By Rennie Aranda – Skinny Gene Nutritionist
Healthy sugar substitutes may not necessarily be lower in calories, but most are sweeter, which means less can be used to satisfy those sweet cravings. This means that less can be used while still adding enough sweetness to your favorite treats without the extra calories. Replacing sugar in your diet may help control type 2 diabetes and aid in weight loss. Substituting sugar is most effective when used as part of an overall healthy diet and regular exercise plan. So the next time you’re fighting the urge to indulge in a sweet treat, try some of these healthy sugar substitutes so you can bake your cake and eat it, too!
1) Honey – this ingredient works well in moist, dense, full-flavored bakes. It is sweeter than sugar so you need less. To substitute honey for white sugar in baked goods, you can use ¾ cup or less of honey for every 1 cup of white sugar. You will also need less fluid since honey is a liquid and adds a lot of moisture to a recipe. However, use in moderation since it is high in calories and causes increases in blood sugar in high amounts.
2) Brown Rice Syrup – made with brown rice that is cooked with cultures and enzymes to break down the starches. This ingredient is half as sweet as sugar and has a mild flavor, which is great for cooking and baking. Check the nutrition label to make sure other sweeteners are not included in the ingredients. This ingredient can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio for other liquid sweeteners in baking.
3) Agave Nectar – derived from a spiky, desert-dwelling plant, agave nectar (also known as agave syrup) makes a good substitute for golden or maple syrup and is available in mild or rich flavors. It has a low Glycemic Index, but it is about 33 percent sweeter than sugar, so you will need less. Though more research needs to be done, agave appears to have minimal effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, but be sure to use in moderation because of its high fructose content. Agave nectar works well in chewy bakes like pancakes as well as sticky cakes or muffins.
4) Stevia – a natural, non-nutritive sweetener extracted from the leaf of a stevia plant. This natural ingredient is 200 times sweeter than sugar and can be substituted into baked goods.
5) Fruits & Vegetables – naturally sweet ingredients such as fresh, frozen, or dried fruits (apricots, bananas, dates, raisins, and figs) and grated sweet vegetables (carrots, parsnips, and beetroot) all work well in bakes and cakes. These sweet substitutes add moisture and density as well as fiber and other essential nutrients including vitamin C, potassium, and iron.
6) Applesauce – swap a ½ cup of white sugar with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce. The natural sweetness is a perfect addition to your favorite after-dinner treat.
7) Cinnamon – spice up your treat with this in ingredient, adding subtle sweetness, boosting immunity, without added calories.
8) Mashed Bananas – use as a butter and fat substitute in baking. This fruit is high in potassium, which helps lower blood pressure, while keeping your digestive system in check. To ensure the right texture and firmness, cut down the amount of moisture in your recipe by using less milk or water when using mashed bananas as a sugar substitute.
Also, try some of these additional tips in using substitute natural sweeteners in baking:
- Reduce amount of sugar by ½ and intensify sweetness by adding vanilla, nutmeg, or cinnamon
- Substitute syrup with pureed fruit such as unsweetened applesauce or prune puree
- Instead of frosting, sprinkle cakes or muffins with powdered sugar or cocoa, or make a glaze and drizzle lightly