Winter is for hot toddies and nogs, pies still warm from the oven, and fudge that makes your teeth ache. For those planning on baking up treats this holiday season, these sweeteners will ease the guilt that'll come with each glorious bite.
When former healthcare executive Jim May founded WISDOM NATURAL BRANDS in 1982, it was because a Peace Corps volunteer who'd worked in Paraguay convinced him to taste the leaves of an herb called stevia. Once May learned that the processed plant can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar but lacks calories, carbohydrates, or chemicals, he realized it could be a potent natural alternative to artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, and high-fructose corn syrup. He sunk his life savings into starting the company that now makes SweetLeaf Stevia, instilling strict rules for sustainable practices: No chemicals, solvents, or alcohols are used when extracting or purifying the plant; leaf residue becomes mulch or cattle feed; and water is recycled to irrigate local Guaraní farms. $14 for a 4.1-ounce bottle
Zeke Freeman grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, where his twin passions sprouted: producing artisanal food and caring for pollinators. "I was able to eat homegrown fruits and vegetables off the land," he says. "We won't have that if we lose the honeybees." After he founded BEE RAW, he started the Save the Bees fund to combat colony collapse disorder, which has wiped out millions of hives. The company's Single Varietal Honey is pesticide-free, of course, but also unprocessed, unfiltered, and packaged in beautiful, gift-worthy glass. Flavors include wild raspberry, star thistle, orange blossom, and blueberry—each of which will last years if properly stored. $12 to $15 for a 10.5-ounce jar