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 Real Food Rainbow Popsicles (No Sugar Added!) Made with Natural Sugar-Free Sweeteners (Stevia, Erythritol)

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It’s officially summer! The MS-1s are out enjoying our last “summer of freedom” (doesn’t that sound ominous?), so I’ve been grateful for some down time. (To follow along with my medical school journey and get a glimpse of life in rural North Carolina, head on over to my instagram!).

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Here in North Carolina, the fruit bins are overflowing with seasonal produce.  To celebrate the colorful array and the start of summer, I made cool, creamy, drip-down-your-arm frozen fruit bars. These cheerful treats have no added sugar, made from real whole fruits and a splash of coconut milk for creaminess.

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After working with patients this year on mission trips and at the free clinic, I’ve been more inspired to talk about healthy food than ever before. Many of them have diabetes or are pre-diabetic. The ones I’ve spoken with have been open to making dietary changes, but aren’t sure where to start. Through such conversations, I’ve learned that small tweaks and substitutions are the most manageable for people trying to change their way of life. In my next chapter of blogging, I hope to share more simple recipes with common ingredients that can nudge people towards healthier habits. I’d also like to solicit your feedback, dear readers. What’s one change you made to your diet that kick started your healthy eating? Leave it in the comments, and maybe it’ll inspire others to take a step in the right direction. 

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Erythritol

Where To Buy

You can purchase erythritol here and here, using my coupon code (built into the link). The lowest priced option for erythritol is the 5 lb bag of it.

What Is Erythritol?

Erythritol is a natural sweetener with an intimidating name.

Back in 2008, when I started making low carb recipes, Splenda (sucralose with maltodextrin) was an ubiquitous ingredient in low carb recipes. There were three reasons why my baking experiments with Splenda were short-lived.

  1. I didn’t care for the lingering aftertaste.
  2. Splenda contains 24 grams of carbohydrates per cup in the form of maltodextrin. Maltodextrin (corn sugar) is a bulking agent that gives Splenda the quality of measuring “cup for cup” like table sugar.
  3. I was hesitant to ingest, on a regular basis, a chemically engineered artificial sweetener. Sucralose is a chemically modified sugar molecule that does not occur in nature. I was not willing to experiment with a sweetener that had no track record in the bodies of living organisms!

At the time, stevia was another viable option. However, there were problems with its one-dimensional flavor. It had the potential to taste bitter when used by itself, and could lose sweetness upon heating. Another drawback of using stevia was that the sweetness and flavor varied so much between brands. 

Erythritol was sweetener that I read about on the Low Carb Friends forum. After reading that the molecule was naturally present in tomatoes, melons, and the human body, I decided to give it a try. To my tastebuds, erythritol had a very “clean” sweet taste. Upon finding out that erythritol did NOT cause unpleasant gastric side effects, I rejoiced! I had no tummy trouble with erythritol, and from then on it was present in my low carb baking arsenal.

Here are the three reasons why I love erythritol:

  1. Erythritol is naturally occurring
  2. Erythritol is the only sugar alcohols with negligible calories and carbohydrates per cup. Effectively, its carbohydrate count is zero. 
  3. Unlike the other sugar alcohols (xylitol, maltitol, sorbitol, isomalt, hydrolyzed starch hydrosylate), erythritol is not fermented in the intestines. For that reason, it is tolerated very well by most people. After five years of blogging, I can count on one hand the people who have contacted me stating that they cannot digest erythritol well.

Still, I recommend that you consume sugar-free treats with a meal, and stick to one or two servings. I always eat dessert this way because sweet-tasting foods tend to trigger my appetite whether they contain real sugar or not. When you eat dessert after a nourishing meal containing wholesome fats and protein, it will be much easier to control your portion sizes. Try it, and see for yourself!

To find out why I always combine erythritol with stevia in my recipes, check out my cookbook. For less than the cost of two lattes, you can support this website and find out everything you need to know about erythritol and stevia. Thank you for supporting the site!

Recipe: Soft Gingersnaps (aka Healthy Ginger Molasses Cookies) – Gluten-Free, Low Carb, Low Sugar

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It’s almost Christmas!

If you, like us, are still scrambling to make treats for your holiday dessert tray, give these sweet and spicy cookies a try. No one will know they’re a healthier alternative to the white flour, white sugar-laden treats that abound this time of year. 

Made from high protein almond and cashew flour, these lightly sweetened soft ginger cookies will remind you of those classic crinkles you’ve been eating for years. And with only a few tablespoons of sugar in the entire batch, they won’t send your insulin levels soaring. Leave a tray out for Santa by the chimney, and he won’t be disappointed. 

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These soft and chewy morsels also make great last minute gifts. Just dress them in a glamorous box and savor your budget-friendly decisions. I picked up the silver filigreed boxes and wrapping paper at Dollar Tree, believe it or not. They’re a one stop shop for gift wrap and holiday party supplies. As a newly minted medical student (!), it was especially important to find budget-friendly gifts this year. 

Much more will be said about medical school in another post. Let’s just say I was never so glad to have winter break! It’s been whirlwind since August, but the sleepless nights and countless cups of coffee will hopefully be worth it when I’m a physician who can help patients address their health conditions and live better lives. Feeling so blessed to have the opportunity to pursue my passions. It’s the best Christmas gift of all. 

