic chia seed pudding recipe. Pour two to three tablespoons of chia seeds in a mason jar and add a cup of milk. Shake and stir. Then, put on the lid and refrigerate overnight. That’s it! If it’s not as thick as you want it to be, the trick is to add a little more chia seeds.
Pick popcorn and put down the chips
Feeling peckish? Chances are you’re gonna get chips. Put that plan on hold for a minute and consider that chips, more often than not, contain a lot of sugar in their flavouring. Even the chips themselves can raise blood sugar due to their high starch content. A better alternative is popcorn. And no, we’re not talking about the microwaveable ones that are drenched in butter. Go for freshly popped. It’s a low-calorie, whole-grain snack that can fill you up easily.
Make your own at home: Making stovetop popcorn is easy. Pour kernels in a stockpot and add olive oil enough to cover the bottom surface of the pot. Put on the cover and turn the stovetop on to medium heat. After a few minutes, you’ll hear popping. Wait until the popping stops (about five to eight minutes) before you turn off the heat. If you like, you can sprinkle a little parmesan, salt or paprika to spice it up.
Trade the usual peanut trail mix for healthier selections
A typical trail mix contain various dried fruits, chocolate chips, marshmallows, pretzels and other sugary treats. Instead of handing this popular snack out during movie night, go for the healthier version and combine nutritious nuts like almond (packed with vitamin E), pistachio (a good source of vitamin B6), cashew (rich in vitamin K and protein), and more.
Make your own at home: Whipping up your own healthy peanut trail mix is a no-brainer. Just put all your assorted peanuts in a container with a lid. Shake and serve. If you want to make it a little spicy, you can add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and salt to taste.
Banana oatmeal cookies over chocolate chip
Chocolate cookies are a pantry staple. It's just hard to resist this delicious gooey treat. While there's nothing wrong with treating yourself to a bite or two from time to time, making chocolate chip cookies part of your daily snack habits is not the best idea because it contains loads of sugar. If you're in the mood for cookies, try making a banana oatmeal cookie instead. This type of cookie can be done with less sugar while still being tasty. The secret? The banana, of course! It gives a hint of sweetness. On top of that, it's also more nutritious.
Make your own at home: Making banana oatmeal cookies is just as easy — if not more! — as baking the usual chocolate chip version. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C. Then, mix mashed banana with quick-cook oatmeal then mix. Add nuts of your choice (preferably walnut) then mix again. Place and shape the mixture into a baking sheet, then bake for 15 minutes.
Healthy tacos over the fast food version
Tacos may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of "healthy snacks". But even though this popular dish has a reputation for being a fast food staple, it can be prepared in a healthy way. In fact, the traditional Mexican version is very nutritious since it combines only slices of meat, onions, guacamole and a topping of salsa and lime.
Make your own at home: This tasty snack can be easily prepared at home. It's very similar to making a sandwich. Just cook all the ingredients separately and assemble them to make a healthy taco.
Shrimp cocktail over shrimp-flavoured snacks
It's easy to spot shrimp-flavoured junk food in the supermarket. And we can understand why this salty and umami-filled snack is a crowd-favourite. But why not skip the chips and go for the real thing instead? Say hello to shrimp cocktails! Great both as a snack and an appetiser, shrimp with cocktail sauce is tastier and healthier. Real shrimp contains several vitamins and minerals like zinc, selenium, iron and more, while the tomato-based sauce is rich in lycopene which helps to improve heart health.
Make your own at home: Simply bake the shrimps and peel them, then serve with salsa or shrimp cocktail sauce which can be made by combining ketchup or tomato sauce and chilli sauce.
A healthy grazing platter over chips mix
When it's movie night or there's a family gathering, chips mix (a bowl full of different kinds of chips) is usually present as well. But if you're trying to cut back on sugar and salt, you may want to switch to a healthy grazing platter instead which is healthier and just as delicious with the right mix of sauce and ingredients.
Make your own at home: After cleaning and prepping your board, add bread and crackers; fruits like avocado, strawberry, grapes and cherry tomatoes, and thin slices of meat. Next, place some cheese slices and healthy sauces such as tahini or salsa. Top with some fresh herbs and spice for a finishing touch.
Giving up sugary treats is easier than it seems. Just start with swapping one of your favourite drinks, desserts or snacks at a time. As they say, it feels impossible until it’s done.
(Cover photo from: Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash)
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