With Diwali just around the corner, the big question on everybody’s mind is what sweet to gift. Gone are the days when a box of delicious sweetmeats from the neighbourhood vendor could make the cut. Now, unless your gift is free of sugar, gluten, calories, preservatives, artificial colours, fun and animal products to name a few, it’s likely to get passed on to the hired help or worse thrown out.
Traditionally speaking, one would indulge in decadent sweets only on special occasions like festivals and birthdays. However, with today’s changing lifestyle and easy access to everything good and bad, sweets no longer come with any restrictions. As a result, we are spoilt for choice.
While the decision to gift chocolates over mithai might have nothing to do with the nutritive value of either, there are some helpful tips to consider before taking the final plunge:
- Indian sweets, made using traditional ingredients and methods, will have a longer shelf life than sugar, fat and / or gluten free alternatives. This is because salt, sugar and fat act as natural preservatives in addition to enhancing flavour, texture and mouthfeel of the end product.
- Not all dark chocolate is actually dark chocolate. Many home bakers and stand alone shops use chocolate compound instead of actual chocolate in their truffles, cookies, cakes, etc. Chocolate compound is made up of hydrogenated fat (not cocoa butter) which is cheap, less reactive and less likely to melt in tropical climates like in India. Consumption of hydrogenated fat has been linked to numerous lifestyle disease like childhood obesity and type- two diabetes.
- Natural sugar free alternatives are not natural. The common misconception that anything labelled natural is indeed natural is widespread. Natural alternatives to sugar like stevia, maple syrup and agave nectar are highly processed to make stable and easy to package. While their source of sweetness might steam from their natural state, they are never sold in the same form.
- Gluten- Free, Sugar- Free, Fat-Free, etc. does not mean healthy. Speciality sweets are catered to people with specific health conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes, celiac disease, etc. Gluten, fat and sugar is not universally bad, nor are their replacements necessarily healthier.