SWEET SNACKS… without the sugar
Friday, 09 January 2015

SWEET SNACKS… without the sugar

Cutting sugar from your favourite treats will improve your health – and your mood

The health hazards of sugar are well known and high consumption of it has been shown to correlate with the big killers: heart disease, diabetes and cancer. While these are not necessarily factors people think about every day, refined white sugar throws our bodies off course. The body likes to have even blood sugar, control of its moods and steady energy levels, but sugar interrupts this preferred happy state. Ingesting refined sugars places such a heavy burden on the body, it has to work extra hard to stay happy.

Having said that, we all love a sweet treat. Lots  of people try to cut out sugar in their diets, but it is the times when we want a quick energy boost or a tasty pick-me-up that it is difficult to avoid the processed white grains. Store-bought confections, cookies, crackers and nibbles tend to be packed with refined sugars, and savoury snacks are just as guilty. Luckily, there are amazing alternatives available to us nowadays that are much gentler on our bodies, so we can still eat luxurious and tasty treats without the negative effects on our health. Food should be enjoyed without guilt, and these recipes allow you to do just that.

Sugar-free Snacks & Treats: Deliciously Tempting Bites That Are Free From Refined Sugars, is published by Ryland Peters & Small on 12 February, priced £14.99.

Oatmeal-raisin Cookies  (main picture)

Makes 16 medium or 12 large
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 100g brown rice flour or quinoa flour
  • 1½ tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon 
  • ½ tsp sea salt u 120g oats (rolled or whole oats rather than the ‘quick cook’ versions)
  • 60ml coconut oil
  • 60ml pure maple syrup
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g raisins

You will need

  • baking sheet lined with foil

Preheat oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Combine 1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds with 3 tablespoons cold water. Mix well with a fork and refrigerate.

In a mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in the oats. Gently melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan set over a gentle heat until completely liquid, then let cool. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. Remove the chilled flaxseed mixture from the refrigerator and mix it into the coconut and maple syrup mixture. Pour this wet mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients and incorporate well. Add the raisins and stir them in.

Spoon 2 heaped tablespoons of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet at a time (or 3 for larger cookies), and press down gently with the back of the spoon to flatten. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes, until golden but still slightly soft.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool for at least 10 minutes before eating, to allow them to firm up nicely. Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Lemon Tart

Serves 10-12


For the pastry
  • 225g white spelt flour or gluten-free flour blend, or to make your own, combine 100g rice flour, 70g cornflour, 55g potato flour and 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1 dsp xylitol 
  • 50g dairy-free butter, eg, sunflower spread
  • 60g hard white vegetable shortening (it is crucial that you get the hardest one you can find)
  • 1 egg, beaten together with 1 tsp water

For the filling

  • finely grated zest and juice of 3 lemons
  • juice of 1 orange 
  • 120g xylitol
  • 4 eggs
  • 160ml soy cream

To serve

  • soy yogurt and raspberries

You will need

  • 20cm tart pan
  • baking beans

The pastry ingredients must be as cold as possible, especially the butter and shortening, so refrigerate until needed.

Sift the flour (and xanthan gum if you are making the gluten-free version) and salt into a large bowl. Add the xylitol, butter and shortening and cut into small chunks with a knife. Rub the butter and shortening into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. You can also do this in a food processor. Add a tablespoon of the egg mixture and fork the mixture together. If it is still crumbly and not coming together, add a little more liquid, being careful not to overdo it. Bring the dough together with your hands to a smooth ball. For the gluten-free version, you will need to squeeze and knead the pastry a little. If it is still crumbly, it needs a little more egg mixture. Gently flatten into a round, wrap in cling film and refrigerate until cold.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

Gluten-free pastry can be difficult to handle, so roll it out between 2 sheets of floured cling film. Whichever pastry you have made, roll it out until 1cm thick, working quickly and handling it as little as possible. To line the tart pan, remove the top layer of film and roll the pastry over your rolling pin with the bottom sheet of film still on it. Lay the sheet of pastry over the pan with the film uppermost. Remove the film.

The gluten-free pastry will tear and crumble as you transfer it to the pan but this is quite normal, and although it looks like a shambles now it will be fine once blind-baked. Patch it up with the pieces that have fallen off and push the pastry into the pan, making sure it is an even thickness and there are no cracks. Prick the base with a fork. Line the pastry shell with parchment paper and fill with baking beans.

Blind bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes. (Leave the oven on.) Remove the paper and beans and brush the base and sides of the shell with egg mixture. Return to the oven and bake for a further 5-10 minutes until the base is beginning to brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

To make the filling, whisk the citrus zest, juices and xylitol in a pan and gently heat until the xylitol has just dissolved. Let cool, then whisk in the eggs and soy cream. Place the tart shell in the oven, then pour the filling in, right up to the top. Bake until the filling is just firm – about 20 minutes.

Frozen Cookie Dough Balls

Makes 18-24



  • 60g xylitol
  • 75g non-hydrogenated sunflower spread, at room temperature
  • about 120g wholemeal gluten-free plain flour 
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract 
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 175g dark chocolate chips, or coarsely chopped dark chocolate

You will need

  • freezer-proof baking sheet or plate, lined with cling film

Put the xylitol in a high-speed blender and blend until you have a powdery, icing sugar-like substance.

Put the sunflower spread in a large bowl and mash with a fork. Add the flour and powdered xylitol and whisk slowly with a handheld electric whisk. With dry powders you want to make sure you’re gentle to start with or they’ll fly all over the place. Add the vanilla extract and salt once the mixture is smooth and whisk them in.

Finally, add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Pull off bite-size pieces of the dough with your fingers and roll them into neat balls. Lay them out on the prepared baking sheet and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Once they’ve frozen, you can transfer them to a freezer bag. Consume frozen.


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