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Recipe Notes

I used a small amount of real sugar in combination with sugar-free sweeteners to decrease the amount of carbohydrates while preserving that familiar molasses cookie flavor. You can, however, adjust the recipe to leave out the sugar-free sweeteners if you prefer. Truvia, a blend of the natural sweeteners stevia and erythritol with a little added coconut sugar perfectly sweetens the cookies without leaving an aftertaste. In this recipe, I used the Target version of Truvia (look for the red and white container in the baking aisle) which is a bit cheaper than the brand name. You can also make your own Truvia-like sweetener at home following my recipe posted here.

Substitutions

To make these cookies paleo, leave out the Truvia and oat flour, and add in 2 Tablespoons arrowstarch + 1/3 cup coconut sugar. I adapted this recipe from an incredible paleo cookbook by the immensely talented Julie Hulet, so pick up My Paleo Patisserie if you’re looking for recipe inspiration. 

To make these cookies dairy-free, use non-hydrogenated organic palm shortening in place of the unsalted butter. 

Soft Ginger Molasses Cookies (Gluten-Free, Low Sugar, Low Carb)

Serves 15
These nutrient-dense cookies are packed with almond flour, oat flour, and coconut flour! This flour blend creates a soft and chewy gluten-free cookie that even your non g-free friends will enjoy.


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Ingredients
  1. 100 grams (1 cup) blanched almond flour
  2. 130 gram (1 cup) cashew flour** (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  3. 12 grams (2 Tablespoons) coconut flour (I used Arrowhead Mills brand)
  4. 20 grams (1/4 cup) oat flour
  5. 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  6. 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  7. 2 teaspoons ginger
  8. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  9. 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  10. 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  11. 3 Tablespoons Truvia*** OR stevia blend OR coconut sugar
  12. 1 Tablespoon coconut sugar
  13. 1/4 cup unsalted butter OR nonhydrogenated palm shortening
  14. 1 large egg
  15. 1 teaspoon vanilla
  16. 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  17. 2 tablespoons molasses
  18. 2 tablespoons cane sugar, for rolling (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Add butter, coconut sugar and Truvia to a mixing bowl.
  3. Beat with an electric mixer 1-2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  4. Slowly add in dry ingredients, and beat in until a dough comes together.
  5. Chill dough for 1/2 hour.
  6. Remove dough from refrigerator, and shape into 1.5″ balls with your hands. Toss each dough ball around a small bowl filled with the 2 Tablespoons of granulated sugar.
  7. Place dough balls 2″ apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
  8. Flatten each dough ball with the bottom of a glass to 1/2″ thickness.
  9. Bake 13-14 minutes, and let cookies cool for a few minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack.
  10. Store in baggies or tupperware. Cookies should keep for a week unrefrigerated. Freeze cookies if you’d like them to be extra chewy!
Notes
  1. **You can replace the cashew flour with more blanched almond flour if you like. The cashew flour greatly enhances the taste, though. Get it at Trader Joe’s or online.
  2. ***Grind up Truvia into a fine powder using a clean coffee grinder or Magic Bullet if you would like to ensure that the cookies don’t taste gritty.
Nutrition Facts
  1. Per cookie (1/15 batch): 120 Calories; 8g Fat ; 4g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber
Healthy Indulgences http://healthyindulgences.net/

 

 

Exclusive Recipe: Healthy Chocolate Mousse made in a Blender (Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free)

This recipe is exclusive to mailing list subscribers. Go to the sidebar on the right to sign up! I only mail once once per week. 

Chocolate Mousse is like the little black dress (or suit jacket) of desserts. It can be gussied up with chocolate curls, or poured into glasses and enjoyed unpretentiously. 

Because of the richness of this timeless, elegant dessert, it can easily be made low carb and diabetic-friendly without sacrificing the luxurious texture and piquant cocoa flavoring of traditional mousse. The lack of sugar and the health benefits of chocolate and coconut oil make this dessert a nourishing treat.

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Did you know that you can use expeller-pressed (refined) coconut oil and still reap similar health benefits to what you would get with the extra virgin, coconut-flavored kind? Most of the studies done on coconut oil were actually performed with refined coconut oil, not with extra virgin. I recommend using expeller-pressed coconut oil in this mousse so its essence doesn’t overwhelm the rich chocolate flavor. After trying 2 brands of expeller-pressed CO, my vote goes to Jarrow Formulas, which is extracted with no harsh chemical solvents. The Spectrum brand which is widely available in grocery stores has an off taste. Of course, you can use unrefined Extra Virgin CO if you prefer. It’ll taste a bit like a Mounds bar, which definitely isn’t a bad thing!

You can almost always find a glass or two of this mousse in my fridge. Just like with my Fluffy, Grain-Free Waffles, I make a big batch on Sunday and nosh on it all week. You can grab a glass of wine mousse, sink down into the sofa, and feel extra classy eating gourmet dessert while watching Netflix in your PJ’s. Alternatively, the mousse can be dressed up with fancy curls for unexpected company. Be forewarned: Serve this mousse to unsuspecting guests, and they might want to hang around for awhile!  

