The most stressful time of year for many Americans falls between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. We typically consume much more sugar during this time of year, so our blood-sugar levels alternately soar, making us nervous and jittery, then plummet, leaving us drained. Needless to say, this combination doesn’t lend itself to coping with the season’s triumvirate of family obligations, financial pressures, and emotional stress.
Holiday sweets sometimes seem impossible to avoid. At the office, we’re faced with a co-worker’s gift of freshly baked cookies. And at home, it’s Grandma’s famous fudge. Here’s where herbs can help. A few easy tricks can reduce the amount of sugar on your table while still satisfying the sweet cravings of your friends and family.
• Think small. Serve sweets in finger-food-sized portions to encourage moderation.
• Do the dip. Start every get-together with an array of fresh vegetables and high-fiber bean dip. Soluble fiber evens out blood-sugar levels, and one of the best and easiest-to-prepare sources is beans.
• Add flavor with herbs and spices. Load your sweets with a variety of herbs and spices that make them too potent to eat in large quantities. One of the most delicious after-dinner treats I ever tasted was dark chocolate poured over cayenne-roasted pistachios in mini muffin cups—sweet enough to satisfy the most die-hard chocoholic, but you wouldn’t want to eat more than one or two.
• Enrich flavor creatively. Fiber-rich fruit sweetens, and nuts add flavor to desserts without adding any refined sugar. Alternative sweeteners such as stevia can replace sugar in some recipes.
• Balance blood sugar. Add in herbs that lower blood sugar, such as fenugreek.
Debbie Whittaker, a frequent contributor to Herbs for Health, demonstrates her healthy cooking style as the “Herb Gourmet” in Denver, Colorado.