My favorite Refined Sugar-free sweeteners

Navigating sweeteners can be tricky. How many times have you seen a recipe that states sugar-free but includes honey, molasses, agave syrup or another form of a sweetener?  These, my friends, are still forms of sugar. If you are confused about what constitutes sugar and how refined sugar is different from natural sugars found in food, you are not alone. Let’s have a short sugar primer. Sugar refers to a simple carbohydrate. There are natural forms of sugar that are found naturally in food, this would be the sugar in fruit (known as fructose), dairy products (known as lactose). Refined sugar typically comes from sugar canes or sugar beets, where the sugar is extracted from these products. This refined sugar does not typically have much additional nutritional value besides the carbohydrates, whereas sugar from fruit and milk products have the benefits of vitamins and minerals, protein and fiver.

Now, I am not against sugars and and believe sugar has a place for children, but I love to find alternatives that make my recipes just as sweet with added nutrition.  Here are some of my favorite non-refined sugar sweeteners I use in many of my recipes, how to use them in simple baked goods, and the nutrition they provide.

  • Ripe bananas: I love having very ripe bananas in my kitchen most of the time.  Super ripe bananas provide lots of sweetness and are really easy to mash into recipes, they can also add a creamy texture to many recipes.  I use bananas in most of my muffins and they are great in pancakes and waffles as well. I recommend mashing these with a potato masher or fork, or you can blend into a product for a smoother texture. Bananas are a good source of many vitamins and minerals like Potassium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, they also contain fiber! Bananas are a stable in so many of my muffin recipes. Two of my favorite are these spinach and banana blender muffins and these spinach and banana yogurt drops

  • Dates: These babies are a delicious addition baked goods, like brownies. They provide a wonderful sweet flavor, very similar to table sugar. Soaking dates in water before using them in a recipe and blending them up to creates a nice date paste, that can be really versatile - such as these date and oat balls. One of my favorite ways to use dates are black bean brownies. Dates contain Potassium, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese, Iron, Vitamin B6 and are loaded with fiber. They can also provide some constipation relief, so can be a welcome addition into the diet of someone who needs a little help in this area.

  • Apple sauce and apples: Apple sauce (or blended apples) can help sweeten up many dishes. Applesauce can be a sugar, or even oil replacement, and grated fresh apple can add a sweet flavor to many dishes. Besides using apple in baked goods,  I love to add shredded apples to salad for a nice sweetness. Grated apple is a great addition to my zucchini apple-cinnamon cookies and apple sauce helps to sweeten this breakfast applesauce amaranth porridge. Apples contain vitamin C, potassium and vitamin K, as well as fiber.

  • Unsweetened shredded coconut: If you are a fan of coconut flavor, this should be a staple in your kitchen. Keep in mind, unsweetened coconut is very different from coconut sugar or sweetened coconut.  Unsweetened coconut can be added to many recipes, like these sweet potato and coconut breakfast cookies. Coconut actually contains all of the recommended macronutrients: carbs, protein and fat. And fat is a key nutrient in the development of babies and toddlers. Unsweetened coconut also contains calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

  • Sweet potato: My final sweetener, technically a vegetable. Sweet potato is a welcome addition to so many dishes, and imparts a creamyness to so many recipes. My favorite way to add sweet potato is in my sweet potato banana mini muffins.

There you have it! My 5 favorite refined sugar-free sweeteners. Have you had a chance to give any of these a try? Let me know how it goes!