Refined sugar can take a detrimental toll on your health—potentially contributing to issues like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and some forms of cancer. For me personally, I found that eating refined sugar contributed to my acne.
Whatever your reasons to reduce or eliminate refined sugar from your diet, it can take some time to figure out how to replace it, even in basic dishes like oatmeal.
Luckily, you can sweeten oatmeal in many ways using fruits and berries, nut and seed butters, syrups and nectars, some artificial sweeteners, and protein powders.
Here are 18 healthy ways to sweeten oatmeal without sugar:
- Coconut flesh and flakes
- Nut and seed butters
- Vanilla powder
- Yacon syrup
- Agave nectar
- Maple syrup
- Coconut nectar
- Date syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Barley malt syrup
- Plant-based protein powders
Healthy Ways to Sweeten Oatmeal
Oatmeal is an incredibly popular breakfast food staple, and it is a very healthy one. Not only is it a good source of whole grains, but it includes a starch called beta-glucan that helps to lower cholesterol, protect the heart, and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Oatmeal is a filling meal that contains enough fiber to improve your digestion and promote GI tract regularity. It’s also very affordable and easy to make.
But oatmeal tastes rather bland by itself. We need some way to sweeten it without compromising the health benefits.
Fruits, syrups, and more can be added to your oatmeal to make it a tasty and healthy meal. Some of your options include:
|Berries||Popular berries used to sweeten oatmeal are blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries.||Contains antioxidants to prevent oxidative stress on your cells, helping to reduce the risk of sickness; improves blood sugar levels and insulin response; helps to fight inflammation; full of nutrients like vitamin C, manganese, and folate; considered a heart-healthy food; can help lower cholesterol|
|Bananas||Spotty ripe bananas are one of the sweetest fruits, so a little goes a long way toward sweetening your oatmeal.||Rich in potassium and fiber; can help to prevent asthma, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and digestive issues; a source of many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B6, vitamin C, and folate|
|Applesauce||Be careful when choosing applesauce because some are made with added sugar. You can also make your own applesauce.||Promotes healthy digestion; promotes the growth of probiotics within the body; contains fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and potassium; can lower the risk of heart disease|
|Coconut Flesh and Flakes||Coconut flesh is the white part, often called the meat, of a fresh coconut. Coconut flakes can be purchased at the store.||Contains many nutrients like selenium, magnesium, and potassium; provides medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are fats that are rapidly converted to energy and promote fat loss; contains powerful antioxidants considered to be heart-healthy; can promote blood-sugar control|
|Nut and Seed Butters||There are many kinds of nut and seed butters that you can add to your oatmeal. Almond butter, cashew butter, and sunflower seed butter are just a few.||These butters contain protein, healthy fats, fiber, many vitamins and minerals, and phytochemicals.|
|Cinnamon||Cinnamon is one of those comfy ingredients that make you feel warm inside—but it’s healthy, too!||Contains cinnamaldehyde, which has great effects on health and metabolism; loaded with antioxidants; has anti-inflammatory properties; helps with heart health and the body’s response to insulin; has a powerful anti-diabetic effect; provides beneficial effects for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s; helps fight bacterial and fungal infections.|
|Vanilla Powder||Made from ground vanilla beans. Be careful: some vanilla powder has been mixed with sugar for sweetness.||Helps reduce cholesterol; contains antioxidants that promote healing; reduces inflammation; promotes healthy digestion.|
|Yacon Syrup||Yacon syrup “is a sweetening agent extracted from the tuberous roots of the yacon plants indigenous to the Andes mountains.”||Helps to manage diabetes; controls cholesterol levels; increases weight loss; improves digestion with prebiotic oligosaccharides; improves liver health.|
|Agave Nectar||Agave syrup, better known as agave nectar, “is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of agave.”||Has a low glycemic index value, which makes it a good choice for diabetics; a natural sweetener that is much sweeter than sugar.|
|Maple Syrup||Maple syrup, the most popular way to sweeten pancakes—it’s made from tree sap!||Contains vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and manganese; provides at least 24 different antioxidants; has active compounds that can reduce the growth of cancer cells and slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the GI tract.|
|Coconut Nectar||Coconut nectar is taken from the sap of the flowers on the coconut tree.||Has a low glycemic index; a good source of amino acids, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, and iron (only some brands).|
|Date Syrup||Dates are one of the sweetest fruits, and date syrup gives you that natural sweetness in syrup form!||Contains many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, such as fiber, protein, potassium, and magnesium; has disease-fighting antioxidants; can improve brain function; aids in bone health and blood-sugar control.|
|Sorghum Syrup||Sorghum syrup is made from sorghum grass stalks known for their sugar content. Sometimes called sorghum molasses.||Improves digestive health; includes complex carbohydrates to help manage diabetes; includes energy-boosting nutrients; aids in bone health; increases circulation.|
|Barley Malt Syrup||Barley malt syrup gives you great natural sugar extracted from barley.||Helps with athletic recovery; contains a compound that boosts happiness; supports digestive health and heart health; contains tons of antioxidants.|
Remember, too, that you can combine several of these sweeteners together to achieve an even better effect! Below, I’ll share one of my favorite combos.
