It is true that Giada De Laurentiis eats all day, but the gorgeous celebrity chef manages to stay trim. We caught up with her recently at The Taste in Los Angeles to learn how she does it. Her staple exercise: yoga! But when it comes to sweeteners, Giada is mixing it up, moving away from sugar and using agave. Learn more when you watch the video.
In an attempt to eat clean, I've been using the product known as agave nectar in dishes and drinks, from cocktails to chicken teriyaki. Agave's got a similar caloric load to sugar but is sweeter, so you'll use about 40 percent less. It also has a lower glycemic index rating, which means it'll keep you feeling full longer and doesn't cause a spike in blood sugar.
I love that it's less messy to cook with than honey yet tastes similar to sugar. But FitSugar cautions me from going too crazy, as the jury's still out on the sweetener. She says it's pretty processed and full of fructose sugar and recommends honey or maple as more natural alternatives. Do you buy it?
So over the weekend, while the West Coast enjoyed record highs, I sat back in some new shades, ate up the 70-degree weather, and guzzled a good-for-you cocktail that felt like a mini island vacation.
I can't take credit for the idea (that goes to New York's Rouge Tomate), but this brilliant drink is one part healthy smoothie, one part fizzy spa cocktail, and all parts equatorial. Want to enjoy a glass, too? Then read more.
I've long heard about the legendary margarita style created at Tommy's Mexican Restaurant, but it wasn't until the Sugar four-year anniversary party that I had a chance to try a version, crafted by San Francisco cocktail catering company Rye on the Road. Ever since, I've been obsessed and refuse to drink one any other way.
If it's not made right, the classic margarita will leave me with sugar-coated teeth and strong booze breath. But this isn't the case with the Tommy's version; rather than using a syrupy orange liqueur, it calls for all-natural (and health-conscious) agave nectar.
The key to making this perfectly is to use the best ingredients possible, from the freshest limes to top-notch reposado, or "rested," tequila. You'll find yourself going back for seconds for a tipple that's refreshing, light-bodied, and balanced. Try something new when you read more.
You don't have to go drastic with your diet choices to up the health factor. There are ways to swap out ingredients in your favorite dishes without sacrificing them altogether. I've listed some of these ingredient substitutions below. Have any to add? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments!
- Agave nectar for sugar: While it should still be used sparingly, agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, so you'll be using less, plus it won't cause a spike in blood sugar levels like sugar.
- Avocado for butter: When baking, sub out half the butter with avocado for less calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
- Ground flaxseeds for eggs: Who knew flaxseeds could replace eggs in your baking recipes? One teaspoon of ground flaxseeds and 1/4 cup of water replaces a single egg.
- Parsnips for potatoes: Parsnips are just one kind out of many healthy veggies that can replace potatoes in a French fry recipe.
- Greek yogurt for whipped cream: Mixing in Greek yogurt with your whipped cream (or replacing it all together), cuts out fat, giving you more calcium, protein, iron, and healthy bacteria in the process.
- Turkey for beef: Try a healthy turkey burger instead of beef burger at your next BBQ.
Recently I asked FitSugar readers to share their tips on how to cut down on their sugar intake, and it sparked a whole discussion in the comment section about using agave nectar. Some said it's a natural sweetener which makes it healthier than sugar, and others debated against that idea, saying it is highly processed and just as bad as high fructose corn syrup. So what's the truth?
To see if it's healthier than sugar read more
In the last couple of years, agave nectar has sprung virtually out of nowhere to appear in natural sodas, liqueurs, baked goods, and cocktails. So what's all the fuss about? Agave nectar (or agave syrup) is a liquid sweetener made from juice extracted out of the core of the agave plant.
This sugar alternative, which is roughly 25 percent water, dissolves easily in cold liquids, and is sweeter than white sugar, yet less processed than refined sugar, and has a healthier glycemic index. It comes in light, amber, dark, and raw varieties.Light nectar has a delicate, almost neutral taste; amber possesses a caramel color and medium flavor; dark has stronger notes of caramel. Raw nectar is produced at temperatures below 118ºF and contains natural enzymes and a mild taste.
Agave syrup can also be employed to substitute equal parts honey. Unlike honey, agave nectar is vegan, and does not crystallize when stored. When cooking with it, keep in mind that 3/4 cup agave syrup has the sweetening power of 1 cup of cane sugar, and when baking reduce the temperature by 25ºF. Have you been using agave nectar in place of sugar? What's your favorite use for it?
For Cinco de Mayo, I thought it might be nice to celebrate the sweet side of Mexico with agave nectar and remind you all that the agave plant produces more than just tequila.
The nectar of the agave plant is sweeter than sugar with a lower glycemic index rating as well. It has a caloric load similar to cane sugar – about 20 calories per teaspoon; but since it is sweeter you use less, about 40 percent less. It is great for baking (although you do have to balance out your recipe portions a bit since agave is liquid).
My favorite brand of agave nectar is Nekutli ($5 per 8 ounce bottle), meaning "sacred juice of the agave" in Nahuatl, a language of the Aztecs. I love that Nekutli is organic and that it comes in two versions, light and amber, making the nectar versatile for baking and cooking. The light version is pure sweetness and perfect for adding to tea or salad dressing. The amber is more like honey and can be used as a substitute for brown sugar. Check out this recipe for linzer cookies to see how to bake with this wonderful nectar.
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I have tried many sugar substitutes in my day. Mostly out of curiosity and in a vain attempt to quell my sweet tooth. In my search I must say that agave nectar works the best for me. It is sweet, without being overly sweet and it is great in tea and salad dressing. I was curious to bake with it and found Baking with Agave Nectar ($15.95) and thought I would give it a whirl.
The cookbook contains over 100 recipes from cookies to ice cream – some vegan recipes and some that include milk, eggs and butter. Many of the recipes sound tasty and I appreciate the fact that the author, Ania Catalano, includes easy to find whole wheat pastry flour as a substitute for the not so easy to find sprouted spelt four. The directions are easy to follow and the photographs are lovely; I just wish there were more of them. If you are new to cooking with ingredients typically considered health food, Catalano includes a detailed glossary of terms with in depth explanations of things like carob and guar gum. The introduction is equally inspiring.
Since I had a vegan houseguest this weekend I whipped up a batch of vegan Linzer torte cookies. The recipe took well under an hour to make (super quick) and my daughters thoroughly enjoyed helping me make the cookies as well as eating the final product. These Linzer cookies (made with almonds and raspberry jam) are truly healthy cookies. I found myself eating them after running like I would an energy bar. Next on my list to make from this book is Skinny Vanilla Bean frozen yogurt, banana cream pie and the agave Margarita.
I liked the recipe so much I wanted to share it with you. To check out the Linzer cookie recipe just read more
Smoothies are such a great treat. Especially in the heat of summer. A Sugar user recently asked for a good smoothie recipe that doesn't contain berries since she is allergic.
I just found this recipe from Healthy Chef Alex. She is Mogan Spurlock's girlfriend - you might know him as the Super Size me guy and she is the "vegan girlfriend."
This recipe is tasty - everyone in my family loved it. It is definitely a healthy redo of the Peanut Butter Moo'd from Jamba Juice. Before you mock my bruised bananas, let me just say the more ripe the bananas the sweeter the smoothie. Once it is frozen fruit just doesn't taste as sweet, so put those overripe bananas to use.
Want to see the recipe? Then read more