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So many sweeteners! 13 alternatives for your family during #NoSugarTODAY

by Lisa Leake /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY Contributor

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Added sugar is no longer reserved for sweet treats and candies anymore, which means many of us are (unknowingly) consuming sweeteners in excessive amounts. And since sugar itself is not the devil — it’s the quantity in which it’s being consumed — the #NoSugarTODAY 10-day challenge is the perfect way to help us all get back on track!

Lisa Leake and her daughters enjoy a cookie recipe that uses dried, pitted dates as the sweetener instead of added sugar.
Lisa Leake and her daughters enjoy a cookie recipe that uses dried, pitted dates as the sweetener instead of added sugar. "It's all the chocolate without any of the guilt!" Leake explained.Kelly Trimble

My family took a challenge of our own a few years ago called “100 Days of Real Food,” but I must admit we kept honey and pure maple syrup on the table. Even though we used, and still use, those more natural options in moderation, they are still very much sweeteners, and so for the #NoSugarTODAY challenge, they are not allowed!

Putting yourself to the test with a brief challenge can be fun and help open your eyes to a new perspective, but — let’s face it — avoiding something like sugar 100 percent of the time is simply not realistic for most people. Since being perfect is overrated, I’m excited to share with you some better alternatives to the sugary sweet stuff.


Bad: Flavored and sweetened store-bought yogurt that contains added, refined (or artificial) sugar.

Better: Plain yogurt that you sweeten yourself with a teaspoon of pure maple syrup, a splash of vanilla extract and fresh berries.

Best: Plain yogurt topped with fresh berries.

Nutritional labels on boxes
Watch out for excessive sweeteners in many boxed cereals.iStock

Boxed cereals

Bad: Sweetened, boxed cereal that likely contains other junky additives as well.

Better: A boxed cereal with very low sugar content (no more than a few grams per serving) or homemade granola cereal made with honey (my personal favorite breakfast).

Best: A plain cereal such as 1-ingredient shredded wheat (with no frosting added).

Salad dressing

Bad: Store-bought bottled salad dressing that contains added, refined sweetener and likely other additives such as emulsifiers and preservatives.

Better: Store-bought bottled salad dressing free of refined sweeteners.

Best: Homemade dressing made from scratch (not from a packet) — trust me, this one is much easier and better tasting than you’d think.

RELATED: Here's the only salad dressing recipe you'll ever need


Bad: Sodas, sports drinks, sweetened teas, and other colorful beverages made with added sweeteners.

Better: An all-natural fruit juice in moderation (which is basically concentrated, naturally occurring sweetener from the fruit), but contains no added sugar.

Best: Water with a squeeze of citrus or infusion of fresh cucumbers (or plain, which I’ve learned is an acquired taste for some!)

Granola and other bars

Bad: A store-bought, boxed variety that often contains a variety of sweeteners and other additives (even the organic ones!)

Better: A store-bought variety that is light on the sweetener (no more than a few grams per serving) or made-from-scratch granola bars using honey.

Best: Two- or three-ingredient fruit and nut bars (store-bought) or a homemade knock-off version.

Book cover for "100 Days of Real Food" by Lisa Leake.
Lisa Leake is the author of "100 Days of Real Food."Lisa Leake


Bad: Jelly sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

Better: “All-fruit” jelly spread sweetened with fruit juice concentrate.

Best: Freshly mashed fruit (like bananas or strawberries) with no sweetener.


Bad: Store-bought cookies full of refined sugar and other junky additives.

Better: Homemade cookies made from scratch (not a tube or box) using only three-quarters or half the sugar the recipe calls for.

Best: No cookies? Not gonna happen!

Lisa Leake is a wife, mother, foodie, blogger and author of the bestselling book "100 Days of Real Food," which helps readers seek out the real food in our processed food world. Lisa has appeared on Dr. Oz, Good Morning America, CNN, and The Doctors TV Show.

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