By Genevieve Ko
Apple-cinnamon oatmealI gave up refined sugar for Lent. And it's really hard. (Full disclosure: Of course, I'm still going to taste our triple-tested dishes in the Test Kitchen. Thankfully, we're not yet working on the holidays!) I'm in withdrawal and sadly realizing that refined sugar is in everything from bread to condiments to savory snacks. I am not, however, giving up fresh fruit. To satisfy sweet cravings, I've come up with some combinations that are comforting and filling. Just over the past few days, I've realized that some of these options taste even better than their sugary counterparts! Here are 5 favorites:
1. Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal: Forget the sugar-pumped packets! Stir half a diced Golden Delicious apple, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt into 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats and 1 cup water. Microwave for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring once. I top with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts for protein and crunch.
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2. Peanut Butter Banana Toast: The tricky part here is finding natural peanut butter that has no added sugar and whole-wheat or whole-grain bread without sugar or honey. Both can be found though! (Check out our unsweetened peanut butter taste test winner.) Once you've slathered the toast with peanut butter, simply top with sliced ripe banana.
3. Roasted Carrots and Hazelnuts with Yogurt: I like plain unsweetened low-fat yogurt--with honey or granola or even berries. Since we're not in true sweet berry season, I've found that a nice winter option is leftover roasted carrots. They get caramelized in the oven for a nice dinner side dish, then they make a great breakfast yogurt topper cold and chopped. Toasted peeled hazelnuts add a nice crunch.
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4. Oranges and Pistachios: This has become my go-to afternoon snack. Juicy sweet in-season orange segments pair nicely with roasted, salted pistachios. Super easy and fast.
5. Ricotta and Almonds: Raw almonds have a subtle sweetness to them and a satisfying crunch. Chop up a few to sprinkle over full-fat ricotta (I didn't say these were low-fat!) for a satisfying spoonful. If you want to shell out big bucks for raspberries, those are nice here too.
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I'm not going to claim that these are the same as a really good homemade muffin or cake because, well, they're not. But they are truly delicious in their own right. My taste buds are not only getting used to not having sugar, they're more aware of how great fruits and vegetables taste. Have you ever tried to go sugar-free? If so, what did you eat instead?
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