Recipe Notes

This updated version of my Sugar-Free Chocolate Mousse is egg-free, dairy-free, and hassle-free. You melt the chocolate, soften the gelatin, and blend everything into a luscious vortex of molten bliss. Pour the mix into glasses, and chill in the fridge. Wait (impatiently). Whip some heavy cream (ideal) or remove your can of Reddi-wip (reality) from the fridge. Garnish mousse. Eat!

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Gelatin is the secret ingredient. Its thickening power takes the place of eggs used in a traditional mousse, giving it a velvety, dense texture and creamy mouthfeel. Because I make this recipe so often, I purchased grassfed beef gelatin since the food source of the cattle influences the nutrient quality of the collagen used to make gelatin. However, Knox gelatin from the grocery store works equally well. You could probably easily make this mousse vegan with agar agar powder, as this blogger did with a fruit-flavored mousse. If you play around with it, please leave a comment below sharing your results.

This recipe contains no added sugar and as it is written. Most of the people who provide me with feedback concerning the recipes you see on the blog seem to tolerate erythritol and stevia just fine, but what works for others might not work for you. Feel free to use other sweeteners they’re more agreeable to you. Raw honey is a delicious paleo substitute for the erythritol, although it substantially increases the grams of sugar per serving (see recipe notes). This recipe is incredibly flexible – you really can’t mess this up! 

Well, that’s not entirely true. You can mess it up if you don’t treat the gelatin with the respect that this venerable yet slightly finicky natural thickener deserves. A few months ago, I endeavored to make a batch of this mousse while talking on the phone (mistake number 1). During what I thought was an automated muscle memory sort of progression through the recipe steps, I dumped the gelatin powder into the warmed mixture of chocolate and coconut cream (second mistake). The translucent mass immediately formed an unappetizing clump, but I soldiered on, not wanting to waste precious ingredients. Ever the optimist, I threw the mixture into a blender and let it run at maximum speed for a minute or two. Sadly, that spark of creativity went unrewarded, as I distinctly remember later that day, tasting the chewy, hard lumps between mouthfuls of creamy chocolate. The silver lining is that by sharing this story I’ve brought you one step closer to achieving flawless results!

Unlike my old mousse recipe, there are no raw eggs in the mix. That means you can serve it to your elderly and pregnant friends with gusto! The sugar-free movement will spread quietly and deliciously, one dinner party at a time. Vive la revolution!

To get the full recipe, sign up for the newsletter in the box on the sidebar of the main page. It’ll be delivered to your inbox as an attachment shortly thereafter.

This post contains affiliate links. When you make purchases through them, I receive a small commission. Thank you kindly for helping to support my blogging endeavors.

 

 

Which Brand of Stevia is Best (Not Bitter)? The Stevia Story and Ultimate Taste Test Comparison

This post contains affiliate links. 

Last year, I sent out an email to everyone who had purchased the cookbook to see which stevia extract was the best-tasting, least bitter product out of the vast array that’s currently on the market. You guys kept sending in emails with suggestions for different brands of stevia to try, so I went out and bought them all! I tested 11 different stevia extracts, and now I feel like a crazy cat lady, only with bottles of white powder in place of fluffy, adorable balls of fur. 

Why did I undertake this expensive and time-consuming experiment? Because I didn’t want you guys to deal with the frustrating experience of buying and trying a multitude of stevias in hopes of finding one that wasn’t bitter. Quitting sugar is one of the most difficult yet transformative journeys to undertake, and the right sugar-free sweetener can make or break that experience

You might still be wondering what all the fuss is about stevia. Why go to all the trouble of finding a good stevia as opposed to just using another sugar-free sweetener? Here’s your answer: Stevia is an invaluable sweetener for anyone who is trying to cut back on their sugar intake. Here are four reasons why I still love stevia after 7 years of sugar-free baking:

1. It’s safe* and diabetic-friendly, with no harmful side effects. With zero calories and carbohydrates, it’s one of the two natural sweeteners (the other being erythritol) that has no impact on blood glucose levels.

2. It’s exceptionally sweet, which makes it cost-effective. A little bit goes a long way.

3. It plays well with other sweeteners. Stevia never tastes quite right when you use it by itself to sweeten baked goods. However, when you combine it with erythritol or xylitol, it’s magical!

4. It tastes better than artificial sweetenersif you buy the right brand!

*There are stories floating around the internet that those with ragweed allergies could be sensitive to stevia. This claim has not been substantiated in the scientific literature. 

There are so many stevia brands out there, all making wild claims about tasting “just like sugar,” when in fact all stevia extracts are not created equal! I still remember that fateful date when I drove to the nearest health food store and excitedly purchased my first bottle of stevia powder, only to get home and find out it tasted like licorice-flavored failure. I felt defeated and discouraged. If the friendly folks over at the Low Carb Friends forum hadn’t clued me in to NuNaturals being the best stevia brand, I might have gone right back to a steady diet of Dr. Pepper and Pop Tarts. With the old, wonderful NuNaturals stevia extract, we were able to create decadent sugar-free substitutes for our old favorite treats, ranging from a frozen coffee drink that tasted like the Starbucks kind to a sugar-free chocolate cake that rivalled Duncan Hines.

And then 2013 happened. 

