The dreaded sweet tooth strikes again. Most of us know sugar isn’t the healthiest food item, but the risks go way beyond a sugar crash or a cavity . And artificial sweeteners can sometimes add even more calories to a meal. Instead of going cold (and sugarless) turkey, try some of these healthier sugar substitutions that’ll still satisfy our stomachs— and potentially make us sweeter, too.
1. Agave Nectar History lesson time: The Aztecs used agave thousands of years ago and praised this syrup as a gift from gods. A derivative of the same plant as tequila (cheers!), this golden sweetener tastes similar to honey and is perfect in hot or iced tea. But be sure to use in moderation — agave’s high fructose content can sometimes cross it in to the dangerfood zone!
2. Maple Syrup The benefits of maple syrup are aplenty: It comes directly from a plant’s sap and contains over 50 antioxidants. Make sure to grab the real stuff (sorry, Aunt Jemima) and spread it over waffles or use it in homemade granola.
3. Honey Thanks to bees, 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.
4. Applesauce Instead of a half-cup 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 some at home.
5. Lemon Fans of gin can skip the extra sugar in a Tom Collins and add an extra lemon squeeze— we promise no one will notice.
6. Cinnamon Spice up a morning cup of coffee with cinnamon. This super spice adds subtle sweetness while boosting immunity, no calories included.
7. Grapefruit For a daily dose of vitamin C, opt for grapefruit juice in a cocktail over soda or tonic water. It’ll add a sweet and sour kick to any beverage.
8. Erythritol 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 from a plantoccurs naturally in many fruits. Plus, it doesn’t lead to tooth decay and other not-so-sweet effects of sugar consumption. It’s not quite as sweet as natural sugar, so try it in chocolate baked goods like brownies.
9. Raisins For a creative spin on things, blend a cup of raisins in a food processer. With antioxidants and fiber, these little dried grapes add a kick to any baked good.
10. 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 that sweet tooth without all the extra sugar the sweetened version includes. Add a splash of vanilla extract for extra flavor!
11. Reb A Hailing from South America, this natural extract comes from the stevia plant and is recognized by the FDA as safe. Just a drop or two is all it takes to sweeten a bowl of oatmeal.
12. Cranberries Skip the cup of sugar and add cranberries to a batch of muffinsor scones. These little tart treats add a dose of antioxidants refined sugar can’t offer.
13. Processed Dates Grab a bunch of dates for an extra boost of antioxidants in the next baking experiment . With a low glycemic index and some subtle sweetness, it may be perfect for brownie batter or the base of homemade granola bars . Substitute two-thirds cup for one cup of regular sugar.
14. Coconut Sugar 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 keep our bones strong.
15. Brown Rice Syrup Brown rice syrup comes from (you guessed it!) brown rice. More nutritious than its high-fructose alternative, this buttery and nutty flavored syrup is perfect in granola bars and baked breads.
16. Rapadura This sweet treat’s made from sugar cane but skips the refining stage, so it retains vitamins and minerals lost when white sugar is processed. Keep the one-to-one ratio when swapping rapadura for sugar in baked goods.
17. Lime Make juice boxes a thing of the past and spice up a glass of sparkling water with a squeeze of lime. The tart and tang will keep taste buds satisfied without the extra sugar rush.
18. Puréed Banana In the next loaf of banana bread, try using extra-ripe bananasand eliminating the sugar. The fruit naturally becomes sweeter as it ripens, so there’s no need for extra sugar .
19. Frozen Juice Concentrate Use apple juice concentrate in homemade apple pie. With additional fiber and antioxidants, the pie will be a sweet solution for a nutritious dessert!
20. Barley Malt Extract Derived from barley, this protein-packed syrup is perfect in a pecan or pumpkin pie. The dark syrup’s similar to molasses and will enhance the flavor of any baked treat.
21. Sucanat Introducing sugar in its most natural state! Sucanat is a sneaky acronym that stands for SUgar CAne NATural. This sweetener is made from organic cane sugar and packs in some nutrients white sugar lacks. Go au natural with these delicious apple bars!
22. Apricot Puree Apricots are a nutritional A+ with vitamin C, fiber, and iron. Make some of the sweet stuff right at home and mix it in plain Greek yogurtor enjoy it with hearty whole-grain bread.
23. Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice In a batch of homemade bread, swap out the sugar for fresh orange juice. Looking for a cool treat? Freeze some juice in an ice-pop mold rather than buying what’s in the freezer section.
24. Club Soda Health up that next large glass of fruit juice with some club soda— even a simple three-to-one juice to club soda ratio saves some major sugar calories.
25. Milk The natural sugar in milk adds a touch of sweetness to that morning cup of Joe, so think twice before adding a teaspoon or two of sugar. The lactose in milk may do the trick.
26. Tea Leaves Fruity or earthy leaves like pomegranate and green tea arenaturally sugar-free and add an extra nutritional kick to any beverage. Use them in liquor for a surprising healthy twist.
27. Molasses What happens when sugar cane, grapes, and beets get together? Molasses! Use this dark syrup in a recipe for gingerbread cookies. It’ll add someextra iron and calcium, which makes the cookies healthy, right?
28. Rum Alcohol ain’t just for drinking— caramelize a few slices of pineapple in rum and add them to pancakes or unsweetened yogurt. Now that’s a fancy way to stay sweet!
29. Balsamic Glaze Ditch the Funfetti frosting and add a generous drizzle ofbalsamic glaze to angel food cake. Simply simmer balsamic vinegar until it forms a thick syrup.
30. Yacón Syrup A sweetening agent extracted from the yacón plant, this molasses-y syrup has hints of apple and just half the calories of cane sugar. It’s sweet just like honey, so a little goes a long way in baked goods and raw fruit smoothies.