Candy Apple Macaroons + Sugar Reduced Journey

by Leanne Vogel (Healthful Pursuit) on March 28, 2011

We had some very mixed feelings about carob yesterday. I had no idea that people could hate carob, but now I know!

As many of you mentioned, the best way to welcome change is to believe in yourself.

Believe that you can do it, that you will do it, and that whatever comes as a result will be fantastic!

One of the most common reader questions is: “How did you change your diet? What steps did you take?”

Seeing how tackling my sugar obsession was one of the hardest changes, I thought it’d be a good place to start.

When I set off on my sugar reduced journey I had no idea how fun it would be.

I’m not going to lie though, I thought it was going to be torture.

But I’ve learned a lot about how to sweeten naturally and have come to love the flavors that whole foods bring to the mix.

My favorite sugar free alternatives are medjool dates, bananas and apples.

My favorite alternative sweeteners have now become coconut sugar, ground stevia leaf, and raw honey.

I try to limit my alternative sweeteners to a couple of servings a week minus the 1 tbsp of raw honey I use on a daily basis because of it’s health benefits.

Going sugar reduced [I don't like to say I'm sugar free because I do treat myself once in awhile] didn’t happen overnight, in fact it was progression that’s lasted just about 3 1/2 years.

I remember the first time I replaced the white sugar in a recipe with whole cane sugar. The taste was good, I felt better knowing I’d made a healthier choice and I was proud of myself for beginning to healthful-ize my baking.

A couple of years later, I introduced agave nectar into the mix. This was a bit more challenging because it is a liquid and so many of my recipes had to be well planned to accommodate this change in liquid to solid ratio. But, after a couple of flops I got it right!

A few months after that I started experimenting with raw honey because of it’s amazing ability to boost immunity, provide pure energy, heal digestive issues, and fight bacteria.I found honey to be a lot sweeter than agave nectar, so less was needed in my recipes. BONUS!

Being the curious Nutritionist I am, I decided to play around with replacing alternative sweeteners with whole foods like raisins, dates, apples, banana, and natural fruit juices. This was by far the biggest leap for me. My recipes weren’t as sweet as I’d been accustomed to. Although things weren’t as sweet, the snacks I was making seemed fuller and more alive than before, and it wasn’t long until I began to find the foods just perfectly sweet [taste bud change? I have no idea]

I’ve since started playing around with ground stevia leaf, not the white stuff, but the green stuff. I find it’s a lot less metallic tasting than it’s white counterpart.

I’ve had my moments, but all in all I’ve enjoyed this shift from sugar full to sugar reduced. My complexion has improved, my blood sugar stays balanced, and I have level energy throughout my day.

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Candy Apple Macaroons

Vegan, Gluten free, Dairy free, Sugar free, Yeast free

These sugar free apple and coconut morsels are light, refreshing, sweet and healthy. Kids [and adults] will go nuts over these green speckled apple macaroons!

Inspired by: my Banana Drunk Macaroons

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 granny smith apples – 1 apple shredded and 1/2 of the other apple blended
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 3 tbsp almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp natural almond flavor
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, combine all ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
  3. Form mixture into golf-ball-sized balls, place on prepared cookie sheet and flatten just slightly.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes [mine were perfect at 14 minutes] or until golden.
  5. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before enjoying.

Makes 12 macaroons.

Nutrition stats [1 macaroon]: calories 129; fat 11g; carbohydrates 7.7g; dietary fiber 2.6g; sugars 3.4g; protein 2.2g

Nutrient profile: no cholesterol, very low in sodium, high in manganese.

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If you’re interested in learning more about sweetening your recipe with whole foods, check out a couple of my favorite natural sweetener gals: Kris @ iheartwellness & Alex @ A Spoonful of Sugar Free & Kelly @ The Spunky Coconut. Each of them bring a different approach to health, all refreshing and inspiring.

Do you follow any blogs that use alternative or whole foods sweeteners? Please share!

