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Nutrition Articles  ›  Meals and Food

Sweet Swaps: Baking with Sugar Substitutes

How to Lighten Up Your Favorite Treats

-- By Bryn Mooth, SparkPeople Contributor
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If you’re seeking to reduce your caloric intake, then sugar substitutes are worth a look. Sweeteners like sucralose and stevia are 200 to 600 times sweeter than granulated cane sugar, and they contain 0 to 5 calories per 1 g serving. When used in moderation, they are a great way to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight. (Learn more about the science and concerns of artificial sweeteners here.)
 
We commonly think about sugar substitutes as colorful little packets at the coffee shop or on a restaurant table. In fact, these ingredients are primarily used to sweeten hot and cold drinks. But more and more, calorie-conscious home cooks are looking to these alternatives to help reduce the sugar content of their favorite desserts and baked goods.
 
However, you can't simply swap these sugar substitutes measure-for-measure in all of your recipes. Let's take a look at sugar’s role in cooking and baking.
 
Sugar and Cooking
Sure, sugar lends a sweet taste to food. But it also adds texture, color, depth and thickness. Sugar helps cookies and cakes bake up high, light and tender, with an airy, porous texture. It helps foods brown and develop a golden crust. It helps thicken puddings and jams, and it activates yeast in breads.
 
Generally, you can reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe by up to half without completely sacrificing all those non-flavor qualities. Depending on the recipe—and the other calorie-contributing ingredients in the recipe like fat—you can make a significant decrease in a food’s calorie count simply by using less granulated sugar.
 
Sugar Alternatives for Cooking and Baking
Here’s a look at the most commonly available sugar substitutes that can be used in home baking and cooking.
  • Sucralose (Splenda) is 600 times sweeter than sugar and has 2 calories per 1 teaspoon serving. It’s made from sugar through a chemical process and contains 96 calories per cup. Sucralose is heat stable, so it doesn’t lose its sweetening power when it’s cooked. Manufacturer's guideline: Use 1 cup Splenda per 1 cup granulated sugar.
     
  • Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) is 300 times sweeter than sugar and made from maltodextrin and sodium saccharin. Saccharin can be used in baking, but the maker of Sweet’N Low recommends replacing no more than half the sugar called for in a recipe with the substitute. Manufacturer’s guideline: Use 6 packets Sweet’N Low to replace 1/4 cup granulated sugar.
     
  • Stevia (SweetLeaf, Truvia, Pure Via) is 200 times sweeter than sugar and has 0 calories; it’s made from the extract of the stevia plant. It’s often blended with granulated sugar. Manufacturer’s guideline: Use 6 packets Truvia to replace 1/4 cup granulated sugar.
     
  •  Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) is 200 times sweeter than sugar and has 0 calories per serving; it’s made from amino acids. Aspartame is not heat stable (its sweetening capacity may diminish with baking), so manufacturers advise not baking with these products. Instead, use them to sweeten unbaked items, like yogurt, cereal or drinks. Manufacturer’s guideline: Use 6 packets Equal to replace 1/4 cup granulated sugar.
     
  • Acesulfame Potassium (Sunett, Sweet One) is 200 times sweeter than sugar and has 0 calories per serving. It is made from a potassium salt. Acesulfame potassium is heat stable, making it a good choice for baking. It is usually blended with other sweeteners, such as sucralose or aspartame and is most used in carbonated drinks, certain pharmaceutical drugs and protein powders. Manufacturer's guideline: Use 6 packets Sweet One per 1/4 cup  granulated sugar.
     
  • Luo Han Guo (Nectresseis 150 times sweeter than sugar and is made primarily from monk fruit extract, along with small amounts of erythritol, sugar and molasses. It is heat stable and suitable for baking. Luo han guo contains less than 5 calories per serving. Manufacturer's Guideline: Use 1/4 teaspoon Nectresse per 1 teaspoon granulated sugar.
Cooking and Baking with Sugar Substitute Blends
Besides plain artificial sweeteners, home cooks have another option for lower-calorie sweeteners to use in baking and cooking: Sugar substitute blends, made of a mixture of sugar and artificial sweetener.

These blends not only slash about half the sugar calories and carbs from recipes, they also yield a higher-quality baked good. The Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen compared sugar and its various substitutes in a baking test involving a simple white cake. Versions made entirely with sucralose, aspartame and saccharin were flat, rubbery, pale and had metallic aftertastes. ''We found it difficult to get good results in baking by replacing all of the sugar with a sugar substitute,'' the test cooks wrote. ''In some cases, sugar-substitute blends produced acceptable cakes, cookies, and quick breads, but often with an aftertaste.'' 
 
For baking, the BH&G Test Kitchen recommends Splenda Sugar Blend—a mix of sucralose and granulated sugar that has half the calories and carbohydrate content of regular sugar. (Splenda also makes a brown sugar blend for baking.) Domino makes a blend of sugar and stevia; SweetLeaf and Truvia make a similar baking blend.

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About The Author

Bryn Mooth Bryn Mooth
Bryn Mooth is an independent copywriter and journalist focused on food, wellness and design; she's also a Master Gardener and enthusiastic green thumb. She shares seasonal recipes, kitchen techniques, healthy eating tips and food wisdom on her blog writes4food.com.