Alas, the delicious NuNaturals stevia we all knew and loved was no more. In 2013, the manufacturer stopped producing the extract, so the company switched to a different formulation of stevia. After a few loyal readers alerted me to the change with emails and comments, I set out on a quest to find the next best stevia product.

Scroll down for the results of the Ultimate Stevia Taste Test!

The Ultimate Stevia Taste Test 

 I searched Iherb.com, Amazon, and small natural foods companies for months to find all of the best-selling stevia products currently on the market. The following are the results of comparing the stevia extracts, side by side, in a series of blind taste tests. 

The Ultimate Stevia Taste Test: First Round Elimination

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Not shown: NuNaturals, KAL Natural, Mood & Mind Stevia Powder

The following stevias were immediately removed from the testing line up. They were either bitter in flavor or very dilute in their level of sweetness:

KAL Natural Stevia Extract (too bitter)

KAL Pure Organic Stevia Extract (too bitter)

Mood & Mind Stevia Powder (too weak)

NOW BetterStevia Organic Stevia Extract Powder (too weak)

NuNaturals NuStevia Pure Extract, 2014 formula (too weak)

Stevita Simply-Stevia (too bitter)

SweetLeaf Organic Stevia Extract (too bitter)

The Ultimate Stevia Taste Test: The Final Four 

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From left: JAJA Stevioside, Whole Foods 365 stevia powder, Stevia Select stevia, Trader Joe’s stevia powder

The stevia extracts pictured above made it to round 2. 

JAJA Stevioside Powder

Trader Joe’s Pure Organic Stevia Powder

Whole Foods 365 Stevia Powder (not available for purchase online)

Stevia Select Stevia Powder

These four stevias are all good tasting, but there are slight differences in flavor profile. Trader Joe’s Stevia and 365 stevia are very similar in flavor and level of sweetness, with the TJ’s stevia having the edge over 365 brand flavor-wise. Stevia Select and JAJA Stevioside are stronger than TJ’s, but they are slightly more bitter. You can use any of these in the old Healthy Indulgences recipes, but you’ll need to use double or triple the amount of the following stevias to achieve the proper level of sweetness. 

The Ultimate Stevia Taste Test: The Winner(s)! (updated 6.30.16)trader-joes-stevia-select-pure-extract-powder-review

1. Stevia Select Pure Stevia Powder (updated 6.30.16)

When combined with other sweeteners (e.g. erythritol, xylitol, or honey), Stevia Select pure stevia extract comes out on top. It’s very potent (just 1/16 teaspoon will sweeten a cup of coffee, blended with a little erythritol) and has the least perceptible aftertaste of any of the other stevias. It’s easy to use too much and cross over into bitter territory, so I recommend blending 1/8 teaspoon Stevia Select with 2 Tablespoons erythritol to dilute the sweetness. Use this mixture in coffee for 100% natural, pleasant-tasting sweetness. Don’t forget to pick up a tiny spoon set to measure it out! 

2. Trader Joe’s Pure Organic Stevia

After a year of further testing, Trader Joe’s stevia has been bumped to second place. It has a clean sweetness and no lingering aftertaste, but it’s less potent than Stevia Select. You can buy it here, or you can purchase it at your local Trader Joe’s store for $9.99/oz. Just be sure to get the 1 oz bottle. The larger bottle of TJ’s stevia contains lactose (sugar!) as a bulking agent. 

If you’d like to use TJ’s stevia in older Healthy Indulgences recipes (pre-2014) and the recipes in the cookbook, use twice the amount of stevia called for. 

Untried Stevias

Here are the stevias I decided not to purchase based on the lack of reviews and/or the high percentage of unfavorable reviews (3-, 2-, and 1-star):

BulkSupplements Pure Stevia Powder (14% unfavorable reviews) 

California Gold Nutrition, Certified Organic Stevia (not enough reviews)

Frontier Natural Products Organic Stevia Powder (51% unfavorable reviews)

Hard Rhino Pure Stevia 90% Steviosides Extract Bulk Powder (not enough reviews)

Superior Source Sweet ‘N Natural Stevia Pure Nutritional Supplements Powder (not enough reviews)

Trim Healthy Mama Stevia (no reviews from a third party site)

Zenulife Health Global (not enough reviews)

Have you tried any of the above listed stevias, or a stevia that’s not mentioned here? If so, let us know what you think of it! 

This post may contain affiliate links. By purchasing products through the links, you can help support the site! I purchased these products myself and was not compensated for any of these product reviews. All opinions are my own.

Sugar-Free Pumpkin Cheesecake for a Sweet Thanksgiving!

There’s less than week until Thanksgiving!

You know what that means… it’s baking season! Holiday indulgences will be everywhere, tempting you to gobble sugary treats until you’re more stuffed than the turkey (or turducken) on the table.

This recipe might just be your sweet salvation.

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This No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake has the familiar flavors of fall for those pumpkin pie lovers at the Thanksgiving table,  but is blissfully sugar-free! And it’s so good that I actually prefer it to pumpkin pie (but not to Sugar-Free Gooey Pumpkin Butter Cakenothing tops that glorious creation!). The fluffy, mousse-like texture of the No-Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake filling rests atop a sweet and cinnamon-y, “cookie” crumb crust, making for an irresistible flavor combination.

