Alt Sweets

Alternatives to Sugars & Chocolate

Publish Date February 1, 2024 2 Minute Read

The World of Artificial Sweeteners, Sugar Substitutes, and Chocolate

Are you looking for an alternative to sugar? For diabetics, artificial sweeteners have long provided a way to add sweetness without affecting blood sugar levels. For people who want to avoid extra calories and the negative effects of excess sugar consumption, there are a wide array of options. Alternative sweeteners, like honey and maple, contain calories but offer more nutrition and flavor. For many of us, craving sweetness and craving chocolate are intertwined, and finding alternatives to our favorite chocolates keeps us happy and healthy.

What is Sugar?

Americans consume, on average, three times as much sugar as the USDA recommends, leading to many health problems.

When we say “sugar,” we are often referring to a number of simple carbohydrates, not just cane sugar. Naturally occurring sugars are a natural part of healthy foods like fruit and whole grains. Added sugars are what we mean when we talk about foods like donuts, sodas and candy, which contain added refined sugars. All sweeteners that provide calories are called “nutritive sweeteners,” while artificial sweeteners are called “non-nutritive sweeteners” because they have no calories or other nutrients the body can absorb.

For a healthy diet, cutting back on added sugars and highly sweetened foods is recommended, rather than avoiding the sugars in foods like fruit, that provide fiber, vitamins and minerals.

What Are the Top Sugar Substitutes?

The FDA says these sweeteners are “generally regarded as safe,” (GRAS) which means they are safe to use for their intended purpose. There are questions as to whether they help you lose weight, and most experts recommend eating them in limited quantities.

Sugar substitutes fall into three categories.

Artificial sweeteners are chemicals that we perceive as sweet, although they have no calories. They are made in a lab, and many are 200-600 times sweeter than sugar.

Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)


Aspartame (Equal and Nutrasweet Natural)

Neotame (Newtame)

Saccharin (Sweet N’ Low, Sugar Twin)

Sucralose (Splenda)

Sugar Alcohols

Sugar alcohols are made in a lab, by breaking down other sugars. They are not as sweet and concentrated as artificial sweeteners. They are often used in chewing gum and hard candies. Some people experience digestive issues like gas, bloating and diarrhea from sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols like erythritol have been linked to some health risks.

  • Erythritol
  • Isomalt
  • Lactitol
  • Maltitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

Novel Sweeteners

Customer demand has led to more new products that employ “plant-derived noncaloric sweeteners” like stevia and monkfruit. They are less processed, and many consumers are discovering their natural flavors.


Monk fruit



Natural, Unrefined Sweeteners

We often see maple, honey, molasses and other unrefined sweeteners as an alternative to refined sugar. While they still contain calories and forms of sugar, they also contain some nutrients. Honey gets its sweetness from fructose and glucose, and has trace B Vitamins, Iron, Potassium and potent antioxidant activity. Pure maple syrup gets its sweet from sucrose, and contains minerals and antioxidants. Coconut sugar is made from the boiled sap of the coconut palm, gets its sweetness from sucrose and fructose, and has a lower glycemic index than sugar, as well as potassium, iron, zinc and calcium.

Sugar Alternative Recipes

Healthy Alternatives to Chocolate

Chocolate is made from cacao, an antioxidant rich, natural food. Cacao contains flavonoids, caffeine, serotonin and tryptophan, and has many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing inflammation, and even reducing diabetes risk. Where we go astray with cacao is when we add lots of sugar, fat and other ingredients to it. We can enjoy our favorite chocolate flavors while trimming calories and sugars with a few tricks.

Baking Cocoa, Nutritious and Delicious

Subtext: When Cacao is processed, the cocoa butter is pressed out and the remaining solids are finely ground. The result is baking cocoa- an almost fat free, no sugar-added powder with all the flavor that makes chocolate so irresistible. Making your own treats with cocoa, and using your preferred sweeteners and fats can deliver the chocolate flavor you crave. Try a Keto Avocado Chocolate Mousse, or Keto Chocolate Chip Cookies, for a lower sugar burst of chocolate. Keto Mocha gives you that mocha flavor with no sugar.

Chocolate, It’s All About the Percentages

Interest in darker chocolate has led to many chocolate labels listing the percentage of chocolate in the bar. Technically, this is the weight of chocolate liquor as a percentage of the total weight of the bar. According to the FDA, any bar with 35% or more can be labeled as semisweet, bittersweet, or dark chocolate. The lower the percentage of cacao, the more sugar. You can now buy chocolate bars and chips with percentages in the 90’s, for a very dark and deep chocolate flavor, and less sugar.

Replacing Chocolate in Baking Recipes

Subtext: If you have a favorite brownie or cake recipe that calls for melted chocolate, you can easily swap it out. To replace an ounce of unsweetened chocolate, simply mix 1 tablespoon canola oil with 3 tablespoons cocoa or carob. A popular trick for reducing the amount of chocolate chips in a cookie is to swap half the amount of mini-chips for regular chips, giving you the chocolate flavor with half the chocolate.

Chocolates With Alternative Sweeteners

Keto and other low sugar diets have created a demand for chocolates sweetened with monkfruit, allulose and other sweeteners. These chocolate chips still contain fat, but have no added sugars.

Does Carob Taste Like Chocolate?

You may have heard of carob, which has long been used as a chocolate replacement. The pods of the carob plant are ground to make a powder the color of cocoa, which has a similar, if less bitter flavor. Carob has no caffeine and is higher in calcium than chocolate, so caffeine-sensitive people have adopted it as a healthy chocolate replacement.

Try a New Sweetener or Chocolate Today

If you’re trying to cut back on sugars and calories, non-nutritive sweeteners are a popular tool to enjoy a little sweetness without sugar. A myriad of options are here for you to replace the sugary foods in your diet, and you’re sure to find a soft drink or sugar alternative for baking that will help you. We all love chocolate in sweets, and there are also plenty of strategies for enjoying the flavor of cacao with less added sugars or fats.