Have you tried to use whole foods sweeteners in a recipe? How did you like it?

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer and Jaclyn @ sketch-free vegan

It seems like everyone is reducing their sugar intake nowadays…I’ve recently started using stevia and love it! You only need a couple drops and it’s not too expensive..

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Stevia is fantastic, isn’t it? I made a batch of cookies on the weekend with stevia but think I added a bit too much, ick!

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Tara @The Game of life

How much honey should you consume in one day? I have it pretty much everyday, but I really don’t use much. I am also having the problem with it getting hard, and it won’t come out of the container…..

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

1-2 tbsp a day is all you need. It’s best to combine it with a high fiber food like apples, berries, flax, chia, etc. Honey usually gets hard if it’s been creamed, if it’s pasteurized, or if it’s just really old and has become crystallized. You should be looking for a raw, unpasteurized, liquid honey. If you want to get really specific, wild flower honey is the best as it pollinates with multiple different flowers and in turn will be better for your health.

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Tara @The Game of life

Okay thank you! My honey is raw and unfiltered, but when it just seemed to harder so quickly! I am going to try putting it under some hot water I have heard that helps! I will definitely have to try wild flower honey!!

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Faith @ lovelyascharged

I try to use alternative sweetners as much as possible, especially because my family history puts me at high risk for sugar problems like hypoglycemia and diabetes. I bake with natural raw (turbinado) sugar, but for day-to-day use, I usually go with Truvia. The stuff is great!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

I’ve baked with turbinado sugar and loved it. It has such an amazing, raw taste to it! It’s great to hear that you’re making smart choices based on your families health history. You should be proud of yourself for taking the step that many ignore :)

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chelsey @ clean eating chelsey

These look so delicious! While I don’t have almond meal or almond butter on hand, could I substitute them for peanut flour and peanut butter?

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

I’m sure that would be delicious! If you give it a try, let me know how it turns out!

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brandi@BranAppetit

those look delicious! and what a great snack to have on hand that’s easily portable, too.

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Thanks Brandi! Very portable, I packed a couple in my lunch today. I can’t wait for noon!

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Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free

I feel so much better after going on a sugar-free diet. I never use any sweeteners except whole fruits. And you are right, they may be less sweet, but they are more wholesome.

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

One day I will get to where you are – 0 sweeteners whatsoever. I’m just so attached to coconut sugar. Do you eat coconut sugar?

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kate@ahealthypassion

Oh yum I love the idea of candy apple such a delicious combination. I have definitely cut out a lot of sugar in my diet and its amazing how much better you feel!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Thanks Kate! I agree with you, I feel so much better. I had sugar the other day in some candy (as a treat) and I felt like garbage after. Never again!

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Sophie33

Oooh waw, what great snack ideas! I love this: grated apple with coconut! What’s Not to LOVe here???

MMMMMM,…I love when you are being creative! :)

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Thanks Sophie!

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Junia @ Mis Pensamientos

i sometimes use cactus honey powder as a low glycemic sweetener!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Cactus honey powder… I have never heard of that! I’ll have to check it out, thanks :)

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(what runs) Lori

Wow these sound amazing. I love using whole foods for “sugar” in my recipes whenever I can. You really do feel SO much better! The best I ever felt was when I was raw/vegan and included no extra sugar… even agave starts to wear you down. ;)

Happy Monday!

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Laura @FoodSnobSTL

I never thought I would be sugar free, but when I married my husband 3 years ago, i had to for him. Because he has crohns, he has to avoid added sugars. It is a learning process, but I think I get better all the time. Also, I love raw honey! In fact I am giving some away on my blog later this week!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

That’s fantastic of you to have gone sugar free for your husband. I’ll have to check out your blog later this week for your giveaway!

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Michelle @ Find Your Balance

I gotta try these! Thanks!

