March is National Nutrition Month: Satisfy your sweet tooth naturally

by Jill Fleming, MS, RD/LD, Veterans Memorial Hospital

Do you have a sweet-tooth? Most of us do. How you choose to satisfy your sweet tooth can either be a healthy choice or an unhealthy choice. When your body is craving sugar, it is because glucose is the fuel your body uses to function. Your body will convert all nutrients into glucose to be used for energy.
When your body is craving sugar, it feels like it wants table sugar or candy. When we give into this simple-sugar craving, our body quickly uses the sugar and then wants more. This is a cycle that sends our blood sugar level up, then our insulin level follows and then we end up with a low blood-sugar level.
Did you know that the fruit sugar, fructose, found in fruit can also satisfy your sugar craving? The nice thing about eating fruit to satisfy your sugar craving is that the fruit also contains vitamins, minerals and fiber. These nutrients help to nourish our cells and the fiber slows the rise and fall of our blood sugar levels.
Whole fruit also produces a serotonin release in our brain that provides a calming response from our body. Serotonin can help lessen depression and other mood related disorders. We will feel more calm and in control of our stress when we include fruit in our daily diet.
How much fruit should you eat? Most individuals will notice that their sweet cravings go away with three (1/2 cup) servings of fruit per day. Ideally, your fruit intake will be spread evenly throughout the day, such as a serving of fruit at each of our three meals daily.
Do you include a serving of fruit at each meal? It can be as easy as peeling a Cutie orange, slicing some melon or popping a handful of frozen raspberries into your morning smoothie. Kids love the naturally sweet taste of fruit and will eat it when it is included with a meal.
Although fruit juice does not contain fiber, it still provides a good dose of vitamin C and some other essential vitamins. Consider using fruit juice instead of water when making your Jell-o or Knox-blocks (recipe below). Use a little carrot or pineapple juice to make a natural soda (recipe below) instead of sugary Kool-aid or soda. Yes, water is still the best beverage, but it is sometimes fun to have a fun beverage to add variety to your or your child’s diet.

Recipe: Knox Blocks
4 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
1 cup cold 100% cran-apple fruit juice
3 cups 100% cran-apple fruit juice, heated to boiling
2 tablespoons honey* or maple syrup (optional).
*Do not use honey for children under one year of age.
Sprinkle gelatin over cold juice in large bowl. Let stand one minute.
Add hot juice and stir until gelatin completely dissolves, about five minutes. Stir in honey or maple syrup if desired. Pour into 13x9x2 inch pan. Refrigerate until firm, about three hours. Cut into one-inch squares and serve.

Recipe: Natural Soda
3/4 cup of seltzer or mineral or La Croix water
1/4 cup 100% fruit juice
Pour above ingredients over ice, starting with seltzer water first.

For more information, contact Jill Fleming, RD/LD, Dietitian at Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411.