What is a healthy substitute for syrup?

Quick Answers

Syrup is commonly used as a sweetener for foods like pancakes and waffles. Some healthy substitutes for syrup include:

  • Fruit purees – Applesauce, mashed banana, or blended berries make great sweet and nutritious syrup substitutes.
  • Greek yogurt – Plain or vanilla yogurt can be thinned out with milk or water to drizzle over foods.
  • Nut butters – Almond, cashew, or peanut butter thinned with water or milk work well in place of syrup.
  • Honey – Raw, local honey provides nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Maple syrup – 100% pure maple syrup has some nutrients and is less processed than commercial syrups.
  • Date syrup – Made from pureed dates, this syrup provides fiber, minerals like potassium and magnesium, and various antioxidants.

The main considerations when choosing a healthy syrup substitute are keeping added sugars low by using whole foods or minimally processed sweeteners like fruit, yogurt, nut butters, honey, and maple syrup. Moderating portion sizes is also important.

What are the problems with conventional syrup?

Syrup is a beloved breakfast food for pancakes, waffles, French toast and more. However, traditional syrup made from high fructose corn syrup raises some health concerns:

  • High in added sugars – Syrup is nearly entirely made of added sugars with no fiber, protein, healthy fats or other nutrients.
  • Linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease – The high amounts of rapidly absorbed added sugars in syrup may increase risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.
  • Lacking nutritional value – Aside from carbohydrates that can spike blood sugar, syrup provides no beneficial vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, healthy fats, antioxidants or other nutrients.
  • Highly processed – Conventional syrups involve extensive processing of corn to yield high fructose corn syrup, which may contain contaminants.
  • Artificial ingredients – Some syrups contain preservatives, artificial colors and artificial flavors.

So in summary, the two main downsides of syrup are the high amounts of added sugars, which lack nutrients and fiber, and the highly processed nature of conventional corn syrup-based products.

What are some nutritious syrup substitutes?

There are many great options for healthy syrup alternatives that provide more nutrients and less added sugar:

Fruit Purees

Fruit purees or fruit sauces made from berries, apples, pears, bananas, mangos and other fruits are naturally sweet options that provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Opt for unsweetened varieties or sweeten moderately with a bit of honey if needed. Fruit purees work especially well on pancakes, waffles and French toast.

Greek Yogurt

Plain or vanilla greek yogurt makes a creamy, protein-rich syrup substitute when thinned down with a bit of milk or water. Greek yogurt contains beneficial probiotics, protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and other nutrients. Drizzle thinned yogurt over pancakes, waffles, oatmeal and more.

Nut Butters

Almond butter, cashew butter and peanut butter can be drizzled over foods when whisked smooth with a bit of water or milk. Nut butters provide protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Stick to natural nut butters without added sugars.


Raw, local honey provides antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals. While still containing sugars, honey has a lower glycemic index than syrup, meaning it impacts blood sugar levels less drastically. Use honey in moderation as a topping for pancakes or oatmeal.

Maple Syrup

100% pure maple syrup comes straight from maple trees, undergoing less processing than commercial syrups. It contains beneficial compounds like polyphenols and minerals like zinc and manganese. Maple syrup has high quality sugars and a lower glycemic index. Still use portions sparingly.

Date Syrup

Date syrup comes from blending pitted, soaked dates into a syrup consistency. Dates provide fiber to help slow sugar absorption. Date syrup also contains potassium, magnesium and antioxidants. Drizzle over oatmeal, yogurts or desserts.

Tips for choosing and using healthy syrup alternatives

When selecting a more nutritious syrup substitute, keep these tips in mind:

– Choose whole food options like fruit purees and nut butters over highly processed syrups.

– Check labels and choose products without any added sugars or artificial ingredients.

– Opt for organic, non-GMO versions when possible to minimize pesticides and chemical contaminants.

– Use just enough to lightly sweeten foods. Even healthier sweeteners should be used in moderation.

– Measure portions to keep servings and total daily sugar intake in check.

– Store opened syrups in the refrigerator to extend freshness. Many homemade options like fruit purees can be frozen for longer term use.

– Mix it up by rotating different syrup substitutes like yogurt, nut butters, fruit purees and honey.

– Syrup alternatives can also be used in salad dressings, marinades, baked goods and other recipes calling for liquid sweeteners.

