Dietitian recommends sweet alternatives to table sugar

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Nutrition experts say there's nothing sweet about how much sugar Americans down in foods and drinks. It's about 20 teaspoons a day. A sugary diet is linked to obesity and heart disease even if you aren't obese.

When you think of alternatives to table sugar, artificial sweeteners or substitutes probably come to mind. They have no calories, but no nutritional value either.

Courtney Kruse, a registered dietitian with Hy-Vee in Overland Park, says spice is nice instead. She recommends cinnamon.

"It's naturally sweet. It also has a little bit of minerals in it like calcium and potassium and a little bit of fiber," said Kruse.

She's high on honey, too.

"You can use less of it than regular sugar because it's sweeter. Honey also contains trace minerals and trace vitamins," the dietitian said.

Blackstrap molasses is also sweeter than table sugar, so a little goes a long way. It has plenty of calcium, iron and magnesium.

Kruse says you can "go bananas" for sweetness, too. Use them in smoothies.

"And puree them into pancake batter. Puree them into oatmeal and puree them into a lot of recipes in place of sugar," said Kruse.

Dried fruit has concentrated sugar.

"But you're also getting fiber, you're getting iron in a lot of dried fruit. I even take dates, soak them in hot water, and then you can even puree them and use them as a basis for a lot of smoothies," she said.

In the vegetable aisle, Kruse says beets are neat for boosting sweetness in salads. And if you're a chocoholic, consider cacoa nibs.

"It adds natural sweetness without adding any sugar at all," said Kruse.

There's nothing bitter about that.

The Food and Drug Administration recently proposed that food labels list added sugar, and the FDA is recommending that sugar intake be no more than 200 calories a day in a 2,000 calorie diet.