If you walk around the grocery store and read the nutrition labels, you’ll notice there’s added sugar in almost everything. Tomato sauce? Why does that need to be sweet? Peanut butter? Unnecessary. It’s no wonder most U.S. adults consume more sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet. And now we're addicted. 

If you’ve been following food news in the past year, then you’ve probably heard about the sugar industry subsidizing research to place fat as the perpetrator of heart disease while covering up the negative health effects of sugar. A diet high in sugar increases triglycerides in the blood, which increases the risk of heart disease. Further, sugar has been linked to the rise of diabetes over the last three decades. The World Health Organization now recommends that only 5% of your daily calories come from sugar.

I have had a bit of a battle balancing the amount of sugar in my diet. At some point in high school when hormones got intense and my acne got really bad, my dad recommended I monitor how much sugar I eat, as he found too much would cause him to break out. That's when I started going weeks without any refined sugar, agonizing over even the tiniest bite. But then I'd find myself drooling over the sight of a piece of chocolate. 

I have found that if I eat too much sugar, my skin isn’t happy with me. But, as we all know, deprivation is not the answer. It took a while for me to find balance in my diet but I finally feel I have a better understanding of what makes me feel good. Switching out refined sugar for natural sugar in as many places as you can will satisfy your sweet tooth without the harmful effects!

Here are some delicious sources of natural sugar you can incorporate into your diet.

1. Dates

date, sweet
Kiera Murphy

Dates are so sweet and gooey, they make for a gratifying dessert on their own. But they’re also great added to brownie, cake, muffin or cookie recipes in place of sugar. Plus, they’re high in fiber, protein and vitamins.

2. Maple Syrup

whisky, liquor, alcohol, wine, beer
Kiera Murphy

Pure maple syrup has been found to contain antioxidants and various minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and more. The presence of zinc and magnesium support a healthy heart and immune system. Make your own granola at home and add some maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. It's much better for you than store-bought cereals!

3. Molasses

juice, soy sauce, beer, soda, alcohol, liquor, wine
Kiera Murphy

Molasses is arguably the most nutritionally dense of the options on this list. It contains various vitamins and essential minerals, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, potassium and more. I’ve read about people who will eat a spoonful of blackstrap molasses a day because of its numerous health benefits. To ease your way to a spoonful a day, you can start by drizzling some over smoothie bowls or adding it into your cookie recipes.

4. Coconut Sugar

cream, cappuccino, espresso, chocolate, coffee
Kiera Murphy

Many of the nutrients of the coconut palm are retained when coconut sugar is made, including iron, zinc, potassium and calcium. With a lower glycemic index, this serves as a great alternative to table sugar. Sprinkling some on your oatmeal in the morning will start your day off sweet but healthy.

And to just further prove that you can enjoy amazing desserts without added refined sugar, give this vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe a try! #SpoonTip: Trader Joe’s semisweet chocolate chips are actually vegan so those are a great option. And they only add a small amount of sugar per cookie.

Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies (Refined Sugar-Free and Vegan)

  • Prep Time:10 mins
  • Cook Time:15 mins
  • Total Time:25 mins
  • Servings:12
  • Easy


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil melted can substitute olive oil if preferred
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
tea, beer
Kiera Murphy
  • Step 1

    Preheat oven to 350F.

  • Step 2

    In a medium bowl, first mix the dry ingredients and the salt.

    porridge, brown rice, rice, cereal
    Kiera Murphy
  • Step 3

    Add the almond milk, coconut oil, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Then stir in the chocolate chips.

    milk, cookie, cereal, rice, oatmeal
    Kiera Murphy
  • Step 4

    Use a spoon to scoop out the dough. Any size you prefer is fine, but I do recommend making sure you press the dough down rather than leaving it in a ball as it won’t change shape much while baking. You can sprinkle some sea salt on top for a little something extra if you'd like!

    pastry, goody, cake, sweet, cookie, chocolate
    Kiera Murphy
  • Step 5

    Place your cookies on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy!

    Just a note: I made my cookies pretty thick, so I made a smaller batch and they took a bit longer than 15 minutes to cook. I definitely prefer them less thick though, for future Kiera's reference.

    cream, dairy product, milk, sweet, cookie, chocolate
    Kiera Murphy