Sweetener Options?

http://greenlitebites.com/2007/11/26/sweetener-options/

We are smack dab in the middle of baking season and I have a ton of ideas for “greenlitebites” but I always struggle with sweetener options. Do I just suck it up and use sugar? There has to be a better option, no?

First, let’s talk about sugar. Once upon a time, I was a low carb fanatic. I counted carbohydrates like a lunatic. Known as the carb guru to my friends, I lost a lot of weight and learned a lot about my body (it should be known I gained it all back). I since eased on the carb counting but going through that stage helped me learn refined white sugar is not good for me. I’ve always heard the rumors about children having a sugar rush child or even people having a sugar addition but according to Nancy Appleton, Ph.D there are 146 Reasons Why Sugar Is Ruining Your Health.

That’s a lot of reasons!

Now I don’t want to be the crazy health food lady and declare I will NEVER eat sugar again. It’s not realistic. And I’m not a nutritionist but personally I feel better, look better and am more in control of my diet when I avoid white sugar and white flour. So if I can substitute these things in my homemade recipes why not? Plus I love being creative and finding healthy alternatives. Hence, the blog, I guess. ;~)

All right enough about sugar, I’ve convinced myself a long time ago to avoid it and I know there has to be better ways of sweetening recipes.

Right now I’ve been using honey and/or molasses in some recipes. I like that they add another dimension of flavor to things like muffins and marinades. But isn’t honey just as bad for you as sugar and molasses, it’s made from sugar, right?

Maybe

However, I did find some interesting write-ups on the web. Honey is actually listed as one of the world’s healthiest foods. Yes, it is high in calories but if I’m going to sweeten something I’d rather use the calories on something that provides some health benefits not just empty caloreies.

As for molasses, whfoods.com says, “Blackstrap molasses is a sweetener that is actually good for you. Unlike refined white sugar and corn syrup, which are stripped of virtually all nutrients except simple carbohydrates, or artificial sweeteners like saccharine or aspartame, which not only provide no useful nutrients but have been shown to cause health problems in sensitive individuals, blackstrap molasses is a healthful sweetener that contains significant amounts of a variety of minerals that promote your health.”

Again, I’d rather use something that provides nutrients in addition to sweetening.

As for sugar substitutes I’ve been using Splenda but since having the toddler I’m not sure I want to fill him with an artificial sweeteners. Needless to say the little pink and blue packets are out too.

Where does that leave me?

Well, A few weeks ago Joyce introduced me to Stevia. I bought packets first and couldn’t believe how sweet it was. Then I discovered you could buy it in jars. I’ve recently picked one up but haven’t tried it in baking yet. Apparently, it is not effected by heat and you need a lot less. 1 tsp sweetens like 1 cup of sugar!!! Oh and did I tell you it’s 0 calories.

Now, I’m not saying stevia in the end all be all in sweeteners but it seems to have some promise. Right now it is not approved by the FDA to be used in prepackaged foods but they may change in the future.

All that and I’m still confused. My mantra is moderation, everything in moderation.

What about you? How do you satisfy the sweet tooth?

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19 Comments and 0 Replies

  1. Kathy

    I’ve found that I love Splenda in cooked items such as cranberry sauce and baked custard. I keep a combination of pink, blue, and yellow packets beside my coffee and tea station so I’m not getting too much of any one type of sweetener…is that crazy reasoning??? And I keep honey and molasses, maple syrup and granulated maple syrup for their distinct flavors…and since they are so concentrated in their sweetness and flavor, I can get by with using very small amounts. Hubby brought me home a Stevia plant last summer…the leaves are sweet, but I never got around to buying the prepared Stevia. I think each sweetener has its devoted followers…I’m lucky that I like them all, I guess.

  2. Laura

    I lean towards the real stuff – whether its honey, sugar, or whatever – it just has to be better for you than artificial sweeteners. Haven’t heard of Stevia – can’t to read up on it!

  3. vickie

    I can’t remember where I found this -

    Sugar (1 cup) substitutes:
    honey 1/2 cup
    date sugar 1 cup
    sucanat 1 cup
    maple syrup 1/2 to 3/4 cup
    rice syrup 1 3/4 cup
    barley malt syrup 3/4 cup
    raisin juice – soaked and blended 1/2 cup
    mashed bananas 2 medium
    molasses 1/2 cup
    apple juice concentrate 1/2 cup

    when replacing sugar with a liquid sweetener – reduce liquid (milk, soy milk, water) content of RECIPE by 1/4 cup. If the recipe contains no liquid other than the sweetener, increase the flour by 1/4 cup.

