I know there are many people out there that are dead-set against using non-sugar sweeteners. And some research on select non-sugar sweeteners support (or at least used to support) such opposition. Sweetness and no calories? Too good to be true? Well, I have decided that in some cases (or at least for some times) that select non-sugar sweeteners are the better choice for me, not just because of taste or texture, but for baking.
I just can’t stay away from my sweet spots. That’s just the fact for me. And for me, unsweetened fresh fruit, though delicious, just isn’t “evil” enough to really satisfy me when I want cake, pie, cookies, or ice cream. I wish they were.
I’m 45 years old now. Things have been changing with my health, as they do for many people my age. My genes make me prone to diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides. It’s all in the family. And as a person with a mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, some of my medications exacerbate that vulnerability. For example, one of them makes me extra hungry, especially for sweets and starchy carbs, and may even affect my metabolism. That makes weight gain more likely. Some of my medications are also sedating. Again, I’ve just lost my oomph! Are you getting older and losing some of your “oomph”, even without a mental illness? Is stress getting to you? Does that make you want the cookie? Yes, the mentally ill are far from alone in this.
My doctors have been telling me to cut down on sugars and starchy carbs for about 5 years now. Foods with high fats too. Good grief! Sometimes when I’m down in mood, it’s just so difficult. But I have chosen to go the non-sugar (or almost no-sugar) sweetening route in order to keep goodies in my life. Sometimes it’s just so hard when you feel too deprived. Plus, as the title implies, I love to cook, and I love to bake even more. Baking and cooking (to a lesser degree) are two significant relaxation tools that also allow me to explore my creative side. And oh, how they yield such nice results!
Unlike my cholesterol and triglycerides, my glucose levels have been normal for the last three years. They weren’t for about two years prior to that when my eating was an “anything goes” affair. I was pre-diabetic back then, and almost obese, right on the verge of full-blown diabetes. I had to do something, and I was happy to have the choice of eating sweets without sugar and extreme numbers of calories.
Below I’d like to share my own preferences for non-sugar (or almost non-sugar) substitutes, based on my cook and baker’s point of view. I am not a doctor or nutritionist, so any person with diabetes or at risk for diabetes should consult with their physician and/or nutritionist to discuss the best non-sugar substitutes and products (or lack thereof) for them.
These are the low calorie low or non-sugar sweetening products I like to use, followed by my preferred uses and reasons for choosing them:
Truvía® – The original product containing only stevia leaf extract, erythritol, and other natural flavors. What I like about this is that each packet has zero calories, has the sweetness of 2 tsp of sugar, and unlike other non-sugar sweeteners has a crystal appearance almost identical to real sugar, and in my opinion, has the taste of real sugar. Great in beverages and sprinkled on cereal, crepes, or used to make cinnamon toast. Most other non-sugar sweeteners don’t compete for the latter.
Splenda (sucralose) granular and EZ-Sweetz (also sucralose) liquid – Splenda granular and EZ-Sweetz liquid work equally well in beverages or liquid based foods. Splenda granular measures 1:1 with regular sugar. One drop of EZ-Sweetz is the equivalent to about 2 tsp of sugar (though I usually need more). Splenda granular can be used in baking flour-based goods, but I tend to prefer the Truvía® baking blend mentioned below for better overall results, such as texture. I have good luck using EZ-Sweetz in cheesecakes that don’t require flour. Splenda granular can be sifted on top of cakes in place of confectioner’s sugar, but I find that using just a small amount of the real thing is preferable. The bulk Splenda product I buy looks more like flakes than crystals.
Truvía® baking blend – A combination of the original Truvía® product and real white sugar. Though this product contains some real sugar, it still has 75% fewer calories than sugar for the equal amount of sweetness. To measure, you use 50% less of this product to get the equivalent to the sweetness of sugar. I find that this blend yields a better baking result in flour-based baking than using other non-sugar sweeteners alone. If no white sugar can be consumed for dietary reasons, Splenda (sucralose) granular is my second choice.
Truvía® brown sugar blend – A combination of the original Truvía® product, real white sugar, and molasses. It also has 75% fewer calories than the equivalent sweetness of real sugar and measures to regular brown sugar the same as the Truvía® baking blend measures to white sugar. I find this product yields excellent results in place of regular brown sugar, and even packs like brown sugar (and yet it doesn’t harden up). I’ve tried other brown sugar substitutes without sugar (such as sugar alcohol-based products) and they were inferior, in my opinion.
Sugar-free flavored syrups (like Torani and DaVinci brands) – Flavored syrups like you see in your local café are also available sugar free. I’ve ordered mine online, but a more limited selection is available at my local grocery store. Both brands are sweetened with Splenda brand sucralose, are flavored with “natural flavors”, and contain various other ingredients, etc. These are great for beverages, and I’ve even found low carb cheesecake recipes that use these in place of other sweeteners. Let me know if you’d like the recipe. It’s delish!
So the above are my personal choices for non-sugar or low sugar-based sweeteners based on my experience and taste. Have you tried any of these products? What did you think? Do you have a strong preference for a different type of non-sugar sweetener? Or do you just use the “real” stuff in extreme moderation?