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Eryn

So happy to find others on the reduced sugar/ sugar-free journey like me :) I used to be a pastry chef and my health got so bad that I had to see a nutritionist who put me on whole fruits only (just 3 a day- not even dates!)….hardest thing ever! (Although I didn’t quit sugar cold-turkey…I have been tapering down with honey/ stevia for a year now :) I have been scouring the blog world for months while I wait for the day that I can even have dates again, but these I can have right now- Thanks!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Good for you for pushing through it. It’s a challenging journey, but well worth it! I’m happy to hear that your health is doing better!

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Sandra's Easy Cooking

mmm this looks really delicious, and I love your photos too! Nicely done!

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Meagan @ Scarletta Bakes

Fantastic post and recipe!!

And I totally agree: Medjool dates are such a perfect solution for sugar cravings.

Thanks so much for another fantastic post and recipe!!

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Jess@HealthyExposures

Another genius recipe to bookmark. I’ve bookmarked your entire site. Have you got a cookbook in the works yet?! I’d buy it in a hot second.
I can’t say I’m sugar free, nor do I necessarily feel I need to be, but I definitely consume nowhere near as much as I used to. I love using bananas and dates to sweeten stuff, like you said, as well as date syrup, raw honey and maple syrup for alternative sweeteners. My tastebuds have definitely changed, too. I used to have coffee with cream and extra sugar, and now I feel like I might as well suck on a sugar cube if I were to do that! Just a splash of unsweetened almond milk will do ;) I guess this is a good thing, but a lot of sweets and stuff that I would buy are now too sweet for me to enjoy!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

zomg cookbook – I wish! One day, one day. It’s great that you’ve cut your sugar intake over the years, that’s better than most! haha I used to suck on sugar cubes as a kid. I have no idea how I did it.

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Jess@HealthyExposures

is this where I admit that I was one of those kids who ate butter plain?! Not sure which is worse :P

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

bahahahaha you know, I think my sister did the same thing. Sugar cubes/butter… I’d say we’re both even.

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sara

Yum – looks delish!

Sugar has been my biggest health battle of all. I get addicted to it very easily, so try to stay away all I can.

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Happy When Not Hungry

These macaroons look delicious! I love the candy apple flavors too. Yum!

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Amy

These sound so wonderful! I love that they use healthy sweetener alternatives! You have used some of my favorite things, almond butter and coconut…yum! I will have to give these a try :)!

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Evan @swEEts

I’m not a huge fan of coconut, but I think I could take the candy apple portion of this and use something else to coat it to make it equally delicious! Kudos to you for limiting your sugar intake.. I just couldn’t do it.

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Jenny (Fit Girl Foodie)

I love the incorporation of apples into this dish. I try not to eat a lot of sugar just because it makes me crave more :(

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Mary M

My nickname for sugar is “satan.” I have to limit is or my stomach will go into cramping spasms. It sucks. Two of my favorite blogs are Ricki’s (dietdessertndogs.com) and Kim’s (affairsofliving.com) – they are both amazing. :)

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

I’ve never heard sugar be called that! Thanks for recommending those two blogs, I’ll have to check them out :)

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Ryan @ Aloha Appetite

I bet these smell amazing.

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Carrie (Moves 'N Munchies)

this is amazing!! i cannot believe they are sugar free!!!!!!

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Joy

Those look wonderful.

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Jessica

Oh SO nice to see a recipe for macaroons that does not use eggs! I am allergic to dairy, eggs, and gluten and this recipe is perfect! I will certainly share it with my clients experiencing similar allergies. Thanks for sharing!!

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Joanna

Hi there! This recipe sounds delish and I was hoping that you might add it to my Easter and Spring Linking Party to share with my readers. If you are interested, you can go here http://bakedbyjoanna.blogspot.com/2011/04/easter-linking-party.html to enter. Thanks!

