Hungry Girl: Skimping on Refined Sugar? Try These Natural Swaps

09/29/2014 at 10:33 AM ET

Sugar Substitutes
Kristin Duvall/Getty; Courtesy Hungry Girl

Lisa Lillien is the author of the popular Hungry Girl website and email newsletter, featuring smart, funny advice on guilt-free eating. She is also the author of nine books, six of which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Monday for slimmed-down celebrity recipes and more.

Lots of people are cutting back on refined sugar these days — are you one of them? If so, here are a few ways to do it…

Calorie-Free Sugar Substitutes

Stevia
Stevia has become a pretty popular all-natural calorie-free sweetener, popping up in little green packets and even some soft drinks. I really like Truvia, but PureVia and Stevia In The Raw are also great. Stevia In The Raw even comes in a variety that measures cup-for-cup like granulated sugar. Vitaminwater Zero is sweetened with stevia, and soda sippers looking for a natural alternative should check out Blue Sky Zero.

Monk fruit
Also known as luo han guo, this very sweet fruit is being used to make natural sweeteners that are calorie-free. Monk Fruit In The Raw comes in packets as well as bakers’ bags. And monk fruit extract can be found in certain varieties of popular food products…maybe more of them than you realize. Some Vitalicious products (including most of my beloved chocolatey VitaTops), some cereals by Kashi, all of the Chobani 100.

Fruit-Based Fixes

Fruit is a great option when it comes to naturally satisfying your sweet tooth. Plus, fruit packs healthy fiber, which will help to keep you feeling full. Check out these recipe ideas!

Apple Pie in a Mug
In a microwave-safe mug sprayed with nonstick spray, mix 1 cup chopped apple, ½ tsp. cinnamon, ⅛ tsp. lemon juice, and 1 no-calorie sweetener packet (like the kinds mentioned above). Mix well, cover, and microwave for 2 minutes, or until softened. The result is a dessert-y treat with under 100 calories and not a bit of refined sugar. This one’s a favorite in The Hungry Girl Diet!

Creamy Coconut Raspberry Smoothie
Traditional smoothies often have loads of excess sugar. In this recipe, the combo of juicy raspberries and no-calorie sweetener results in sweet indulgence you can feel good about sipping. Only 106 calories, plus 7.5g fiber!

Other Natural Alternatives, Plus an Important Heads-Up

These sugar substitutes are natural (though they often undergo some processing), but they generally contain as many calories and grams of sugar as the real thing — sometimes more. Try combining them with the calorie-free stuff to keep those numbers in check!

Honey
There are many honey varieties on shelves; these can be good in hot drinks and for baking. Each teaspoon has about 20 calories.

Agave nectar
This syrup is made from the agave plant. It’s not as thick as honey, yet it’s more intensely sweet. It’s also vegan friendly. A teaspoon has around 20 calories.

Coconut sugar
If you need something granulated, this is a good option. The flavor’s a little more like brown sugar than regular white sugar, but it’s nice. Each teaspoon has about 15 calories, similar to traditional sugar.

‘Til next time… Chew the right thing!

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