Baking With Sugar Alternatives

by in Healthy Tips, December 1, 2009

Olive Oil Muffins
Sugar helps make baked goodies puffy, golden brown and moist, but plain granulated sugar isn’t your only option. Whether you’re looking to cut calories, use less processed ingredients or simply change up the flavor, here are some options.

Natural Sweeteners
Don’t be fooled by brown and “raw” varieties of sugar — they’re just as refined as plain old sugar. You might see them called “turbinado” or “cane sugar” — some of these varieties of turbinado and cane sugar may be slightly less refined but not to a significant degree. They do have unique textures which make them good for light sprinkling on top of your goodies just before baking. Instead of the “white stuff,” try honey, maple syrup, brown rice syrup or agave nectar for a more natural alternative. Now these options won’t necessarily cut down calories (they contain virtually the same calories and most affect blood sugar the same way as regular sugar), but each offers a different flavor to cakes, cookies, breads and muffins.

A combination of maple syrup and honey works best for muffins and cookies; typically swapping out even amounts to replace sugar in a recipe will work. Agave nectar is also okay, but it makes your baked goods less tender and does have a noticeably different flavor. When using agave nectar, use the same amount you would if you were using regular sugar but add an additional 1/4 cup flour to the mix.

Artificial Sweeteners
Sugar substitutes are another option, but they won’t provide the same volume and tenderness as sugar or the options mentioned above. Some also have an unpleasant aftertaste when heated.

If you have a diabetic in the family, these replacements offer helpful sugar-free and calorie-free sweetness. But remember, most of these substances are chemicals and/or highly processed, so they’re best consumed in strict moderation. If you’re going to use them, be cautious with the measurements. Many artificial versions are much sweeter than sugar. Check the product’s package or manufacturers’ websites for measurements and use recommendations.

Here are some highlights on the most popular kinds:

  • Saccharin (a.k.a. Sweet’n Low): Use it in baking but beware of the strong aftertaste.
  • Sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda): Heat stable for baking; you can also replace half the sugar with Splenda or buy a blend of the two. Splenda also makes a brown sugar blend with 50% brown sugar, 50% sucralose.
  • Aspartame (a.k.a. Equal or NutraSweet): Not recommended for baking; use this for sweetening beverages instead.
  • Stevia: You can swap many of the new stevia products for equal parts of sugar in most recipes (always check packaging).

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Comments (11)

  1. maebyn says:

    I've done a bit of baking with agave nectar, and since it is much sweeter than sugar, I start with 1/3 or 1/2 of the amount that the recipe calls for (rather than the same amount as granulated sugar). You also need to lower the temperature (325 instead of 350) for agave and honey because they tend to burn at the higher temps. Molasses is another (slightly more nutritious) sweetener.

  2. Kathleen West says:

    ALL foods are chemicals. Molasses is not more nutritious unless you use blackstrap molasses.

  3. Krikri says:

    The use of natural sweeteners have been emphasized in many culinary circles but it appears many people are still used to processed sugar because it is convenient, better known and easily packaged for sale. I believe posts like these will popularize the concept of natural sugar substitution.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I don't think Splenda, Sweet & Low, and Equal should be included in this list as sugar alternatives. They aren't natural or healthy. You might as well buy the pre packaged process box of cookies.

  5. Sarah says:

    It's all converted to glucose in the end. Just use whatever sugar you want and stop complaining.

  6. Terry L says:

    This is not an endorsement but intended for your informaton:… I would suggest to all of you to use a "Sun Crystals" a combination of two natural sweetener ( Stevia & pure Cane Sugar) blended together with only five(5) calories per packet with the delicious taste & texture of sugar. I have used it for my coffee, lemon juice & home made yellow ginger drinks for several weeks now. I use only one packet to a glassful of my drinks. I like & enjoy it very much to my delight You can try & buy it at Walmart.

  7. yoda says:

    Why use a stevia product that has sugar in it, when I'm trying to lower my suage intake? I use SweetLeaf stevia. I've used it in chocolate chip cookies, peanut cookies, and cranberry orange muffins, and they turned out well! You do need to add aother ingredient to make up for lost volume. My cookbook with recipes with stevia was useful! Actually, I just had some of their English toffee flavored liquid on cooked ham-for breakfast–it was good! I like experimenting with the flavored liquids. It has 0 calories, 0 carbs, and a 0 glycemic index!–the stevia, not the ham! (ha, ha)

  8. EMIL says:

    I read a low carb newsletter from and i asked the guide about Stevia. she replied "we can't go around all day chewing on Stevia leaves." Also criticized it as being processed. Yet she believes in the all un-natural, chemical stews called artifical sugar replacements, etc. As a newly diagnosed diabetic i believe in the Stevia. The Japanese have used it on their tables for around 40-50 years with no side effects. The ancient aztecs used it for hundreds of years and it is still used in that area of the world today. I don't trust the chemical stews becausee the drug companies that make them are not the most honest people in the world. Therefor "Stevia is the one for me!" no carbs, no calories, no sode effects! Good stuff.

  9. Mel says:

    Stevia supports the pancreas, which means it is actually good for diabetics. Why would anyone not be a fan of it?

  10. Kathy says:

    Not if you are a diabetic! It really does matter. I like Splenda okay but I love the NuStevia, especially the one for baking with more fiber added.

  11. Kathy says:

    Thanks!!! I wonder how many carbs are in it? I will look for it.

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