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Sugar-Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread and Lily’s No Sugar Added Chocolate Chips Review

With the holidays just around the corner, I’m sneaking in another pumpkin recipe. Speaking of which, if you haven’t fired up your crock pot to make the Sugar-Free Pumpkin Spice Latte Creamer, you’re missing out! I took the post down temporarily while working out the kinks (see how much I care about getting these tasty treats just right for you?) and dialed down the heat settings for the crock pot. The recipe is good-to-go. Thanks so much for the feedback, intrepid recipe testers!

Now, what would a cinnamon-spiked, creamy latte taste good with? Hmm… healthy-indulgences-pumpkin-chocolate-chip-bread-atkins-low-carb-diabetic-sugar-free-paleo-trim-healthy-mama-almond-flour-stevia-xylitol-gluten-free-7

^There’s an idea! 😀

This moist, sweet, and slightly spicy pumpkin bread recipe will get you in the mood for pumpkin patches and hay rides! I strongly suspect that it would make a great gift baked in a pretty paper tray with a festive bow tied around it. Share the love with the sugar-free eaters in your life! 

I got the inspiration for this recipe from Danielle Walker over at Against All Grain. She adopts a grain-free, paleo approach due to her struggles with an autoimmune disease. Some of her main meals are lower in carbs, so I encourage you to browse her beautiful blog! 

To make this recipe sugar-free and diabetic-friendly, I replaced the maple syrup with a blend of erythritol, xylitol, and stevia. These are plant-derived sweeteners that have a minimal impact on blood sugar. If you’re unfamiliar with these ingredients, just click on their names to be taken to info pages that tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about ’em. 

Because xylitol has grown in popularity as a suitable sweetener for diabetics, I wanted to discuss it further. You can use 100% xylitol to make this pumpkin bread, although I still recommend adding stevia to round out the sweetness. If you’re concerned about GMOs, this brand is made from GMO-free birch tree wood. 

If you’re just getting started with sugar-free baking, here’s a helpful hint for working with xylitol and erythritol. You can convert any recipes to suit your needs by substituting xylitol for erythritol and vice versa using the following conversion factor:

3/4 cup xylitol = 1 cup erythritol

Here’s a pinnable banner for your personal stash of baking tips!

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-Original work by Chasity H

Hope you are feeling a little less intimidated about taking the plunge with sugar-free sweeteners! 😉

One factor to consider in choosing between the xylitol and erythritol is that some people (like myself) are a bit sensitive to xylitol, so you might want to hold off on serving treats made with a lot of xylitol to unsuspecting guests! I tend to stick with erythritol while making desserts for company. Because erythritol is digested using a different pathway in the body (only 10% is fermented in the large intestine, with 90% passing quickly out of the body in the urine), it is the only sugar alcohol that is well tolerated by most people.

If you have pets, be sure to check out the warning I posted on the xylitol info page!

The batter is just as yummy as the finished product! Must resist temptation to dip a finger in while photographing…

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To keep the carbohydrates in the Sugar-Free Pumpkin Bread low, I used almond flour and gluten-free oat flour in place of the arrowroot called for in the original recipe. Oat flour shouldn’t impact your blood sugar levels to the same extent as arrowroot since it contains fewer carbohydrates, gram per gram, than refined starches. I prefer to use oat flour over pure starches like arrowroot and tapioca because of how it improves the taste and texture of sugar-free baked goods. Problems usually arise (cardboard-y cookies and dry-as-dirt brownies, anyone?) when you remove both the grains and the sugar from baked treats, which normally consist of plenty of white sugar and white flour. Makes sense, right? That’s why most grain-free recipes require sugar in the form of honey, maple syrup, or coconut palm sugar.

If you can tolerate grains (my tummy is happy with the gluten-free ones), I highly recommend you pick up a bag of Bob’s Red Mill oat flour and experiment with it in some of your baked goods. Even just adding 1/4 cup of oat flour to an almond flour dough will noticeably improve the texture. Play around with it and see for yourself! Then drop a comment over at the Facebook page or share your results on Instagram. My favorite part of blogging has been connecting with you and seeing what you’re cooking up! Be sure to #indulgehealthy and tag your food photos so I can take a peek. 😀 Both baking successes and failures are welcome! 

If you’d prefer not to use almond flour in this recipe, you can use 3/4 cup cashew butter in place of it. It’s pretty pricy (I make my own in the Vitamix using these nuts!), and will increase the carb count of your pumpkin bread, but cashew butter creates a lovely fine crumb. The texture of the bread from the silky smooth nut butter is glorious! 

 The ingredients in this bread make it suitable for Dr. Davis’ Wheat Belly Plan and the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) diet, both of which allow oat flour and sugar-free sweeteners. I’m including this tidbit of information after hearing from followers of both diet plans ask about these recipes.

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If you look at the different photos I took of this bread, you’ll see that there are chocolate chips in one, and chocolate chunks in the others. What’s the deal with that?

It’s funny you ask. I gotta be real with y’all and explain a bit about the Lily’s No Sugar Added Chocolate Chips you see in the top photo. The company sent them to me–free of charge–in a chocolate sampler package. Unlike most sugar-free packaged chocolate products, which are sweetened with maltitol, Lily’s chocolate chips are sweetened with erythritol and stevia. They’re also dairy-free. The company definitely get a thumbs up for using natural sweeteners that don’t cause a spike in blood sugar! 