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Shellina

Whoa momma these are gorgeous! I absolutely love this idea- so yummy. Good work!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Thanks! They are pretty tasty :D

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Gretchen

Your coconut & low or no sugar recipes are tasty and intriguing. I had a bit of a proportion problem with this recipe as my apples were bigger than ‘large’, they were like godzilla-size. So I went to Nutrition Data (http://nutritiondata.self.com/) and found out how much small, medium, large apples weighed and then measured by weight for large apples. These macaroons were sooo wet even after baking the full 15 minutes & my oven usually bakes faster than average. They baked for another 20 minutes before they were no longer wet lumps of coconut! End result was toasty golden & a little more brown on the bottom and I am having them with my morning coffee – yummers! So, what size apples did you start with??

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Gretchen

Your coconut & low or no sugar recipes are tasty and intriguing. I had a bit of a proportion problem with this recipe as my apples were bigger than ‘large’, they were like godzilla-size. So I went to Nutrition Data (http://nutritiondata.self.com/) and found out how much small, medium, large apples weighed and then measured by weight for large apples. These macaroons were sooo wet even after baking the full 15 minutes & my oven usually bakes faster than average. They baked for another 20 minutes before they were no longer wet lumps of coconut! End result was toasty golden & a little more brown on the bottom and I am having them with my morning coffee – yummers! So, what size apples did you start with??

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Thanks Gretchen! I’m happy you gave the macaroons a try but am sorry they didn’t exactly work out for you. I started with a medium sized apple. Maybe next time, try ringing out the liquids in the shreds of apple, that could help. Maybe my apples were a bit dryer than yours.

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Samantha

I cannot wait to try these, I’ve saved the recipe and plan on making them within the next week. I made your cashew salad dressing the other night and had it for lunch today (with a few tweeks) and absolutely loved it. I saw your question of the day about blogs that use alternative sugars… if you want to check mine out, I have many recipes that do… (all my recent ones from the past five months or so… when I decided to cook vegan) before that… I didn’t care as much but now I make a conscious effort not to use refined sugars…

- Samantha
http://flavorator.blogspot.com/ :)

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Doreen Ross

Leanne,
I adore your website. You write clearly and everything I have tried to date has turned out wonderful. I am a private chef and I am passionate about cooking healthfully for my clients. I even love the manner in which you reply to your readers. It is refreshing. Thank you for doing what you do…so well.
Doreen

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Thank you, Doreen :)

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barb

The only sweeteners I use are stevia and banana. sigh. Oh, I can tolerate 1 tsp of honey per day, but then I can’t have anything else, so I don’t usually bother. I have found a yummy gluten free cookie by Gogo Quinoa that is super low in cane sugar, and my body doesn’t react. Hallelujah! There’s only 2 grams per cookie. Meanwhile, I’m still looking for good recipes that low in calories and sweetnened with banana or stevia only. Keep up the good work!

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Colette

Hello, My boys loved the coconut macaroons , so now I am going to try your apple recipe….When I think of apples, I automatically think cinnamon..Would like to know if you agree the spice will work with this recipe, or is there a reason not to add it. If I were to roll the balls in cinnamon, what type sugar could I use to work best with the balls? I agree with Gretchen; I had the prob. of my “coco-balls” being a bit too wet. They took 20 min. and this is why I flattened and flipped them twice. Thanks, Colette

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Hi Colette, when you shred the apples you could try to squeeze out the additional juices over the sink. I must have had some dry apples! I’m sure cinnamon would work. You could try mixing cinnamon + brown sugar or palm sugar. Good luck :)

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Colette

THANKS :) I agree, certain apples have more moisture. We have a transparent apple tree (old time variety- great for pie apples) that is very dry, and one of the same type that are soft and juicy (great for applesauce but not sweet enough for juicing) I will try brown sugar….Blessings <3

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Kim

Hi! These sound amazing! I love honey – I just got another container of local honey when we went apple picking the other day – perfect! I’m going to sub sunbutter and sunflower seed flour because of allergies, let’s hope it works! :)

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