When you're following a clean eating diet, you're aiming to eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible—meaning little to no processing. Naturally (pun intended), as your plate gets cleaner, you're bound to start cutting out added sugars from your diet, which is always a good thing. But, there's nothing wrong with adding a little sweetness to your cooking from time to time, whether to soften the bite from a homemade vinaigrette or add a glaze to salmon. With all the confusion around natural sweeteners and types of sugar out there (stevia, brown rice syrup, turbinado sugar, ahh!), I'm going to make it real simple for you: There are two sweeteners that we recommend when following a Clean Eating diet: raw honey and pure 100% maple syrup.
Raw Honey: Many commercial honey processors heat the honey to 170°F for filtering and shelf-stability, but doing this also removes some of its beneficial properties and flavor. Instead, seek out honey that is labeled "raw," and from the United States. Learn more about how to buy real honey.
100% Maple Syrup: Pure, 100% maple syrup is basically boiled-down sap from sugar maple trees. Choose Grade A (lighter color, mild flavor) or Grade B (darker color, deeper flavor) depending on your flavor preference.
Now, these two options don't leave much room in the baking department. So, I asked Cooking Light Nutrition Editor, Sidney Fry what she recommended. She divulged that she usually bakes at home using organic, raw cane sugar. Now, this doesn't exactly meet our "clean" standards, but it is a cleaner, less-processed option than the super-refined granulated varieties. Next time you're baking a batch of cookies, give it a try. Your baked good may turn out a little differently than if you used granulated sugar, but who knows, you may like it better? Check out our experiment in which we tested the same cake recipe with different sugars.