This school year, there's one ingredient Sam Talbot wants you to take off your shopping list: sugar.

"Sugar is a toxin, I wholeheartedly believe that," says the New York chef, TV personality and author. "It's not about calories, it just isn't healthy for your body in any way, shape or form. It doesn't contain a single thing that benefits your child's body or yours."

In recent years, health experts have increasingly blamed the sweet stuff, particularly added, processed sugars, for issues like obesity and diabetes.

If you're looking for something to reach for instead of the standard white sugar, Talbot recommends a few natural substitutes. (All are available at natural health food stores like Whole Foods, as well as online at Amazon.com, and can be used in coffee, tea, homemade fruit juices and soda, in baking, savory dishes and more.)

Stevia:

"Stevia ... is a natural sweetener grown in the ground, like an herb. It has leafy greens that are turned into a granular form and is actually 200 times sweeter than sugar, but has no effect on your glycemic index. You can use it anywhere you would normally use sugar."

Honey:

"Good ol' raw honey is wonderful and totally natural. I love the subtle, sweet flavor. Honey is now offered in an array of flavors, such as blueberry blossom, orange blossom and more!"

Maple syrup:

"Maple syrup is another great one, plus it's awesome for digestion."

Coconut, beet and date sugar:

"[These] are more of my personal favorites. They are dried, granulated and very sweet."