When I wrote my love letter to chocolate, I touched on the topic of indulging in moderation. I passionately believe that a key component to being healthy for life is allowing yourself to indulge—because restriction just leads to binging at some point and furthermore, we only live once! But, moderation is important, as well, because you want to be well while you’re living a sweet life, right? Oh, this reminds me of when I had a bitchy roommate who gave me a hard time for eating light frozen yogurt. She’d say that she only bought Haagen Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s, because, “If you’re gonna have ice cream, you should just eat the real thing!” But, when you have an insatiable sweet tooth like I do, you may hanker for an ice cream, or cookie, or chocolate fix often (uh, like at least once a day). And if you’re also health-conscious, it’s probably not the best idea to have the 290 calorie, 18 grams of fat version of these treats every day. Anyway, that’s where finding healthy light substitutes helps to strike that “indulgence, in moderation” balance.

Toxic little packet (Photo via crossfitinvictus.com)

In an effort to slash calories, I used to be a Splenda girl. But then I read up on how it was developed (it was “stumbled upon” in 1976 by British scientists who were seeking a new pesticide formulation—yes, sucralose a.k.a. Splenda contains chlorine molecules and is related chemically to DDT) and what the health risks might be (a 2008 study from Duke University found that Splenda contributes to obesity and destroys beneficial intestinal bacteria). Part of me wished I could un-learn this info and just stick with the convenient yellow packets, but I was so disgusted with my findings. (Aside from the heavy-duty disease risks, to think that an artificial sweetener is actually working to make my battle with weight gain even harder? Ugh, no thanks!)

1/2 stevia, 1/2 sugar cane = Sun Crystals (Photo via Sun Crystals)

So, I made a permanent switch to stevia-based sweeteners, like Truvia. Long story short: Truvia combines stevia, a plant native to Paraguay, with the natural sugar erythritol (found in many fruits). Stevia has been used to sweeten foods and beverages for over 200 years. Yes, it takes some getting used to taste-wise, but knowing that it’s natural and non-carcinogenic is enough reason for me. There’s also a sweetener on the market that I recently discovered called Sun Crystals, which combines natural sugar cane with stevia. Nutritionally, it’ll cost you half of the calories in regular sugar. I was lucky enough to be given a sample package of the granulated blend, and I used it last night to make a batch of whole wheat chocolate chip cookies.

Here’s how they turned out…

My half-the-calories whole wheat chocolate chip cookies made with Sun Crystals (Photo via my iPhone)

The boyfriend inhaled about three of them within minutes of spotting the sheet cooling on our stovetop. Two colleagues at work gave their “yummy” thumbs-up. And I liked them so much myself that I would make the recipe again in a heartbeat. So, I guess they’re pretty tasty!

Here’s the recipe:

6 Tbsp. Sun Crystals

3/4 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 c. butter, softened (I use Smart Balance Butter Blend sticks)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

2 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

dark chocolate and/or milk chocolate chips (as many as you want/eyeball it)

(I also put Pretzel M&Ms ontop of some of them, just for fun.)

Directions: Heat oven to 375ºF. Mix Sun Crystals and brown sugar, butter, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. (Dough will be on the slightly dry-side, but don’t worry, they turn out moist and chewy!) Stir in chocolate chips. Place dough in rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto a very lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown (centers will be slightly gooey). Allow to cool, then eat and enjoy!

I estimate that each cookie is about 75 calories and 4 g of fat, depending on how big you make ’em. (My batch was approx. 2 dozen.)

Do you think you’d try Sun Crystals? How do you cut the calories in a favorite goodie?

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