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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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Making Smart Sugar Swaps
Think about it: Using a sugar substitute in a batch of chocolate chip cookies doesn’t make much sense; the butter and chocolate account for a whole bunch of calories, too. (Let’s look at the math: Sugar has 775 calories per cup; butter has 1,627, shortening has 1,845 and oil has 1,927.) In many cases, it can be better to treat yourself to one (yes, one) really good homemade chocolate chip cookie, rather than making a batch of high-fat, high-calorie cookies that just happen to have a little less sugar. Says SparkPeople Dietitian Becky Hand: "Using an artificial sweetener in cooking and baking can actually backfire and trick you into thinking you can eat more. Be sure to analyze your reduced-sugar recipe with SparkPeople's Recipe Calculator so you know exactly what's in it."

In other words, don't automatically assume that you can eat a few more treats simply because you're using artificial sweeteners--those calories from all the other ingredients still add up fast! It would make more sense to use sugar substitutes in dishes that don’t include much (or any) fat, or in recipes where you’re taking other steps to reduce overall calorie count.
So what kinds of foods lend themselves to smart sugar swaps?
  • Beverages: Stir away in your morning coffee, tea or even a batch of summery lemonade.
  • Cereals: If you need a bit of sweet in your corn flakes or hot oatmeal, then a sprinkling of sucralose or stevia is a good choice.
  • Puddings, which can be made with low-fat or non-fat milk, are good candidates for sugar substitutes, like this recipe for low-calorie chocolate pudding. Likewise, Chef Meg’s 150-calorie chocolate mousse, which includes fat-free Greek yogurt, is another good recipe where you could substitute a sugar alternative.
  • In recipes where you’re taking other steps to reduce overall calorie count. Look for baked goods prepared with applesauce instead of oil, or ones that are partially sweetened with fruit like prunes or bananas. These light lemon-raspberry scones, made with fat-free evaporated milk and less butter, are a great example.

As you consider whether to use a sugar alternative in a recipe, calorie count from sugar alone is only part of the equation. You also need to weigh other questions: Can I do more with this recipe to sensibly reduce overall calorie count from fat and other ingredients? Will the taste of the sugar substitute be noticeable? Is the extra cost of using an alternative sweetener OK for my budget? And perhaps most importantly, Can I avert the ''low-calorie'' trap and avoid eating more than I intend?


Center for Science in the Public Interest. ''How Much Sugar Should You Eat?,'' accessed January 2013.

Diabetic Living Online. ''Baking with Sugar Substitutes,'' accessed January 2013. ''Sweetness Conversion Chart,'' accessed January 2013. "Nectresse Frequently Asked Questions," accessed February 2013.

Sweet 'N ''FAQs: How is Sweet 'N Low used to replace sugar in baking?,'' accessed January 2013. "Sweet One Recipes," accessed February 2013. ''Truvia® Natural Sweetener Conversion Chart,'' accessed January 2013.  


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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

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
    -a-poisoned-world/ ) or listen to what Dr. Mercola has to say here: http://products.m
    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
    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:
    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
    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
    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
    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
    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.

    ame-is-bad-for-you.html#b - 2/27/2013 9:17:02 AM