Sugar. Baked inside a gooey-chewy, chocolate chip cookie, in your fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, or hidden in seemingly healthy salad dressing, it’s in our lives for the long-haul.
At 15 calories per teaspoon, it’s easy to over indulge—especially when sugar hides in so many foods and drinks. If you’re counting calories or limiting carbs these natural sugar substitutes will satisfy your sweet tooth while providing additional nutritional value.
1. Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut palm sugar is made from the sap extracted from coconut trees then boiled and dehydrated into fine sugar crystals. It has the appearance and taste of brown sugar. Coconut palm sugar has the same amount of carbs and calories as regular sugar (sorry, no way around that), but because of the refining process, the sap retains several of its key vitamins including Potassium, Zinc, and Vitamin C; making coconut palm sugar a more nutrient-rich option than the empty calories of white sugar.
You can use coconut palm sugar in just about anything. It’s a good substitute when baking, and tastes amazing in cookies, sweet breads, and pies.
2. Agave Syrup
Agave syrup comes from the agave plant, a succulent related to the yucca. Agave’s been harvested for centuries. Its syrup has a low-glycemic index, which means it won’t cause a sharp spike in your body’s blood sugar levels.
Agave can be substituted for sugar in most recipes. It’s exceptionally sweet, so you won’t need as much to achieve to same level of sweetness as you would with sugar. In recipes, substitute about 1/3 of a cup of agave syrup for every one cup of sugar. It also goes well in tea and coffee—and, you’ll only need a small drop.
3. Raw Honey
To achieve its beautiful, Winnie the Pooh-approved golden radiance and smooth texture, most honey is processed. Nutritionally, it’s not much different than regular sugar.
Raw honey hasn’t been pasteurized and maintains a variety of health benefits including antioxidants, immune support, and phytonutrients.
Raw honey is raw for a reason—it loses many of its health benefits when heated. While raw honey is deliciously perfectly on toast, pita chips, or as an accompaniment on a cheese platter, it’s not ideal for baking with or sweetening hot tea.
4. Pureed Dates
Dates are sticky and sweet—a perfect swap for sugar. Dates are a whole food, so they’re full of nutrients including iron, phosphorus, copper, and manganese. They’re also full of fiber, meaning your body will absorb the sugar more slowly—so no blood sugar spike. Dates are the perfect all-natural sugar substitution for feeling good about eating sweets.
To make a pureed date paste: Add one cup of pitted Medjool dates (or substitute any other type of date) to 1/4 cup of hot water. Blend in a food processor until a thick paste forms. Add more water if necessary for a smoother paste. Use date paste like you’d use honey or any other sweet spread. Oh! And it’s paleo-friendly, perfect for baked goods.
Zero calories and all-natural. Seems too good to be true, right? Stevia, a plant native to South America, has been cultivated for centuries for its sweet flavor and medicinal properties. It’s much sweeter than sugar, so when replacing it you don’t need nearly as much. In fact, for every one cup of sugar, the stevia equivalent is approximately one teaspoon of liquid or powder extract.
Replacing stevia with sugar requires some finagling. Because you don’t need as much, when used for baking you’ll need a bulking agent—like eggs, applesauce, or plant protein powder—to give your recipe volume. Until you’re really comfortable with this substitution process, try following a specific recipe instead of doing it on the fly.
Whether you’ve got a hankering for a late-night snack or want to sweeten your morning coffee, if you’re trying to limit your sugar intake, make those choices healthier with one of these natural sugar substitutes. Of course this is on top of already balancing your blood sugars with our amazing Pink Drink!