Artificial Sweeteners: Can They Be Trusted?
While many health professionals will advise you to stay away from artificial sweeteners, there are actually three artificial sweeteners that are generally considered healthy sugar replacements.
These are stevia, xylitol, and erythritol. For the reasons laid out below, my favorite is erythritol:
- Stevia – This sweetener is extracted from the leaves of a South American shrub. Researchers have shown that it lowers blood sugar and helps stabilize insulin levels. This artificial sweetener is widely considered healthy, although some have concerns about DNA damage above a certain level of consumption. More info on that here.
- Xylitol – This sweetener is a sugar alcohol extracted from corn or birch wood. It is found in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is known to improve dental health, increase the absorption of calcium in the body, and improve bone health. In high doses, however, xylitol can cause a laxative effect. Also, be aware that it is highly toxic to dogs.
- Erythritol – This sweetener is also a sugar alcohol and tastes almost exactly like refined sugar, with only 6% of the calories of refined sugar. There are no known adverse effects of the sweetener, and as explained in the video below, it even has health benefits, functioning as an antioxidant. I recommend buying a bag online, as it can be hard to find in stores (here’s an Amazon link for a great brand).
Using Protein Powder as a Sweetener
If you’re looking for an oatmeal experience that is not overly sweet but has tons of flavor and adds a powerful punch of protein, add some protein powder to your oatmeal.
Here’s a recipe from Naughty Nutrition you can use to make chocolate protein oatmeal with no added sugar, for example.
One thing to remember when choosing a protein powder for your oatmeal is that there are many different types of protein powders, and some are not considered vegan.
Some protein powders to avoid are whey protein, egg protein, and casein protein powders. Whey protein and casein protein are both derived from milk, and egg protein is derived from eggs. Dairy products and eggs are not vegan, of course, as they are animal products.
Some protein powders that you can use are pea protein, hemp protein, and plant protein powders. These protein powders are all derived from plants, so they are suitable for a vegan diet. Adding protein powder to your oatmeal adds protein and extra fiber to your oatmeal.
Also, be aware of which sweeteners are used to sweeten your protein powder. Some protein powders do contain refined sugar.
My favorite protein powder is this chocolate flavor of Orgain (that’s an Amazon link). It’s delicious and super healthy, even including inulin for fiber, and it’s sweetened with stevia and erythritol, which are both healthy, as covered above.
Did you know: Many brands of protein powder are EBT-eligible! A lot of people don’t realize you can buy protein powder with food stamps online. Read more here.
Does a Vegan Diet Allow Honey in My Oatmeal?
Many people use honey as a sugar substitute, but is it suitable for a vegan diet? It’s a matter of debate, but the most traditional answer would be no, honey is not vegan.
“Although many people think of honey as a terrific pure and natural sweetener, the fact that it comes from bees, who work hard to collect nectar and regurgitate it as food for their colony, makes it a nonvegan product.”
Most vegans don’t eat honey simply because it is an animal byproduct. However, other vegans feel that eating honey is acceptable because bees may not even experience pain in the same way other animals do.
Some vegans argue that focusing on “minor ingredients” like honey takes away the focus from mammals and birds who are suffering to more extreme degrees in factory farms.
In the end, whether you eat honey is a matter of personal choice—it’s up to you.
My Personal Favorite Ways to Sweeten Oatmeal
Here is one of my all-time favorite ways to sweeten oatmeal without sugar: banana chocolate cinnamon!
- 1 to 2 bananas (your choice depending on how sweet you like it)
- a tablespoon or two of unsweetened cocoa powder
- add some cinnamon on top
If you don’t like the cocoa powder, just the bananas and cinnamon are great by themselves, too.
I actually prefer adding the bananas after they’ve been frozen, for some reason. The texture ends up better for some reason, in my opinion.
My Most Recent Oatmeal Sweetening Approach
More recently, I’ve switched to an even healthier style of oatmeal. Here’s what I do:
- 1 cup of strawberries
- 1/2 cup of blueberries
- 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
I add the strawberries and blueberries in frozen form (it’s cheaper to buy them frozen), and I just heat them up along with the oatmeal itself.
The flaxseed doesn’t really affect the flavor much, but it adds extra health benefits. See here for the incredible health benefits of flaxseeds.
Another Vegan Breakfast Porridge to Consider
Have you ever had cream of wheat? It’s another nice warm alternative to oatmeal that can be sweetened in a lot of the same healthy ways.
Some people assume cream of wheat isn’t vegan due to the word “cream”—but rest assured, it can be made 100% vegan, just like oatmeal. Check out my post about it here.
Two More Recommendations for Your Vegan Journey
1. This is the best vegan multivitamin I’ve found in 13 years of being vegan. It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans are actually low in. Read my full review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here (with 10% discount).
2. This is the best vegan starter kit I know of. It’s a bundle of 9 beautiful e-books that help you transition to a healthy plant-based diet the right way. The advice is spot-on, and it has print-outs and checklists that make it easy to implement. Read my full review of Nutriciously here.
If you don’t want to forget any of these sweet oatmeal ideas, save the Pin below to your Pinterest “healthy breakfast” or “vegan food” board!