Nutrition Comparison

This table compares the nutrition of 1/4 cup serving sizes of typical syrup and various syrup substitute options:

Syrup/Topping Calories Sugars (g) Added Sugars (g) Protein (g) Fiber (g)
Maple syrup 180 45 0 0 0
Honey 120 30 0 0 0.1
High fructose corn syrup pancake syrup 220 55 55 0 0
Strawberry fruit puree 25 6 0 0.5 1.5
Banana puree 50 12 0 0.5 1
Applesauce (unsweetened) 45 11 0 0.5 1.5
Vanilla greek yogurt 51 5 0 5 0
Almond butter 207 3 0 8 3.5
Cashew butter 200 2 0 5 1
Peanut butter 188 3 0 8 2

Recipe ideas using healthy syrup alternatives

Here are some recipe ideas incorporating nutritious syrup substitutes:

Overnight Oats with Applesauce

In a jar layer steel cut oats, milk, chopped apples, cinnamon, and a swirl of unsweetened applesauce. Refrigerate overnight. The applesauce sweetens while adding fiber.

Yogurt Pancakes with Berry Puree

Make fluffy pancakes by mixing greek yogurt, eggs, flour and baking powder. Cook pancakes and top with fresh berry puree and optional honey drizzle.

Banana Bread Oatmeal

Cook oats in milk with mashed banana, vanilla, cinnamon and chopped walnuts. The banana provides natural sweetness and binding without any added sugar.

Sweet Potato Toast with Almond Butter

Toast sliced sweet potato, spread with almond butter, and top with crushed berries and chopped pistachios. The almond butter makes a creamy, protein-packed spread.

Honey Peanut Butter Fruit Dip

Stir together peanut butter, honey and vanilla. Serve with fresh apple and pear slices for a balanced snack or dessert.

Overnight Oats with Date Syrup

Soak pitted dates in water to soften and blend into date syrup. Mix date syrup into overnight oats along with oats, chia seeds, milk and cinnamon.

Potential health benefits of syrup alternatives

Incorporating healthier syrup substitutes can provide many benefits over heavily processed commercial syrup:

  • Less added sugars – Syrup alternatives like fruit, yogurt and nut butters have little or no added sugars, compared to up to 100% added sugars in conventional syrup.
  • More nutrients – Substitutes can provide fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants vs. just empty calories in syrup.
  • Lower glycemic impact – The fiber, fat and protein in many substitutes slows sugar absorption and blood sugar spikes.
  • Gut health support – Prebiotic fiber in fruit and probiotics in yogurt promote good gut bacteria.
  • Satiety – More protein, fiber and fat creates more satiety or fullness compared to straight syrup.
  • Less processed – Whole foods like fruit and nuts undergo less processing than high fructose corn syrup.

By providing more nutrients and less rapid-absorbing sugars, syrup substitutes can help support overall health, weight management, blood sugar regulation and digestive health.

Potential Drawbacks of Syrup Alternatives

While healthier than conventional syrup, some potential downsides of certain syrup substitutes include:

  • Honey and maple syrup still contain high amounts of sugar, needing portion control.
  • Some nut butters and oils may contain unhealthy fats if not choosing natural, 100% nuts/seeds versions.
  • Added sugars may be present in some fruit purees, yogurts, or nut butters to check labels.
  • Higher calorie counts in nut butters, honey, and some fruit or yogurt options.
  • Higher cost for some specialty options like maple syrup, nut butters and date syrup.
  • Difficulty finding unsweetened fruit purees.
  • Watery consistency of thinner alternatives like fruit purees or thinned nut butters.

While still being mindful of portions, ingredients, and diet as a whole, these potential downsides can be managed by selecting high quality options and enjoying syrup substitutes as part of balanced eating habits.


Syrup is a beloved topping but conventional versions lack nutrition and contain high amounts of added sugars. The good news is many healthy, natural alternatives can provide sweetness with more benefits. Fruit purees, greek yogurt, nut butters, honey, and maple syrup supply more nutrients, fiber and antioxidants than high fructose corn syrup-based syrups. Benefits of substitutes include less added sugars, lower glycemic impact, more nutrients, and less processing. Be mindful of portions and ingredients when selecting syrup replacements. With some easy homemade options, it is simple to cut back on added sugars and boost nutrition at breakfast by using a healthy syrup substitute.

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