To be perfectly honest, the taste of the chocolate chips doesn’t wow me, but you might appreciate it more if you’re completely avoiding sugar. 

The third ingredient on the the label, after “Unsweetened Chocolate” and “Erythritol”, is “Inulin.”

*classic horror movie scream*

TMI Alert: Every product I’ve tried containing this soluble fiber derived from the chicory root plant has made my intestines… er, protest. Loudly. It ain’t pretty! Inulin is a prebiotic, which means that it feeds bacteria in the lower intestine that produce, you guessed it, gas. I was in denial about it at first, but I noticed the trend after trying coconut nectar and coconut sugar, which are both chock full of inulin. Since a quick Google search for “coconut sugar and gas” doesn’t yield any relevant results, I’m wondering if it’s just me having this issue, or what?  Both of these coconut-derived sweetness give me tummy disturbances. Perhaps your gut won’t be as unhappy with the inulin fiber in Lily’s chocolate products, but I wanted to give you a heads up. This post is sure shaping up to involve some lovely frank talk, eh? 😀

In the second batch of pumpkin bread, I used a chopped up Lindt 70% bar. It doesn’t look quite so pretty baked on top of the loaf, but the yum factor (and the happy tummy factor) makes up for it!

sugar-free-chocolate-chip-pumpkin-bread

The Lindt bar does contain real sugar (12 grams per 4 squares, or 30 grams per bar), so keep that in mind if you’re on a diabetic eating plan. If you can’t have any sugar at all, this Pumpkin Bread is still delish without the added chocolate! I plan on pouring it the batter into a spiral bundt mold to make a holiday pumpkin spice cake that looks as good as it tastes!

Finally, one last bit of important news: The metric measurements some of you asked for are here! Both the standard and the metric weights for ingredients are posted below. For best results, weigh your ingredients using a handy dandy kitchen scale. The rest of the conversions are coming to the Healthy Indulgences Cookbook first, and the blog second, post by post. Bon appetit! 

Sugar-Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Serves 16
This sugar-free pumpkin bread tastes so much like the real deal that it’ll blow your mind! It’s moist and lightly sweetened with a hint of spiciness from the cinnamon and cloves. Add chocolate chips for extra decadence, or fill muffin cups and dollop with a cream cheese filling for a breakfast fit for any pumpkin lovers in the house!


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Prep Time
20 min

Cook Time
50 min

Prep Time
20 min

Cook Time
50 min

Ingredients
  1. 3/4 cup (7.1 oz, 200g) nut butter*
  2. 3/4 cup natural sweetener blend**
  3. 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) sea salt
  4. 2 Tablespoons (1.0 oz, 28g) unsalted butter OR organic shortening, room temperature
  5. 3 large eggs, room temperature
  6. 1 teaspoon (5mL) vanilla extract
  7. 1/3 cup (1.2 oz, 34g) sifted coconut flour
  8. 3/4 cup (2.0 oz, 56g) sifted oat flour
  9. 4 teaspoons (20 mL) cinnamon
  10. 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) nutmeg
  11. 1 teaspoon (5.0 mL) ground cloves
  12. 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) baking soda
  13. 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) baking powder
  14. 1/2 cup (3.8 oz,110g) canned pumpkin
  15. 1 teaspoon (5 mL) apple cider vinegar
Optional
  1. 3/4 cup sugar-free chocolate chips or 8 squares Lindt 70% chocolate bar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease two 3″ by 6″ loaf pans with shortening or coconut oil cooking spray.
  3. Place cut squares of parchment in bottoms of pans, and sift oat flour over bottom and sides of pans to prevent sticking.
  4. Grind erythritol and xylitol (if using) in a coffee grinder or Magic Bullet until they are the texture of powdered sugar.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter or shortening, cashew butter, xylitol, erythritol, stevia, and sea salt. With a hand mixer, beat ingredients together starting at low speed, then move to high speed setting, for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  6. Beat in vanilla, then add the eggs, 1 at a time until a smooth batter forms.
  7. Add dry ingredients, mixing until a smooth dough forms.
  8. Beat in pumpkin and vinegar until thoroughly incorporated.
  9. Stir in chocolate chips or chocolate chunks, reserving two tablespoons for sprinkling.
  10. To prevent batter from overflowing, remove two muffin’s worth of it and bake separately. I like to pour extra batter into two silicone muffin cups. If you are not using chocolate chips, you can bake all the batter in the two pans.
  11. Pour batter into loaf pans, smooth it out, then sprinkle the loaves with chocolate.
  12. Set loaves and muffin cups on a cookie sheet and slide into oven. Bake for 40 minutes, checking for browning at the 40 minute mark. Tent loaves with tin foil if they are browning too much, and bake for 10 more minutes.
  13. Remove pans to a wire rack and cool loaves for one hour. To cleanly remove loaf from pan, cut around edges before inverting on to a plate.
Notes
  1. *I prefer to use cashew butter, but other nut butters should work just as well. Using nut butter in place of almond flour will give your pumpkin bread a lovely, fine crumb.
  2. **You can also use the following blend of natural sweeteners, which I prefer for this recipe. This blend contains some xylitol to boost the sweetness–
  3. 1 teaspoon (5 mL) Trader Joe’s Pure Stevia Powder
  4. 1/2 cup (3.5 oz, 100g) erythritol
  5. 1/4 cup (2.0 oz, 52g) xylitol
  6. You can read more about how to combine sweeteners to create the best tasting sugar-free treats in the Healthy Indulgences Cookbook.
Healthy Indulgences http://healthyindulgences.net/

Substitutions

Here are the answers to all of your burning questions about substitutions. I highly encourage you to experiment a bit with my recipes to make them compatible with your dietary needs. Get creative! 😀 It’s a great way to learn how to bake with these funky alternative ingredients. 

