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Cooking with sugar substitute

Published: Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 11:35 a.m. CDT

For people with diabetes, replacing the sugar in recipes with a sugar substitute can be a good strategy to control blood glucose levels. With the holiday season right around the corner, trimming sources of added sugar is especially helpful.

In spite of what appears on the internet, all sugar substitutes sold in grocery stores today are on the Food and Drug Administration’s Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list. The four most popular sugar substitutes – saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, and stevia – can all be used to reduce added sugar in a diabetic meal plan. Since they each have a different flavor profile, experiment with finding a sugar substitute you like. While a healthy diabetic diet can include some regular sugar, using a sugar substitute will allow the majority of carbohydrates to come from whole grains, fruits, and dairy foods that also provide important nutrients.

Replacing sugar works best in recipes where sugar’s primary role is for flavoring and sweetening. These include fruit pie fillings, (such as apple pie), fruit sauces (such as cranberry sauce), or beverages (such as punch, hot cocoa or eggnog). Simply replacing regular sugar for an equal amount of sugar substitute will work well without interfering with the look or flavor of the finished product.

If you decide to explore sugar substitutes in baking, there are a few important things to know. First, is the role sugar plays in baked goods. In addition to sweetness, regular sugar provides physical properties such as bulk, structure, moisture, tenderness, and browning. Due to these properties, replacing sugar in baked goods can be tricky. Here are some tips to make sure your revised recipes are a hit.

Add ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract for every ½ cup of sugar substitute used in a recipe to enhance flavor.

Flatten cookie dough before baking by gently pressing the dough with your palm. Sugar substitutes don’t allow cookies to spread as they cook.

Use cold brewed coffee in place of some of the liquid in chocolate flavored recipes to enrich the chocolate flavor.

Sugar retains moisture which increases keeping quality so baked products with the sugar removed will not keep as long.

The cooking time of baked goods is shorter when sugar substitutes are used. Set your timer for a 5-10 minute shorter baking time to check for doneness.

Realize that baked goods made with sugar substitutes will have a different appearance. Cakes, muffins and quick breads will have lower volume and they may be lighter in color because of the absence of sugar.

Some brands offer pre-made blends of regular sugar and sugar substitutes. These blends are meant to be used in baking and yield high quality products. Read the instructions for substituting these blends for sugar. Sometimes they are not a one-to-one substitution. And remember that these blends still have carbohydrates that need to be considered when meal planning because they are half regular sugar. Another option is to replace only half the sugar in a recipe with sugar substitute and leaving some sugar to improve the texture and browning.

For more detailed information on cooking and baking with different sugar substitutes, visit the manufacturer’s website where you’ll also find recipes especially formulated for their product.

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