When trying to cut back on white refined sugar, there are options aplenty. But those little pink or yellow packets served with your iced tea aren't necessarily a better option. Call us biased, but we think Mother Nature got it right when she created the date as a perfectly natural sweetener! In addition to enjoying dried dates straight out of the bag as a healthy choice to satisfy a sugar craving and give your energy levels a much-needed boost to combat that afternoon slump, dates can actually be used in place of sugar in a variety of ways.

Toss a date or two into your blender along with some fresh fruit, ice and a splash of fruit juice, water or milk for a delicious and natural way to sweeten up your smoothie.

Much like honey or maple syrup, dates can be used in place of sugar in many dessert recipes. If you’re feeling experimental, cut the sugar from a recipe the next time you're baking banana bread or zucchini muffins. We're willing to bet you won’t notice the difference! Soft or soaked dates can also be pureed into a smooth blend as a replacement for sugar in your dessert recipes, if you don't want to actually bite into a date during dessert time.

Mix some softened dates or that leftover puree with some Greek yogurt, granola and fresh berries for a delicious and nutritious breakfast that's not loaded down with chemical sweeteners.

Toss some chopped dates into a salad with pecans, pear or apple chunks and fresh vinaigrette dressing for a sweet-yet-salty summer salad.

Dates have a taste and texture similar to caramel when pureed. With salted caramel being all the rage, why not add a little salt to your date puree and pour over some decadent dark chocolate or all natural vanilla ice cream?

Chopped dates can serve as a binder when making homemade granola with oatmeal, seeds, nuts and dried fruits. Pureed or chopped dates are also a great addition to no-bake energy bites and combines well with flavors of nut butters from almond and peanut to sunflower.

We're all looking for quick and easy ways to be a little healthier without sacrificing our favorite foods, right? Well, dates are the simple, and simply natural, solution to your sugar fix!