Are you getting a case of the winter blues? As the days get darker and flu season dawns, it’s more important now than ever to pay attention to how you fuel your body. A few healthy changes to your diet will give you more energy, boost your immune system and help you feel more balanced throughout the day. Here are some suggestions on replacing some not so healthy sweeteners with the best ones available so you can start reducing your sugar intake, curb those sweet cravings, avoid those huge sugar highs and lows and have optimal energy all day long.

Avoiding sugar can be a challenge as it is in most everything. Not only obviously in the pastry or donut we reach for with our coffee, even some snacks we may consider healthy. A Nature Valley Granola bar contains the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar. A small low fat Yoplait yogurt with fruit contains the equivalent of 4 ½ teaspoons of added sugar, and ketchup is 1/3 sugar. It is predicted that 1/3 of our children will be diabetics, so wouldn’t it be great to find some better snack alternatives for ourselves and for our families?

White Sugar
Sugar is a highly refined chemical product. (Brown sugar is simply sucrose with the addition of a small amount of molasses). As soon as we eat sugar it depresses our immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to colds and flues. It is very acidifying to the body and a body that is overly acidic is prone to inflammation, illness and disease. It also spikes our glycemic levels way up and right, what goes up must come down, so you experience the sugar crash and low energy fatigue which may cause you to reach for more sugar or coffee to boost you back up again and a sugar addiction quickly results. Yes addiction, think that all alcohol is simply fermented sugar. Obviously there are many other negative effects of sugar on the body, but let’s focus on how to find better choices. Stevia and Xylitol are two of the best natural sweeteners that have a negligible effect on blood glucose and are readily available in health food stores.

Stevia extracts, from the leaf of the Stevia plant, have up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. This remarkable herb originating from Paraguay is noncaloric. Stevia comes in liquid or powder form. Check the label, as some companies add maltodextrin or other fillers to the powder form, so it is best to find it in its pure form.

Although the name Xylitol sounds like a chemical it is another excellent natural sweetener derived from birch tree bark or corn cobs. Xylitol can substitute sugar in equal amounts. I’m sure if you filled up your sugar bowl with Xylitol no one would ever know! As with many sweeteners Xylitol is toxic for dogs, so keep it and food made with it away from your pet.

How to proceed
It is a little difficult to give exact equivalents for Stevia as everyone has their personal preference for how sweet they like their food. In general replace 1 cup of sugar with 1 teaspoon liquid or powder Stevia, and 1 teaspoon of sugar with a pinch of Stevia powder or 2 to 4 drops of liquid Stevia. Start with small amounts, if you use too much liquid Stevia it will be overly sweet and have a bitter after taste. You will have to adjust cake recipes as they won’t rise as easily, but it is easy to use Stevia or Xylitol to sweeten plain yogurt, add to hot beverages, make home made puddings, cookies, etc. The goal is to start by replacing sugar with healthier alternatives in order to work towards reducing our intake of sweets over all. Improve your health and make life sweet.

Author's Bio: 

Sue-Anne Hickey came to naturopathy and healthy eating through her experience with yoga in 1990 and it completely transformed her life. She also began learning all she could about nutrition.

A few years after graduating from Concordia University, Sue-Anne left for India and her yoga teachers training course in 1993. She then taught yoga at Indian ashrams, Thai meditation retreats and Nepalese Buddhist monasteries. This was part of a year and a half, solo, spiritual journey around the world.

A few years after her return, Sue-Anne established a full-time practice teaching yoga in Montreal. She has encouraged thousands of people to make long-term, positive changes in their lives in her practice as well as with her yoga and relaxation DVDs, and a quarterly inspirational newsletter. (You can sign up for Sue-Anne's Yoga E-News at

In 2006, Sue-Anne decided to extend her expertise in healthy living and started training as a naturopath. Her studies allowed her to take her own health to a very high level. Over the years she has helped her clients cure all kinds of ailments, lose weight, make changes in their diets and regain their energy and happiness.