An easy way to cut back on calories without feeling deprived is to cook or bake with artificial sweeteners, says a University of Missouri Extension nutrition and health education specialist.
"You can shave 360 calories from a cake recipe that calls for one cup of sugar by using an artificial sweetener in place of half of it," says Susan Mills-Gray.
But sugar doesn't just provide sweetness to baked goods.
"Sugar provides physical properties such as bulk, structure, moisture, tenderness and browning," Mills-Gray said. "Due to these properties, replacing sugar in baked goods can be tricky."
The most difficult recipes to replace sugar in are baked goods such as cookies, cakes, muffins and brownies.
"Start by replacing half, and if the food doesn't brown correctly or is too heavy in texture, increase the sugar-to-sweetener ratio," she said. "Most substitutes can't do what sugar can do in baked recipes, so use recipes designed for the substitute of your choice."
Below is information on popular artificial sweeteners. Conversion charts, recipes and cooking tips are often available on the manufacturers' websites.
Acesulfame potassium: Brands include Sweet One and Sunett. It can be used in cooking and baking without losing sweetness.
Aspartame: Brands include Equal and NutraSweet. Aspartame loses sweetness when baked at high temperatures for a long time. Use recipes developed for this sweetener. Baked products made with aspartame are best stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Cookies tend to be softer and cakes tend to be harder than their sugar-made counterparts. Baked goods may bake more quickly than if made with sugar.
Saccharin: Brands include Sweet'N Low. Saccharin can be used in cooking and baking without losing sweetness. Studies in the 1970s suggested that eating large amounts of saccharin caused cancer in laboratory rats. Later studies, however, indicated that saccharin does not pose a similar threat to humans.
Stevia plant extract: Brands include Truvia and PureVia. Stevia-based sweeteners can be used in cooking or baking without losing sweetness. When baking with stevia-based sweeteners, you may need to include at least 1/4 cup sugar for best quality and bake at a lower temperature.
Sucralose: Brands include Splenda. Sucralose may not work well in recipes such as certain cakes that rely upon sugar for structure. Finished recipes may require refrigeration.
For more food and nutrition information from MU Extension, including features, answers to frequently asked questions and learning opportunities, go to www.missourifamilies.org/nutrition/.