32 Sweet Recipes to Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake

  • By Jennifer Mulder
  • 20 March 2023
  • 12 minute read
32 Sweet Recipes to Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake | The Health Sessions

Let’s not sugar-coat it: Most of us eat and drink way too much sugar – even though we know it wrecks havoc on our health.

On average, an American adult consumes 17 teaspoons of added sugars a day. That’s almost double or triple the recommended amount of no more than 9 teaspoons of sugar for men and no more than 6 teaspoons for women. And sadly, the statistics are even worse for American kids.

Sugar naturally occurs in fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy products. But because these foods also contain fibers, vitamins and other healthy compounds that slow down its digestion, those natural sugars provide a pretty steady supply of energy to your body. The refined sugar that’s added to so many processed foods, however, are absorbed more quickly into your blood stream, causing spikes in your blood glucose levels.

Research after research shows that a diet high in sugar raises your blood pressure, increases inflammation in the body and overloads your liver. Consequently, consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and fatty liver disease. In recent years, studies have also found a link between high blood sugar levels and cognitive decline, even Alzheimer’s disease.

We all know that sugar is bad for us, but changing your habits is hard. Especially if you’re stressed, sleep deprived or in pain, you can get strong sugar cravings, while having less willpower to resits sweet temptations. So how can you reduce your refined sugar intake in a realistic and sustainable way?

Sources of Sugar

The sneaky thing is, sugar appears in your food under many different names, from brown sugar and high-fructose corn syrup to fructose, dextrose and sucrose. And even savory ingredients or healthy-appearing products like soups, condiments, granola and flavored yogurt can contain more sugar than you realized. So the first way to start reducing your refined sugar intake is by reading the labels of the food products that are pantry staples in your home.

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), most added sugar comes from 5 sources:

  1. Soda, sports drinks and fruit juices
  2. Sweet snacks and desserts
  3. Sweetened coffee and tea
  4. Candy
  5. Breakfast cereals and granola bars.

Knowing the biggest culprits of sugar in your diet can help you to figure out which foods contribute the most to your sugar intake – and the best place to start reducing your refined sugar consumption.

To get you started, I’ve rounded up 32 sweet recipes from each sugar source category that are still good for you.

We’ll focus mostly on reducing refined sugar, but many recipes do contain small amounts of natural sweeteners like fresh or dried fruits, a teaspoon honey or maple syrup, and sweet spices like vanilla, cacao or cinnamon. So if you’re struggling with (pre)diabetes or health problems related to your blood glucose levels, you might also want to be mindful of the total amount of carbohydrates in each recipe.

1. Skip the Soda

Sweetened beverages are the number one source of added sugar in the Western diet. And simply drinking one glass of soda every day can increase your chances of developing type-2 diabetes with 26 percent.

Unfortunately, artificially sweetened diet drinks are often not the best substitute. Studies suggest that artificial sweeteners can trick your brain into thinking (real) sugar is on its way, and still activate your insulin response. And as healthy as fruit juices seem, the high amount of fructose without fibers will still make your blood sugar rise – and plummet – quickly. Try these naturally sweet drinks instead!

8 Infused Water Recipes from Culinary Hill

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: 8 Infused Water Recipes from Culinary Hill | The Health Sessions

A Trio of Juices from Gourmande in the Kitchen

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: A Trio of Juices from Gourmande in the Kitchen | The Health Sessions

Matcha Mint Iced Tea from Love and Lemons

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Matcha Minted Iced Tea from Love and Lemons | The Health Sessions

Maple Water Herbal Iced Tea from Sweet Lizzy

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Maple Water Herbal Iced Tea from Sweet Lizzy | The Health Sessions

Chamomile Iced Latte with Vanilla from The First Mess

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Chamomile Iced Latte with Vanilla from The First Mess | The Health Sessions

Cold Coffee with Coffee Ice Cubes from Only Deco Love

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Cold Coffee with Coffee Ice Cubes from Only Deco Loves | The Health Sessions

Chocolate Almond Milk with Coffee Ice Cubes from Half Baked Harvest

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Chocolate Almond Milk with Coffee Ice Cubes from Half Baked Harvest | The Health Sessions

2. Hot and Healthy Drinks

According to studies, about two-thirds of coffee drinkers and one-third of tea drinkers put refined sugar, honey or other sweeteners in their warm drinks.

One easy way to reduce your refined sugar intake is by swapping sugar in your hot beverages for sprinkling raw cacao on your cappuccino or stirring a cinnamon stick in your tea. And of course you can choose naturally sugar-free beverages like green tea, herbal infusions, superfood lattes or a simple black coffee.

For more hot and healthy drinks that nourish your body and soul, check out these tasty recipes from around the web.

CCF Tea and Nettle from Ginger Tonic Botanicals

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: CCF Tea and Nettle from Ginger Tonic Botanicals | The Health Sessions

Tahini Rose Rooibos Latte from Tending the Table

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Tahini Rose Rooibos Latte from Tending the Table | The Health Sessions

Hot Chamomile Milk via Hello Glow

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Hot Chamomile Milk from Hello Glow | The Health Sessions

Bulletproof Coffee in 3 Easy Steps from Nyssa’s Kitchen

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Bulletproof Coffee in 3 Easy Steps from Nyssa's Kitchen | The Health Sessions

Coconut Chai Power Coffee from How Sweet Eats

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Coconut Chai Power Coffee from How Sweet Eats | The Health Sessions

Hemp Peppermint Hot Chocolate from Will Frolic for Food

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Hemp Peppermint Hot Chocolate from Will Frolic for Food | The Health Sessions

3. Breakfast: A Sweet Start without the Sugar

Breakfast staples like cereals, flavored yoghurts, jam and even healthy-looking granola contain more added sugar than is good for us. And that’s not even counting obviously sweet dishes like pancakes, waffles and French toast!  Thankfully, you can easily reduce your refined sugar consumption in the morning by choosing whole food alternatives, like:

  • Unsweetened yogurt with fresh fruit, nuts and seeds
  • Toast with slices of banana or strawberries, low-sugar chia jam or healthier Nutella
  • Overnight oats with healthy toppings.

