Drop that chocolate bar. Put down the ice cream cone. Step away from the sugar cookies. There's a better – and healthier – way to sweeten meals. And you won't need to go farther than the produce, canned food and freezer aisles.
Just find the fruit.
From apples to berries to pears and pineapples, fruit provides plenty of sweetness along with an extra punch of nutrition. And if you're curious about just how to make the switch from the empty calories of sugary snack foods, consider these tips for using fruits as sweeteners and more:
Top of The Morning.
Breakfast cereals tend to come with plenty of extra sugar, but many people like to add a spoonful or two of their own, as well. But there's a sweeter (and healthier) solution. Complement your cereal with fruit. Bananas, strawberries and berries are perennial cereal toppings. Canned peaches and apricots are already pre-sliced and diced, ready to pile on anytime.
Remember that fruits make perfect partners for hot cereal, too. Try some fresh blueberries or diced peaches on your oatmeal. And instead of slathering jam or jelly on whole-grain toast, try banana slices with some natural peanut butter to get that deliciously sweet taste.
Don't forget that grapefruits can be a great part of any breakfast. They're high in vitamins A and C and won't spike your blood sugar levels because they contain fiber. Take some Del Monte refrigerated grapefruit, conveniently peeled and prepared, and top with cottage cheese or yogurt.
The lunch bunch.
Buy plain low-fat or non-fat yogurt and add some sweetness by topping it with sliced apples or berries. For an added crunch, throw in some granola.
Fruit salad is an age-old favorite. Canned fruit cocktail is a ready-to-eat fruit salad that can make your sweet tooth happy and can help you avoid less healthy desserts. For a twist on the traditional, consider adding cranberries and slices of kiwi. Studies suggest they may also boost stomach health, regulate cholesterol levels, stop kidney stones from forming and prevent cancer.
Sweeter supper times.
Spice up a green salad with a few slices of fruit. Apricots, perhaps. The humble orange fruit is chock-full of fiber and vitamin C, and researchers think it may help people's vision, too.
When it's time for dessert, consider strawberries, which are full of antioxidants. Studies suggest they may protect against eye disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Though strawberries taste great by themselves, try making a parfait with yogurt and other kinds of berries tossed in. And it's OK to splurge a bit, too. Dip fruit, fresh or canned, in cream or chocolate. Just don't overdo it. Remember that you can find plenty of sweet goodness through fruit without going anywhere near an empty calorie.