You probably know that sugar isn’t the healthiest food, but the risks go way beyond a sugar crash or a cavity. Sugar can increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease—and some studies suggest that even artificial sweeteners can make you consume even more calories. Instead of going cold turkey, try some of these healthier sugar substitutions:
History lesson time: The Aztecs used agave thousands of years ago and praised this syrup as a gift from gods. Derived from the plant used to make tequila (cheers!), this golden sweetener tastes similar to honey and is perfect in hot or iced tea. Just use it in moderation—agave is high in fructose.
The benefits of maple syrup are aplenty: It comes directly from a plant’s sap and contains more than antioxidants. Go for the real stuff , and spread it over waffles or use it in homemade granola.
Fans of gin can skip the extra sugar in a Tom Collins and add an extra lemon squeeze—we promise no one will notice what’s missing.
This scrumptious stuff packs an antioxidant punch. Enjoy some in hot tea to help soothe a scratchy throat, or get creative and add a spoonful to homemade salad dressing.
Instead of a half-cup of white sugar in a batch of oatmeal cookies, swap in an equal amount of applesauce! The natural sweetness from a Golden Delicious or Fuji apple is perfect in an after-dinner treat. Purchase the no-sugar-added kind, or make your applesauce from scratch.
This sugar alcohol is practically a guilt-free sweet solution. (And the FDA says it’s safe!) At 0.2 calories per gram, the white powder comes from a plant and occurs naturally in many fruits. Plus, it doesn’t lead to tooth decay and other not-so-sweet effects of eating sugar. Try it in chocolate baked goods like brownies, but remember that it’s not quite as sweet as granulated sugar.
With antioxidants and fiber, these little dried grapes will sweeten any baked good. For a creative spin on things, blend a cup of raisins in a food processer, and add it to your batter or dough.
Spice up your morning cup of coffee with cinnamon. This super spice adds a subtle sweetness and boosts your immunity—all without adding any calories.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
For a warm winter treat, mix some unsweetened cocoa powder in a glass of hot water or skim milk. It’ll satisfy your sweet tooth without all the extra sugar in sweetened mixes. Add a splash of vanilla extract for extra flavor!
This natural extract comes from stevia plants in South America. (But don’t worry—the FDA recognizes it as safe.) It only takes a drop or two to sweeten a bowl of oatmeal.
Cut back on the sugar, and add cranberries to a batch of muffins or scones. These little tart treats add a dose of antioxidants that refined sugar can’t offer.
For an extra boost of antioxidants in your next baking experiment, substitute two-thirds of a cup of dates for one cup of granulated sugar in brownie batter. Or, use them as a base for homemade granola bars. Dates have a low glycemic index and add a subtle sweetness.
For a daily dose of vitamin C, add grapefruit juice to your cocktail instead of soda or tonic water. It’ll add a sweet and sour kick to any beverage.
Get a little tropical, and use coconut sugar in a fruit smoothie. Made from the sap of coconut flowers, this natural sugar comes in block, paste, or granulated form. Plus, it’s loaded with potassium, which helps strengthen bones.
Brown Rice Syrup
Brown rice syrup comes from (you guessed it!) brown rice. With a lower glycemic index than high-fructose corn syrup, this nutty-tasting syrup works well in granola bars and baked breads.