Those of you who know me well know my love affair with coffee began only two short years ago. My dear friend Donna is actually to blame, though Bonny tried for years during our many Dunkin and Starbucks runs enroute to visit our horses. On this day, Donna offered me a pumpkin spice latte and I decided to try it. Wow, what a sugary delight that was. She clearly told me to, “go easy” on them because they are loaded with sugar and calories.
Of course, as we all know one sip of that sugary delight and you are hooked and craving more. I began having a daily cup of coffee, or should I say sugar. I purchased sweetened, chemical laden creamer and began my love affair with coffee. My daily cup at that time consisted of half a cup of creamer (yikes) and half a cup of coffee. My husband didn’t care how much creamer we went through, he was just thrilled that I was making the coffee after 30 years of marriage. I tried to wean off the creamer a little each day, but never fully got it under 1/3 cup of creamer. I was addicted to the sweet, sugary taste and couldn’t take the taste of coffee without it.
Many people told me how they sweetened their coffee to avoid the chemicals in the creamer. Some used powdered creamer, but most used what I call “fake” sugar. Yes, they thought it was healthier to use Sweet n Low and Splenda in place of creamer. I did try that, but was not comfortable with the fake sugar as I now full well the consequences of long term use. But, when looking at the creamers I was using, I realized they weren’t any better. What’s a newly addicted coffee addict to do? Look for healthier sweeteners of course. This week, I ‘d like to share what I learned in my quest to replace the coffee creamers I used to sweeten my morning coffee.
When I first made the change, I was using organic, hormone free dairy cream with stevia. This was a good alternative, but I wasn’t happy about how much cream I was still adding to my coffee. Here’s what I learned about stevia and other healthier options for sugar replacement.
Stevia is a plant based, natural sweetener that contains zero calories. It is perhaps the safest sugar alternative on the market today. All types of stevia are extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. It’s not great for baking, but is delicious in tea and coffee. This is my go to coffee sweetener these days, along with raw honey. All Stevia is not created the same, so please be careful and read labels. For example, Truvia, a commonly sold version is really a sweetener that is only in part made with stevia. It’s actually made from stevia extract and a sugar alcohol. Further, some of the ingredients in it are made from genetically engineered crops. I only use organic stevia drops that I purchase online, but if you read labels you can find healthy versions in any supermarket. I recommend using liquid stevia over the readily available powdered versions. Just a few drops go a long way!
Honey has a low glycemic index, so it won’t lead to the dreaded sugar crash. It does have a higher fructose level, so please go easy on it. It’s easy to overindulge in the decadence of it’s sweetness, but I caution against over doing it. Also, not all honey is created equally so please read the labels carefully. I use only local, raw honey. When not available locally, I source my honey online. Side benefits of using honey as part of your health regimen are that it is contains cancer defending antioxidants and has healing properties when applied to cuts and burns. Lastly, it is thought to help alleviate some allergy symptoms. This is the honey that I use and love. I add one teaspoon per day to my morning coffee. That’s it, not a drop more, though I could just eat it right out of the jar!
I don’t do a lot of baking, but when making any healthy treats, I use natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, molasses or pure maple syrup. These have all the benefits of sweetening your treats without the damaging effects of sugar. When the recipe calls for sugar, you can always substitute that with a healthier sweetener. When I am unsure of the conversion amounts, I simply google it.
I don’t advocate consuming large quantities of any of these natural sweeteners. They are meant to be a simple change you can make to modify your daily habits. These changes have helped me totally eliminate unhealthy flavored coffee creamers. I don’t even use creamer at all anymore. My philosophy has always been, small changes toward a healthier lifestyle. Total avoidance of food groups has never worked for me. Revising recipes and substituting healthier versions of foods is an alternative approach that has worked for me over time. Remember, I’m in this to become healthy, not just lose weight. Becoming aware of healthier alternatives was the first step for me.
What substitutions have you made in your life to make healthier choices? Please share in the comments section below.