by Rosemary Black
Yes, you can bake guilt-free goodies that taste great, too. You just have to know which sweetener to use.
Can you have your cookies and eat them, too? You sure can, if you make some simple swaps.
By switching out refined sugar for non-nutritive sweeteners, you’ll be able to turn out not just cookies, but cakes, muffins and quick breads that have fewer calories than their traditional counterparts.
There are many non-nutritive sweeteners on the market. The products are sweeter than sugar—so you only need to use a little. If you’re not sure how to convert sugar measurements to sweetener measurements, experiment a little in your recipes to find the right taste. Or follow these guidelines.
The FDA-approved non-nutritive sweeteners (and their brand names) are:
Acesulfame-K: SweetOne®, Sunett®, DiabetiSweet®
Aspartame: NutraSweetTM, Equal®
Saccharin: Sweet’n Low®
However, they’re not all great for baking. One of the best for baked goods is sucralose, which is highly stable when heated. Also a good choice is acesulfame-K. It stays stable in high temperatures, and is best used in combination with other sweeteners. Stevia also gives good results for baking.
Some of the sugar blends, which consist of granulated sugar, non-nutritive sweeteners, and ingredients that lend bulk, also works well in baked goods.
Not so great for baking: Aspartame, since it loses sweetness when heated, and saccharin, since it can have a bitter taste. As for agave and honey, these are sweeter than sugar, and have calories that you’ll need to keep track of.
Some other caveats to keep in mind when baking (and enjoying baked goods):
* You still shouldn’t eat baked goods in unlimited quantities if you want to keep your blood sugar in the target range. “People sometimes think they can eat as much as they want if they replace the sugar with a sugar substitute,” says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. “But all the other ingredients still have calories that count, so you still have to watch what you are eating.”
* If you decide to revamp your recipes for entertaining, know in advance that they won’t turn out quite the same, says Alison Massey, RD, CDE, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. They may not rise as much, or may not brown as well as a recipe with sugar. When you make quick breads and muffins without added sugar, for instance, they are paler in color and may not have the tender crust that the presence of sugar confers. And since sugar acts not just as a sweetener but as a preservative and to lend moisture, keep in mind that baked goods made with a sugar substitute will get stale faster. If you don’t plan on eating these within a day after making them, consider freezing them. If you’re not sure how a particular sweetener will act in a recipe, go to the product’s website for advice, Massey suggests.
* An alternative strategy for cutting calories is simply to use less sugar than the recipe calls for, says Massey. “If you cut back on sugar, test the recipe before you serve it to your guests,” she says. “There’s nothing worse than baking a special pie and having it be a failure at a celebration. So try it first before making it for a special occasion.”
* One more strategy for dessert-making for special occasions: Eat the regular dessert, but just eat less of it, Massey says. “Have one instead of three desserts,” she says. “Remember, some celebrations only come once a year.”