Tip: Use the search function (Control + F for Window systems) of your browser and type in a keyword (e.g. “stevia”) to quickly find an answer concerning a specific ingredient!

Is there a substitute for almond flour?

There is not a substitute that will yield the same results as blanched almond flour that is purchased commercially. However, you can come close by substituting with other nuts and seeds ground to a fine powder. I have found that grinding sunflower seeds and cashews that have been chilled first yields a nice blend that you can use as a 1:1 substitute for blanched almond flour. 

Is there a substitute for coconut flour?

There is no substitute for coconut flour that works in every recipe. However, I’ve had some success using 1/4 cup of arrowroot starch in place of coconut flour in some recipes.

Is there a substitute for stevia?

Yes. You can use honey, maple syrup, or another sweetener you prefer in place of stevia. There is no exact substitution amount since natural sweeteners vary in sweetness. I wouldn’t recommend replacing stevia with erythritol or xylitol, simply because those sweeteners can create a “icy” aftertaste if you use more than the amount listed in my recipes.

Is there a substitute for erythritol?

Yes! You can use xylitol in place of erythritol. I recommend using 1/2 cup of xylitol for every cup of erythritol a recipe calls for. Keep in mind that xylitol can cause some minor gastric upset, unlike erythritol! I would not substitute xylitol in a recipe unless you have tried it first to see how well you tolerate it. 

Is there a substitute for arrowroot starch?

Tapioca starch and cornstarch act similarly. However, they both have slightly different flavors, and yield textural differences. Tapioca tends to make bake goods more springy and bread-like, whereas arrowroot makes them more crumbly.

Is there a substitute for eggs?

Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to make egg-free baked goods without sugar OR grains! Sugar (table sugar or natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, etc.) and starchy grains both add structure to baked goods, so one or the other is usually necessary ingredients to make egg-free treats. If you’re feelin’ frisky, you can try to use flaxseed meal or chia seed gel in place of eggs. Here’s the general formula:

1/4 cup water + 1 Tablespoon flaxseed meal = 1 egg

OR

1/4 cup water + 1 Tablespoon chia seed meal = 1 egg

Keep in mind that the substitution above tends to work best for cookies and other dense treats. I don’t recommend substituting for eggs in cakes, puddings, breads, or other treats that require the structure and puffiness that eggs lend to baked goods. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Here you will find answers to commonly asked questions about the recipes on this blog. If you have any other questions, please leave a comment down below, or over at the Facebook page. Happy baking!

Disclaimer: The answers to these questions are not intended to replace medical or other professional advice. The information presented here is solely meant to inform and entertain. Please consult your physician or another trusted health professional for advice regarding weight loss and diabetes management.

 

Healthy Sweeteners

What are the healthiest sweeteners to use in baking?

If you would like to avoid the adverse health effects of ingesting added sugars on the human body, I’d start with stevia and erythritol. They are sugar-free, plant based sweeteners that do not cause a rise in blood sugar, and have no known side effects when ingested in reasonable amounts. They contain a negligible amount of calories, so they’re ideal if you’re trying to lose weight. 

Raw honey is a nutritious sweetener because of the trace minerals and anti-allergenic properties. There are claims that eating local honey can relieve seasonal allergies, but these claims have not been supported by peer-reviewed studies. Honey does cause a rise in blood glucose levels, so people with diabetes should limit their consumption. 

I limit my honey consumption to a few teaspoons of honey a day (if I eat any) because it still triggers in me an urge to overeat sweet foods. Honey is a concentrated source of fructose, which can confuse the signals regulating your appetite. Honey can also trigger some gastrointestinal distress in sensitive individuals. If you’re experience some bloating and flatulence after consuming honey, you might want to see whether you have fructose intolerance

What are the best-tasting sweeteners to use?

Stevia and erythritol, when used in the proper amounts, have a very clean, sugar-like taste. I have served my black bean cupcakes to many people who had no idea that they were sugar-free!

Erythritol does have an interesting “cool” flavor when used in dry baked goods (cookies, brownies), or in treats with a lot of fat (e.g. chocolate bars, frosting). It also does not caramelize. When I make these types of treats, I use Swerve in place of pure erythritol. Swerve is a blend of erythritol and chicory root fiber. The chicory root fiber does caramelize, and does not have a “cool” aftertaste. You do have to follow recipes designed for these sweeteners because of how tricky it is to get the amount right.

Stay tuned for a forthcoming blog post about Swerve, and how to use it to make sugar-free cakes and caramel sauces (yum!). Please subscribe using the link on the sidebar to get updates about new posts.  —> 

What is stevia extract?