    I also know from personal experience that you can OFTEN reduce the sugar the recipe calls for by 1/2 and have the recipe taste the same. So, if the recipe calls for 3 cups of white sugar – 1 1/2 cups tastes the same to my family.

    I am not saying that any/all of the substitutes listed above are better or healthier than white sugar – I am just saying that they were included in the list of substitutes.

    I can’t remember if I have given you this before:

    Oil Substitutes
    Oil can be replaced by Applesauce in most baked recipes. Please be sure to read Applesauce Ingredient listings carefully – some have a LOT of added sugar. I cannot find it written any where – but I believe the substitution is even – 1 cup of oil replaced by 1 cup of applesauce. (feel free to try it out and please let me know if the substitution is not even.)

    Oil can be replaced in a recipe (3 to 1 ratio) with Flax Seed when baking. So if the recipe calls for 1 cup oil – can substitute 3 cups Flax Seed.

    I tried a traditional pumpkin muffin recipe using flax seed. I left everything else in the recipe the same (white sugar) and substituted 3 cups of flax seed for 1 cup oil. The batter was very dense – hard to spread evenly in muffin cups and was much darker than normal.

    I think a good idea/suggestion is to use 1/2 oil and half Flax Seed. So, in 1 cup oil example – To use 1/2 cup oil and 1 1/2 cups Flax Seed. So the batter spreads easier and looks more “normal.” I am just getting ready to try same recipe with applesauce and flax seed substituted for all the oil.

    I also have been trying lemon bar recipes – trying to use whole oats and whole wheat flour in place of the white flour crust. And trying very small amount of honey and plain yogurt instead of white sugar for the filing. I’ll let you know if I hit a winner.

  4. Leslie

    I gave up artificial sweeteners a few months ago. After doing some research about them there’s just no way I’m putting that chemical junk into my body anymore (thankfully I hardly used it in the first place). Did you know that Britain scientists actually stumbled upon the formula for sucralose (Splenda) while seeking out a new pesticide formulation?? That little fact alone is enough to keep my far away from Splenda.

    When I want to sweeten something up a little like tea or oatmeal, I use Sugar in the Raw. When I’m baking I use organic sugar. All things in moderation. I’ve found that when I use real sugar I only need a little tiny bit, but when I’ve used Splenda in the past I would pour it on.

  5. Dani

    I’ve spent a lot of time “hemming and hawing” over sweetners. I too am a big believer of “everything in moderation”. I find as long as we keep things moderate our bodies are able to balance everything out in the end.
    After spending years using artificial sweetners, I have decided that the real deal is the way to go, at least this way your body knows what it has to contend with.
    I’ve come to learn that there is no such thing as “something for nothing” when it comes to eating, and I think that artificial sweetners promote the idea that you can have your cake and it it too…(I’ve tried it, it doesn’t work).
    I don’t know if you have heard of Agave before, it’s a natural sweetner that is similar to honey, but does not effect our blood sugar levels when we eat it (it has a low glycemic index). Ultimately the havoc sugar creates on our blood sugar (spiking and crashing), is what makes us feel like crap and what deteriorates our bodies. Agave does not do this and is worth checking out!

  6. Holly

    I’ve heard some bad reviews on Stevia, particularly it’s effects on sperm count. See more here: link to rain-tree.com

    As far as Agave, I’ve used it to sweeten tea but I have not tried cooking with it. It’s delicious all by itself as well.

    I’m still debating the whole artificial sweetener thing. When I got on my healthy living craze I bought a big bag of Splenda with the intention of cooking with it. Not being a big baker, I have yet to touch it for more than just sweetening the occasional cup of tea or sprinkling some on mashed butterbut squash & sweet potatos (I know, you’d think it was sweet enough, but the husband likes it to be reminiscent of mom’s sweet potato casserole). I’m trying to ween myself off of using sweeteners in my tea altogether, but in the mean time, maybe I should just switch to real sugar. The calories might be worth the long term effects.

    Cheers,
    Holly

  7. Sandra

    I’ve found Xylitol to be a good alternative (the sweetener in most chewing gums). It isn’t cheap but it can be baked with in exactly the same measurements and is even almost the same consistency as white sugar. I’ve done some homework on it and it comes largely from corn stalks and can be good for hormones as well as diabetics (it doesn’t spike blood sugar like white sugar can).

  8. jess

    Just to add a little. When I went to the dentist the other day I had two cavaties (big deal for me, I’ve only ever had one!) and I asked if it could be because I chew a lot of gum these days- always sugar-free though. She said that the sugarfree gums with xylitol are actually good for your teeth!-who knew?

