Love sugar? Try dates.
Since I was a kid, I always had a sweet tooth. My parents kept a pretty healthy house, but my inner Cookie Monster would unleash during the special occasions when chocolate donuts, chocolate milkshakes, and chocolate chip cookies were allowed in the house. Keep your french fries and salty potato chips… but please pass me the bowl of M&M’s!
That sugar craving (especially involving chocolate) has grown with me into adulthood. Like many Americans, I have struggled to keep this sweet tooth in control. I’ve tried portion control and mindful eating. What really helped me, though, were dates.
FFC registered dietician Emily Marshall recommends using dates as a healthy substitute for sugar as a way to manage your sweet tooth (more on those substitutes here) and I couldn’t agree more. Part of my switch to a whole-foods, plant-based diet has meant swapping out refined sugars and syrups for whole foods, like dates.
It has also meant filling up on healthy and fresh fruits like pineapple, strawberries, and mangoes. These fruits are full of fiber and key nutrients. By simply using dried dates and fresh fruits instead of refined sugars means I can satisfy my sweet tooth in a delicious, healthy way. Instead of a sugar crash, I feel energized.
Try This Recipe
This Mexican Chocolate Sauce recipe is one of my favorite sugar swaps. It uses dried dates instead of refined sugar or syrup to create natural sweetness. I make this vegan version using almond milk, but you can make it with other types of milk like soy, cashew nut, or regular dairy milk.
I just throw everything in the microwave, heat it up to soften the dates, and puree. The chipotle and cinnamon add a spicy Mexican kick, but you can also keep it plain. Serve it with fresh fruit like pineapple, berries, or apples. Your sweet tooth will be doing a happy dance!
Mexican Chocolate Sauce
- Level: easy
- Servings: 10
- Ready in: 4 minutes
- 3/4 cup almond milk
- 1/4 cup dried dates
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp chipotle (or chili) powder
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder (dark, unsweetened)
- fresh pineapple, berries, or sliced apple for serving
To make the Mexican Chocolate Sauce, combine the almond milk, dates, vanilla, cinnamon, and chipotle powder in a microwave-safe dish.
Microwave for about 1 minute to 1:30 minutes (or on "beverage" setting), until bubbly and aromatic.
Transfer the almond milk mixture to a blender. Add the cocoa powder. Puree until smooth.
If desired, peel, core and cut the pineapple into spears.
Serve the Mexican Chipotle Chocolate Sauce slightly warmed, with fresh fruit.
Chef's Tip: you can find chipotle powder with most dried spices or online. For less heat, you can substitute with chili powder, cumin, or smoked paprika. Just read the labels and try to avoid any spice blends that have added salts or sugars!
Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC Halsted Street, and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com.