Stevia extract is a very sweet white powder (200-300x sweeter than sugar!) made from the leaves of a stevia plant. Stevia plants are commonly grown in South America and China, and the leaves and brewed to extract the sweet compounds. 

Is stevia extract safe? 

Yes. Studies show that it does not adversely impact blood sugar levels. 

Why does my stevia extract taste bitter?

Are you using a green stevia powder? If so, it is likely bitter. I don’t recommend using green or “in the raw” stevia extracts. I also don’t recommend making your own stevia extract at home. You will not be able to filter out the bitter tasting compounds with the equipment you have in your kitchen. 

The pure white powder is the best tasting. Please not that there is a massive difference between brands! After testing 20+ brands of stevia for the past two years, I’ve settled upon NOW stevia as the best tasting product.

Is stevia heat stable?

Unfortunately, the sweetness of stevia degrades when it is boiled (heated to around 212 degrees Fahrenheit/100 degrees Celsius). Baked goods usually hover around that temperature range, so your batters and dough will usually be a bit sweeter than your finish baked good. I recommend added stevia to hot drinks after you’ve heated them, so that you can taste and adjust the sweetness without it changing. If you add stevia to your coffee or tea before you heat it, you can easily boil away the sweetness! 

How do I bake with stevia?

The trick to baking with stevia is to combine it with another sweetener. By itself, stevia is not usually sweet enough to make delicious baked goods. If you use too much stevia in a effort to make something sweeter, you will definitely detect a bitter aftertaste! I like to combine stevia with another all natural sugar substitute called erythritol. For more information about how to use stevia in baked goods, check out the Healthy Indulgences Cookbook, where I answer all your baking questions about stevia. 

Do you use liquid or powder stevia?

I use powdered stevia in all of the recipes you see here, unless otherwise noted. However, I use liquid stevia in my coffee, tea, smoothie, and yogurt. Liquid stevia is so convenient when you’re on the run!

How do you convert between liquid and powder stevia extract?

Since brands vary in sweetness, there is no conversion that would work for all brands. I would recommend substituting an equivalent amount of liquid stevia for powdered stevia. Then, add more liquid stevia if you need more sweetness. 

Gluten-Free Flours

What is almond flour?

Almond flour is made by removing the skins of almonds and grinding the nuts into a fine powder. The texture of almond flour can vary by brand. Honeyville Farms makes the most finely ground almond flour, so I highly recommend using it in your almond flour baked goods. 

What is the difference between almond meal and almond flour?

Almond flour is made from almonds with the skins removed. Almond meal is made from whole almonds, so it is stronger in flavor and darker in color.

Can I make my own almond meal or almond flour?

You can make your own almond meal by grinding blanched (skins removed), sliced almonds into a fine powder. To get the texture as fine as a the Honeyville product, you would need to sift it. To make almond flour, you would ground whole or sliced almonds (skins on) into a meal. Again, the texture would be best after sifting. It’s a lot of work! The best tools for the job are the Magic Bullet or a standard food processor

How do you bake with almond flour? Can you substitute it for white (all-purpose) flour?

You cannot directly substitute almond flour for flour made from wheat. It also cannot be substituted for gluten-free flour blends, as it performs very differently from grain flours. You can find tips for creating your own baked goods from almond flour in the Healthy Indulgences Cookbook

What is coconut flour?

Coconut flour is a fibrous powder made from defatted, finely ground coconut meat. It is a byproduct of coconut oil production. You cannot make it at home because you would have to extract the oil from the coconut meat before grinding it. I recommend using Nutiva brand coconut flour because it is very finely ground and is the most reasonably priced (get the 3 lb bag!).

Paleo

Which sweeteners are “paleo”? 

Stevia, honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and dates are paleo. Erythritol is not strictly paleo, but is recommended by several paleo gurus because it viewed as a harmless alternative to sugar. “Paleo” is so loosely defined these days that the term does not have a clear meaning. However, the central concept that we should be avoiding added sugar in our diet hasn’t changed! 

Aren’t stevia and erythritol highly processed since they’re white powders?

They are no more processed than maple syrup and coconut sugar. All concentrated sources of sweetness are processed in order to extract them from the plant. You don’t stumble upon piles of coconut sugar laying around the forest! The only sweetener that you can use without some form of processing is dates which are extremely high in carbohydrates. I’d recommend picking sweeteners based on how they impact your health, not on how unprocessed they are. 

Substitutions

Is there a substitute for x ingredient used in your recipe?

For all substitution questions, please see this page

How To Make The Best Homemade, Healthier Starbucks Peppermint Mocha Latte (Low Sugar, Low Carb)

There are few recipes that I make over and over again. This homemade, low sugar Peppermint Mocha Latte creamer is one of them. We’ve had lattes just about every morning this past week! Sugar-Free Peppermint Mocha, take 2 Warning: You might never want to buy another Starbucks mocha again after whipping up this easy recipe!  In under 10 seconds, you can make an insanely delicious, low carbohydrate mocha latte using this homemade, healthier mocha creamer. Pour it into a mug of boring black coffee to instantly create a fancy coffee drink! No need to drop $4 on a sugar bomb from the store.

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