Mini-Pledge Week 9: No Refined Sweeteners

The time has come to cut out all refined sweeteners including sugar! And this particular challenge is actually what inspired me to start the mini-pledges in the first place. It all started when I was having lunch with my kindergartner one day at school. I was looking around at what the other kids brought for their lunch and between the white bread, the flavored yogurt, the crackers, and the jelly every single meal I surveyed contained some sort of refined sugar and in most cases – lots of it.

As I’ve said before, it is not necessarily the sugar itself (yes, white sugar is technically “natural” albeit highly refined), but it is the quantity in which our society consumes sugar that concerns me. What have things come to if we can’t even have a cracker or a bowl of cereal or a beverage unless it has been sweetened? Come on, sugar is in almost everything these days even when you least expect it. So it is time to put our foot down and live one week of our entire lives without any refined sugar. Can you do it?

Mini-Pledge Week 9: No refined or artificial sweeteners including (but not limited to): white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, sucanat, splenda, stevia, agave, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and cane juice. Foods and beverages can only be sweetened with a moderate amount of honey or maple syrup.

I get so many questions about sweeteners especially from those wondering why we’ve chosen honey and maple syrup as our sweeteners of choice. The moral of the story is – and most experts would agree – sugar is sugar and no matter what form of sugar you choose always consume it in moderation. Whether it is white table sugar, raw sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or maple syrup they are all – for the most part – sugars. We selected honey and maple syrup as our sweeteners of choice because they are two of the least processed “sugars” out there, and they are also difficult to find in highly processed foods. Honey and maple syrup also have slightly more nutrients than highly refined sweeteners like white table sugar, although – once again – all sweeteners are similar in the fact that overall they are high in calories and low in nutrients.

During our 100 Days of Real Food pledge, when we were restricted to honey and maple syrup as well as nothing out of a package with more than 5 ingredients, we ended up having to make all the “sweetened” foods we ate ourselves. I could not find any store-bought “sweet treats” that followed all of our rules – and trust me I looked! Since this sweetener restriction forces you to make sweetened foods from scratch you can see and control how much sweetener is being added. And chances are you will use a lot less sweetener than some factory. So back to how Americans are consuming sugar in overwhelming amounts these days…I saw an interesting statistic highlighted on

Health experts recommend we eat no more than eight teaspoons of sugar a day. But on average, Americans consume four times that much.

In case you are challenged with simple math (like me) that means we are, on average, consuming 32 teaspoons a day! Also how about this for “food for thought” from New York Times Magazine article “Is Sugar Toxic?”:

Sugar is likely the “dietary cause of several other chronic ailments widely considered to be diseases of Western lifestyles — heart disease, hypertension and many common cancers among them.”

Assuming you are now convinced that reducing sugar intake is a good idea, I don’t want to leave you hanging. So next you will find everything from detailed meal plans to recipes to school lunch ideas that will help you successfully complete this pledge. You pretty much won’t find anything on this blog that calls for refined sweeteners so there are plenty of ideas to choose from. Here are some to get you started:

Resources for Meals without Refined Sweeteners

In closing, there are two key takeaways when it comes to sweeteners. Never choose an imitation sweetener (like splenda) over the real thing and no matter what sweetener you choose always consume it in moderation. We hope that restricting you to honey and maple syrup next week will help you accomplish both of those things!

To take the pledge: Please leave a comment below with the number of adults and kids in your household that will participate, and also share if you will do it for one meal, one day, or for the entire week. Put it in writing and make it official!

Good luck!


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  • Comments

    1. Megan Sadler |

      I need some help. I am searching the internet trying to find a chart of some sort. I have a couple of dough recipes i want to try–and i am following the rules for 100 days of real food–my goal this year is to make EVERYTHING from scratch which means a lot of prep work. Well, im making empenadas this week, and i can easily substitute the flour for whole wheat and the shortening for coconut oil, but im finding trouble locating a chart for the sugar. The only “liqued” in the dough is the eggs and oil (2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
      3/4 cup fine cornmeal, or masa harina
      2 teaspoons sugar
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
      2 large egg yolks)

      help please

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Hi Megan. That small amount of honey, 2 tsp, should not wreak havoc on your consistency. I also can’t find a specific chart that is outside of using honey in baked goods.

    2. Sandy DeGeer |

      My husband is pre-diabetic. We purchase Fruit Sweet from Wax Orchards. This doesn’t raise his A1C levels even though it’s a concentrated fruit juice. Have you heard of this sweetener? It’s good for baking, although recipes need to be adjusted. Baked goods are tasty but not overly sweet,

      • Amy Taylor (comment moderator) |

        Hi Sandy. While I am not familiar with that sweetener, it is perfectly fine to adjust the recipes for medical conditions, food allergies/sensitivities etc. Just keep the substitutions as real as possible.

    3. |

      Yes! We’ve been doing this for the month of February. Our rules allow for molasses, also. We make one treat every weekend to last us through the week (ok. to last us until Wednesday. morning.) My kids are really enjoying the challenge (so far!)

    4. Shannon |

      What do you think of organic blue agave?

    5. Amy |

      I am interested in setting up a no refined sugar challenge week for a local elementary school. I think your site has some great information and would love some advice on how to motivate the kids to commit!

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