HFG drills below the hype surrounding ‘sugar-free’ raw treats.
From vegan brownies to sugar-free bliss balls, which of today's raw treats actually live up to the hype
Vegan brownies, bliss balls and raw caramel slices have moved out of vegan cafes and onto supermarket shelves. The impression is they’re lower in sugar and healthier than other packaged snacks — but that’s not always the case. Find out if you’re getting a raw deal. Check ingredients Raw snacks are often made by blending dried fruit with nuts. Dates, cashews and almonds are frequently the stars, but coconut, seeds, oats, syrups and oils sometimes make the cut too. You might also notice protein powders, sugar alcohols or other sneaky names for sugar (see list below), and other unfamiliar ingredients — usually a good sign to put it back on the shelf. The rule is simple: if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it! Search for sugar Raw treats can still be high in sugar, even when they claim to be sugar free. Sugar appears in a variety of disguises — more than 40, in fact! Rice malt syrup, maple syrup and coconut sugar are routinely used in raw desserts, and despite being labelled ‘natural’ or ‘organic’, they’re still sugar.
Even raw treats sweetened with dried fruit, such as dates, end up being kilojoule-dense, and can have up to 60 per cent sugar content. For this reason it’s a good idea to approach raw treats just as you would any other treat — to be enjoyed in moderation. Watch the fat Some wellness gurus have promoted coconut oil as a clean alternative to butter. Unfortunately there is limited scientific evidence to support its rise as a
‘superfood’. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat (and kilojoules), and sat fat should be limited to help keep your heart healthy. So, stick to nuts and extra-virgin olive oil as a healthy source of fat in your raw treats. Be portion wise Can a slice of raw cheesecake have the same number of kilojoules as a Mars Bar? Yes, it can! Getting too many kilojoules from a paleo chocolate brownie or a slice of butter cake can both lead to unwanted weight gain. Treats have a place in a healthy, balanced diet, but whether they’re raw or baked, stick to small portions. Ignore clever marketing claims Studies show that health buzzwords like ‘gluten free’, ‘paleo’ and ‘organic’ make us assume that a food is healthy. It’s called the ‘health halo’ effect. However, the ingredients list and the nutrition information on the back of the pack is a more reliable guide to how healthy any packaged food actually is. Don your apron If you like to get creative in the kitchen, make your own raw treats at home, so you can control exactly what goes into them. All you need is a food processor — and healthyfoodguide.com.au — for tasty recipes.