Nutrition Articles

Sweet Swaps: Baking with Sugar Substitutes

How to Lighten Up Your Favorite Treats

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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?

 
Sources

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

Diabetic Living Online. ''Baking with Sugar Substitutes,'' accessed January 2013. www.diabeticlivingonline.com.

Equal.com. ''Sweetness Conversion Chart,'' accessed January 2013. www.equal.com.

Nectresse.com. "Nectresse Frequently Asked Questions," accessed February 2013. www.nectresse.com.

Sweet 'N Low.org. ''FAQs: How is Sweet 'N Low used to replace sugar in baking?,'' accessed January 2013. www.sweetnlow.org.

Sweetone.com. "Sweet One Recipes," accessed February 2013. www.sweetone.com.

Truvia.com. ''Truvia® Natural Sweetener Conversion Chart,'' accessed January 2013. www.truvia.com.  


 

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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

  • We do not use artificial sugar. I don't believe those chemicals are good for you. Best to just cut back as your tastes do change as you cut back on sugar. Moderation is key. Best to substitute with natural sweetened sources if you want to, such as applesauce, dates, honey, coconut sugar etc. please skip these artificial sugar choices if you want to continue on a healthy lifestyle path. - 6/21/2016 1:22:59 AM
  • Good article! I prefer to avoid sugar substitutes because of the after taste most leave. I just program in sweet treats (sometime use baking subs like applesauce or prunes, etc.) but pretty much use the real thing!! - 5/3/2016 10:05:20 AM
  • I can't use any type of artificial sweetener for 2 reasons. One - they all have a horrible chemical aftertaste - even Stevia, and two, they increase my cravings for sugar.

    You can change your taste buds to get used to less sugar. Years ago, I used to drink an 8-ounce cup of coffee with 2 heaping teaspoons of sugar. I weaned myself off sugar, and now don't use any sugar in coffee or tea. If I accidently pick up my husband's cup of coffee - with either sugar or Truvia in it, and take a taste, it makes me gag. I cannot drink soda because it's too sweet, and diet soda is even worse.

    I have found that the less sweets I have in my diet, the less I crave them. The easiest way to stay away from sweets is to not buy them in the first place. If they're not in my house, I don't miss them. - 4/17/2016 7:06:40 PM
  • I stay away from all artificial sweeteners because I have heard that they aren't good for you. I just cut back on sugar. I've been doing it little at a time. - 3/4/2016 10:18:46 PM
  • Saccharin gives you cancer. Don't fill your body with synthetic chemicals to help yourself get healthier and live longer - a lot of it is poison designed to make you addicted to the manufactured food industry. It is pointless to replace something moderately unhealthy for you with someone that is extremely unhealthy for you.

    Use no-sugar-added applesauce, ripe pineapple chunks, prunes or raisins or any dried or ripe fruit, or 100% fruit juices. - 2/29/2016 8:29:42 PM
  • LOVEMYCHEROKEE
    everything in moderation..if I want a sweet once in awhile..I will leave some carbs I am counting for that...artifical sweetners r not good for you in my opinion..Sandi. - 10/1/2015 7:57:57 AM
  • If I'm going to splurge on empty calories like baked goods, I want full fat and real sugar.
    Splenda, Stevia, Truvia are all off the table for me; I love some hilarious earth-shattering flatulence as much as the next guy, but the debilitating abdominal cramps I can do without.

    I put Equal in my morning coffee, and I drink a nice icy cold can of Diet Coke in the afternoon because it keeps me from snacking. - 4/22/2015 9:10:56 AM
  • I used Truvia in some homemade applesauce last year. It was HORRIBLE! Such a bitter aftertaste. I ended up throwing it away. I don't know if I would try an artifical sweetener again for it. I might just have to portion smaller. - 3/11/2015 6:39:51 PM
  • I just don't understand why this "healthy" website keeps advocating the use of artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are much worse for us than actual sugar. I don't get it and I am losing faith in the credibility of SP. Its very disappointing. - 2/10/2015 12:17:43 PM
  • [citation needed] re: harder to quit sugar than cocaine.
    ---
    But really, I like Truvia a lot because I feel like it has a nice granular texture, although why that matters when I'm dissolving it in my coffee is beyond me. I just do! - 9/27/2014 9:02:29 PM
  • Guys, remember that this is just here to provide information. No one is making you use more or artificial sugar. Some people have problems with artificial sugar. They know this article doesn't apply to them, so no need to play food police for them.
    If you have doubts, ask your doctor, do more research. This article is to provide some information on different sweeteners, that's it. If you want to know if these are ok for you, you'll do the research.

    Sure, share your opinion, but remember that not everyone is against artificial sweeteners. Not everyone has a medical condition that is effected by them, not everyone is sensitive to them. For some people, who maybe like their occasional treat to still be a lower calorie treat, or use a packet of stevia in their coffee, or whatever, it's a helpful bit of information to have. - 9/8/2014 4:20:22 PM
  • I use the Splenda brown sugar blend and like the results that I get. - 7/22/2014 5:42:09 AM
  • 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

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