When you have a little more time and energy to spare, the sweet breakfasts below are worth a try. Most can be prepped in advance and/or are freezer-friendly, so you can batch cook large portions and heat up leftovers in the morning!

Get a sweet start without the sugar with these breakfast recipes! 

Next-Level Chocolate Espresso Hazelnut Granola from Baked

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Next Level Chocolate Espresso Hazelnut Granola | The Health Sessions

Fried Apple and Almond Butter Toast from Two Spoons

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Fried Apple and Almond Butter Toast from Two Spoons | The Health Sessions
(Just skip the maple syrup on top to go sugar-free) 

Sweet Potato Paleo Breakfast Bowl from Paleo Gluten-Free

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Sweet Potato Paleo Breakfast Bowl | The Health Sessions

Low-Carb Cauliflower Porridge from Early Brawd

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Low-Carb Cauliflower Porridge from Early Brawd | The Health Sessions

5-Ingredient Pumpkin Protein Pancakes from The Girl on the Bloor

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: 5-Ingredient Pumpkin Protein Pancakes from The Girl on the Bloor | The Health Sessions

Morning Glory Breakfast Muffins from Evergeen Kitchen

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Morning Glory Breakfast Muffins from Evergreen Kitchen | The Health Sessions

As amazing as these sweet recipes sound, don’t forget all the delicious options for a savory breakfast! Of course you can have every kind of egg in the morning, but also try savory yogurts, hearty oatmeals or even a breakfast salad.

4. Satisfy your sweet tooth with healthier snacks

Do you mindlessly reach for the cookie jar or candy bars when the afternoon slump rolls around?

You can still satisfy your sweet tooth and keep your blood sugar levels stable by grabbing healthier snacks, like seasonal fruits, dried apricots or apple ‘chips’, cinnamon and chocolate covered nuts or a puffed rice cake with a healthy topping.

And if you love non-fuss healthy baking, let these nourishing muffins, brownie bites and granola bars bring some extra joy to your day!

Apple, Almond and Buckwheat Muffins from Green Kitchen Stories

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Apple, Almond and Buckwheat Muffins from Green Kitchen Stories | The Health Sessions

No-Baked Brownie Bites from Minimalist Baker

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: No-Bake Brownie Bites from Minimalist Baker | The Health Sessions

Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Cubes from Kalejunkie

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Cubes from Kalejunkie | The Health Sessions

Mexican Style Fruit Plate with Chili Lime Salt from Sugar and Charm

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Mexican Style Fruit Plate with Chili Lime Salt from Sugar and Charm | The Health Sessions

Chai Tea Popcorn from Bev Cooks

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Chai Tea Popcorn from Bev Cooks | The Health Sessions

Gluten-Free Granola Bars with Pistachio from The Awesome Green

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Gluten-Free Granola Bars with Pistachio from The Awesome Green | The Health Sessions

5. Have Healthier Desserts

Choosing to eat healthy doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. You can have delicious desserts while still reducing your refined sugar intake through smart food swaps and healthier ingredients. Thankfully, there are so many recipes online for healthier holiday desserts, summery stone fruit crisps, and better-for-you ice cream.

Just keep Michael Pollans food rule in mind – “Treat treats as treats” – and enjoy something sweet but good for you after dinner!

Pomegranate Chia Pudding from Sprouts and Krauts

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Pomegranate Chia Pudding from Sprouts and Krauts | The Health Sessions

Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs from With Love and Food

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Coconut Panna Cotta with Salty Maple Cacao Nibs from With Food and Love | The Health Sessions

Raw Chocolate Mouse with Marinated Oranges from Happy Hearted Kitchen

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Raw Chocolate Mousse and Marinated Oranges from Happy Hearted Kitchen | The Health Sessions

Warm Summer Fruit Salad from Green Kitchen Stories

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Warm Summer Fruit Salad from Green Kitchen Stories | The Health Sessions

The Ultimate Healthy Berry Crumble from Amy’s Healthy Kitchen

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: The Ultimate Healthy Blueberry Crumble from Amy's Healthy Baking | The Health Sessions

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt with Grilled Pineapple from Supergolden Bakes

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Strawberry Frozen Yogurt with Grilled Pineapple from Supergolden Bakes | The Health Sessions

Creamy Peach and Walnut Ice Cream from The Awesome Green

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Intake: Creamy Peach and Walnut Ice Cream (Vegan) from The Awesome Green | The Health Sessions

Changing your eating habits can be challenging, but start small. Focus on one simple strategy to reduce your refined sugar intake – for example, by swapping soda for flavoured water – and only add another food habit once you feel confident about skipping sugary drinks.

You can find more tips on how to curb your cravings in ‘6 Steps to Resisting Sweet Temptations’ or check out the in-depth advice on ‘How to Start Any Kind of Medical Diet’

Which psychological strategies or sweet recipes help you to reduce your refined sugar consumption? 

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