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How to Sweeten Meals without Refined Sugar

Got a sweet tooth that never settles down? You’re not alone! From jazzing up oatmeal with a heap of sugar to letting the spoon slip a bit when mixing up iced tea, some of us just crave that extra sweetness in desserts, drinks, meals, and mid-day treats. But reducing your refined sugar intake can be great for your overall health.

Can’t quit sweets altogether? No problem! There are practical swaps you can make that reduce refined sugar intake without leaving meals dull. From natural sweeteners to taste-bud tricks, explore the different options and find a sweet swap that works for you!

Healthy Habit: Reduce Refined Sugar

Studies show that increased sugar consumption can raise a person’s risk of developing certain diseases. Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are just a few of the ailments linked to diets high in refined sugar. With that said, there’s no need to cut out sugar completely. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to eliminate! Sugar is naturally present in a lot of foods, including fresh fruits and veggies. Many of these natural food sources are packed with other vitamins and minerals needed to maintain a balanced diet. In other words, stressing about sugar isn’t the solution. Instead, getting that sweetness from more natural sources packed with other nutrients is a good start. And cutting out extra sugar – the refined granules that you add to meals or drinks – is not a bad idea either. With a few smart swaps, you can still satisfy a sweet tooth – without relying on refined sugar. Take a look at these easy ideas for sweetening meals in a healthier way.


Swirled into a smoothie, spread across toast, or drizzled on roasting ham, honey is a delicious ingredient that adds impeccable sweetness to a variety of meals, drinks, and desserts. Technically speaking, honey is still a form of sugar, but it offers much healthier components overall. While honey does contain fructose, it also contains admirable levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, many believe that eating local honey can help reduce seasonal allergies. That sounds like a win, win, win!


For power-packed sweetness with just a tiny pinch, stevia may be your next go-to swap for sweetening cold or hot drinks. This plant-based sweetener has zero calories – yes, you read that correctly, ZERO. And even better, one of the main compounds in stevia has been shown to lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and insulin levels.


Bakery items and chewy treats aren’t left off this list! Dates are one of the most popular sweets around the world, and they are such a simple way to satisfy cravings. If you’re not a fan of eating them straight, add a few chopped dates to cookies, scones, or baked bread to boost sweetness. Other dried fruits, like raisins and apricots, also work well for adding a healthy dose of sweetness to baked goods.


Finally, you can trick your taste buds into thinking something is sweet by adding flavorful spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla are all excellent boosters that offer strong flavors closely associated with sweetness. Add these to oatmeal, hot cocoa, or homemade pies for a delicious treat that tastes sweet – without so much sugar.

All in all, reducing your refined sugar intake can be a healthy choice. By using creative swaps, you can keep your sweet tooth satisfied while you’re at it!

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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