    Also, we carried stevia at my work for a while (a hippie-ish coffee shop, haha) and I Loved it! It is amazingly sweet so I could only handle about half a little packet or else I thought it tasted a little bit cottoncandyish and left my teeth feeling funky. But once you get accustomed to How little it takes to really sweeten things up I really really liked it. I continue to read up on all the reports and stuff, but until they prove it’s bad for ya…. everything in moderation, right? haha

  9. Bev Rockey

    Agave nectar is a wonderful sweetener for beverages such as ice tea or lemonade as it dissolves easily. Drizzle it over yogurt or cereal. Use it to sweeten salad dressings and BBQ sauce. For baking, you can substitute agave in recipes as you would honey. Use three-fourths agave for the recommended amount of sugar and reduce the amount of liquid.

    In comparison to some of the other natural sweeteners, it has a nice clean “sugar” sweetness and holds up well to heat.

    1 Serving is considered to be 1 tablespoon. 1 tablespoon has 60 calories and 16 grams carbohydrate.

    1 teaspoon equals a free food. Two teaspoons equals 1/2 carbohydrate exchange.

    Agave is less viscous than honey, making it easy to pour and blend into cooked and raw foods.

    In baking, moisture retention is similar to honey, so it’s great for cakes and breads, but won’t make a crisp cookie or hard candy.

    Has a long shelf life and will not crystallize.

    Store in a cool, dry, dark location.

  10. Rebecca

    I agree with you I just feel much better when I don’t eat a lot of white flour and white sugar. That is why I love you muffins they are so great. I use stevia in my steele cut oats but have never tried it in baking. I lean more towards the molasses and maple syrup or honey. I will look forward to seeing what you come up with using the stevia.
    Rebecca

  11. Nicole

    I wish I could stand the taste of stevia…I’ve tried several times and I just can’t stomach the after-taste it has…I will have to look into Agave tho…I really want to get off artifical sweeteners.

  12. Itsme

    People sometimes have difficulty putting risks into their relative proportion. I once knew someone who was a smoker who was concerned about using artifical sweetener in their coffee.

    On average, smoking reduces your lifespan by about 7 years. On the other hand, there is not a single documenented death from the use of artifical sweeteners, just some lunatics raving on the internet. But even if they did shorten your life by a year, look at this guys risk. 7 year shorter life from smoking, or 1 year (which I don’t believe) from using artifical sweeteners. Yet where was his focus? Amazing!

    I don’t know the documented figures for how much sugar (honey, molasses, fructose, and other natural products are just sugars) shortens your life, but it’s got to be quite a bit. Consider all the problems from obesity, and the related consequences, as well as diabetes. How can people even give any consideration to artifical sweetners causing harm, when the product they replace is deadly.

    And consider the statement one poster above made: “Did you know that Britain scientists actually stumbled upon the formula for sucralose (Splenda) while seeking out a new pesticide formulation?? That little fact alone is enough to keep my far away from Splenda.”

    What an illogical statement. The scientist made a compound that he thought would be a pesticide, but it wasn’t. In fact, it had no toxicity at all, but it did have a sweet taste. What’s that supposed to prove. To me it proves what they say about how dismal science education is in this country. Not the scientist — but the poster for thinking that proves something.

    Please people, use your brains. Sugar kills!

  13. Christine

    I haven’t tried stevia yet. I do use sugar but only half of what the recipe calls for. That seems to be enough for my taste … and hubby can’t tell the difference :)

  14. Deb

    I have been using a product called NuStevia for about 2 years now & love it. I have tried other stevia products before & didnt like the aftertaste or bitterness. This type doesnt have either. I buy it locally at Wegmans or Feelrite but I know it can be ordered online too. I use the White Stevia powder.

  15. kathleen

    so random that i just stumbled upon this post of yours through the choc oatmeal post. was just catching up your fitbloggin pics — love the stretched out pic with your berks on! and anyway — was thinking 2 questions that i keep meaning to ‘ask roni’ —
    1 – your take on sweeteners – and that’s why i was psyched to see this…
    and 2 – probably VERY random but i notice that you don’t seem to have anything peanut butter-related on GLB. is that bc you are not a fan or bc of the calorie/fat. totally just curious!

    little bean is looking adorable!

  16. roni

    Ahhh Peanut butter… it’s a love LOVE relationship. I don’t normally use it in recipes becuase it’s so high in cal/fat but I’m actually working on a granola bar recipe with it. Stay tuned! :)

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