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Using Sugar Substitutes in Recipes | March 27, 2013

If you have diabetes and want to learn to cook without sugar, you’re in luck.  There are a variety of non-nutritive sweeteners that the FDA has approved for home use.  While they provide a sweet taste, most of these products lack the browning, tenderizing and moisture-retaining properties of granulated sugar.  Recipes that usually do well with sugar substitutes include beverages, frozen desserts, pie fillings, sauces, gelatins and puddings.

It is possible to cook and bake with artificial sweeteners, but different sweeteners have different qualities.  In order to have tasty recipes, it is important to know how to use them appropriately.  Sugar in recipes has many functions and does more than just make a recipe sweet.  Sugar helps a product stay moist and tender.  It also helps make baked desserts and breads become golden brown.  Here are some tips for cooking with the top 4 sugar substitutes.

Aspartame (Equal and Nutrasweet)
Aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar and may be easily substituted for sugar in these recipes.  It does not affect blood sugar because it is actually amino acid based.  But Aspartame breaks down when cooked at high temperatures.  For this reason, cakes, cookies and meringues turn out better if you use one of the other non-nutritive sweeteners.  Substitute 6 (1 gram) packets for each ¼ cup sugar.

Saccharin (Sweet & Low)
Saccharin is 500 times sweeter than sugar.  It is used in diet beverages, baked goods and chewing gum.  It can be used in baked goods.  However, the manufacturer recommends substituting it for only half of the sugar in a recipe.  When used alone, it does not affect blood sugar because it is not digested or absorbed.  Substitute 6 (1 gram) packets for each ¼ cup sugar.

Sucralose (Splenda)
Sucralose, which is 400-800 times sweeter than sugar, is not digested or absorbed, so it does not influence blood sugar.  Granular sucralose is the form used when baking and works well in baked products.  Substitute 1 cup granular sucralose for each cup of sugar called for in the recipe.  Recipes made with this product tend to bake faster than usual, so check for doneness sooner than the recipe specifies.

Stevia (Truvia)
Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar.  Pure Stevia does not perform well in baked products, but it is good in dry beverage mixes and soft drinks.  In order to use Stevia in baked products, you must add a bulking agent like applesauce or pureed pumpkin.  You may also find a Stevia “Baker’s Blend” out on the market that already has a bulking agent in it.  Stevia has no effect on blood sugar and is digested and absorbed, so often better tolerated.

For more information on how to bake with sugar substitutes, check out our diabetes cooking video series on eHow:

Sugar Free Pudding

Recipes for Diabetics