Member Comments

  • Be honest, it's disgusting. Either bake with real ingredients or don't waste your energy. It's not worth it if it's not real food. Just my wee opinion that many will disagree with but honestly food made with that stuff is really gross. - 5/15/2014 11:06:46 PM
  • I have used some of the sugar substitute. But since reading and listening to Doctors tell of the body reacting to them in the same way as natural sugar, I have banned them too.
    Sugar, whether natural or artificial affected our brain, our insulin, it's highly addictive.
    Getting off sugar is harder than cocaine. To me that says it all.
    I limit myself to a little honey if I just have to sweeten something.
    No sugar high in any form for me. If that means no baked goods, so be it.
    My body, my brain will thank me in the long run. - 5/9/2014 9:38:24 AM
  • Thanks for sharing - 12/25/2013 5:42:47 AM
  • I agree with Rural3. If you go by that, it means whatever have would be 600 times sweeter. Now I like sweets as much as the next guy, but, WOW, that might be pushing it LOL - 10/28/2013 2:53:45 PM
  • Never tried coconut sugar going to try it. Thanks. - 9/4/2013 9:45:01 AM
  • If splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar: Why would you use it 1 cup of splenda for 1 cup of sugar? That just doesn't make sense - 7/24/2013 9:51:32 AM
  • I'm convinced artificial sweeteners can be dangerous, especially for diabetics. I choose to cut back on sugar consumption and never touch the artificial stuff. I like to know what I'm eating. I urge everyone to watch the documentary Sweet Misery (see it free online at http://topdocumen
    taryfilms.com
    /sweet-misery
    -a-poisoned-world/ ) or listen to what Dr. Mercola has to say here: http://products.m
    ercola.com/sw
    eet-misery-DVD/ - 5/28/2013 9:54:00 PM
  • I have tried using Splenda in baking with mixed results; I usually blend it about half and half with regular granulated sugar (rather than paying extra for the manufacturer to blend it for me). I have been very disappointed with stevia; in even the tiniest amounts, it has a strong bitter taste like something that has been chemically tainted. (I'm not saying that it has been tainted, just that it tastes that way.) My neighbour has the same reaction to stevia, so I know it's not just me. Any suggestions or comments? - 5/28/2013 8:25:39 PM
  • CIRANDELLA
    Brava, STALEAN, for debunking the junk science! There's a lot of such mythology and foodie folklore out there; reading a post like yours is ALWAYS refreshing! - 5/28/2013 7:50:04 PM
  • Peer reviewed research is the only evidence that needs to be believed. Anecdotal evidence is not "real" research. The "rat" studies did not give a cause and effect relationship between artificial sweeteners and Metabolic Syndrome, fat/weight gain, etc. The amount of artificial sweeteners given to the rats in some of these studies is ludicrous. Even if you could take this research and apply it to humans, no human would ever consume the amount of artificial sweeteners that were fed to the rats in these biased studies.

    Read some of the most recent statements and findings here, but there are many others that you can find online:

    http://www.news
    wise.com/sear
    ch/advanced/?
    search%5Btag%
    5D=Artificial%20Sweeteners - 5/26/2013 12:13:33 PM
  • Why would you ever recommend Splenda, Equal or anything else containing aspartame? It's a horrific chemical that causes a ton of side effects. - 4/16/2013 2:33:48 PM
  • ALSMALLE7
    Extremely disheartening to read that Aspartame is listed as a sweetener option after the endless research that has been done to show the myriad of horrific health risks it has. It has been linked to diabetes, seizures, cancer, birth defects, etc. PLEASE do your own research and avoid any product with this as a sweetener and certainly dont go out of your way to add it! - 4/7/2013 11:09:45 PM
  • YANKIWIP
    A friend gave me this tip a few years ago and it works great. You can substitute up to 1/2 the sugar in a cookie (and many others) recipe with powered milk. It keeps the bulk the same but takes away some of the sugar. Between that and using some yogurt or applesauce in place of butter or oil, my treats are just s bit healthier but still nice enough to be loved by the kids. - 3/5/2013 3:13:02 PM
  • SWEETCHCOCOLATE
    What about Coconut sugar or Honey Crystals....I use coconut sugar as substitute or almost everything that calls for sugar. - 2/27/2013 12:49:51 PM
  • KELLYGIRL_K
    I was disappointed that this article did not mention any of the controversy over artificial sweeteners. Aspartame in particular has been studied to be connected with health problems (the link below is a reasonable summary of what I've read in med. journals plus a few things I haven't verified yet, like the cancer thing). I've heard most dietitians recommend stevia as a better alternative for those extremely sensitive to sugars, though I'm not convinced it's been around long enough to be properly looked into.

    I generally think it's always better to use something real and moderate it than try to fake myself into thinking I've gotten what I wanted through some unnatural chemical substance.

    http://www.fitd
    ay.com/fitnes
    s-articles/nu
    trition/healt
    hy-eating/5-r
    easons-aspart
    ame-is-bad-for-you.html#b - 2/27/2013 9:17:02 AM