Wellness Wednesday…Artificial Sweets in Your Holiday Treats

landscape-1445012269-gettyimages-132697630Cakes, cookies, brownies, and more…it is that time of year! A few weeks ago we discussed the dangers of Red 40 food dye in our favorite red holiday candies and treats. (If you missed that article, click here.) Today let’s switch gears a bit and take a look at sugar and the impact it has on our blood sugar, as well as some baking alternatives.  

So, what are your favorite holiday treats? For most of us, these treats equal a lot of sugar and calories that can lead to weight gain and inflammation.   I know that’s not on any of our Christmas lists this year.   So, is there an alternative to sugar that we could use in our traditional recipes that will allow us to have our cake and eat it too? Let’s take a look.

artifical-sweeteners-weight-loss-02Over the past few decades, we’ve seen a rise in obesity and diabetes. Ironically, we’ve also seen the creation of multiple artificial sweeteners. Commonly found in diet sodas, sugar-free gum, and other “diet” foods, artificial sweeteners play the role of a sweetener but without the calories and increase in blood sugar levels that come with regular sugar. There’s a lot of controversy over their efficacy and overall impact on health. Some studies actually show that these “fake” sweeteners can lead to weight gain and cause you to eat more instead of less. While this may be true, many people still ask the question, “Can artificial sweeteners be used instead of sugar in my favorite holiday recipes?”

The answer is both no and yes. To understand, let’s look at the role of sugar in baking. Baking is science. Just like the chemistry experiments you did back in high school, all the ingredients in a baked treats work together to create a chemical reaction so that you get the desired end product. Sugar plays various roles in baking. These include:01-too-much-sugar-opener-2

  • Sweetener
  • Browing agent
  • Moisture
  • Leavening
  • Imparts chewiness and crispness


Knowing this, it’s easy to understand that if you replace the sugar in a recipe, your end product can end up way different. Many people prefer to replace the white, refined sugar with a more natural sweetener. This is exactly what I would recommend, as I am a fan of anything natural as opposed to processed and artificial. Natural sweeteners include things like honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that while they are natural, they all increase blood sugar levels. They still act as sugar in the body.

2f3d5412fa79c4cb01443684b5bdcfdfIf the goal is to reduce the impact on your blood sugar and insulin production, then using an artificial sweetener may be an option. They aren’t all created equal, though, and most of them are not suited for high temperatures, as heat will cause them to break down and become bitter. Others don’t work because they will not contribute to the desired browning, moisture, or texture. The following list covers the most common artificial sweeteners and can help you decide to pick it or kick it when it comes to your favorite holiday recipes.


SUCRALOSE (e.g., Splenda)

Good for baking as long as you use the Splenda baking formulation, which has low-calorie fillers added for bulk. Sucralose is a distant cousin of sugar as it is made from sugar.

600-times sweeter than sugar

1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet or ½ tsp.


STEVIA (e.g., Truvia, PureVia, Stevia in the Raw)

These are not pure stevia, but a form of stevia known as Rebaudioside A. It is often mixed with erythritol after processing.

Heat stable so can be used in baking; however, these sugars do not caramelize or crystalize so you will not get the browning effect desired in certain baked goods. Not appropriate for use in meringues.

200 to 300-times sweeter than sugar

1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet


SACCHARIN: (e.g., Sweet‘N Low)

It can replace some of the sugar, but will leave a metallic aftertaste and may result in lumpy texture.

300-times sweeter than sugar

1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet or ½ tsp. bulk Sweet‘N Low


ASPARTAME: (e.g., Equal, Nutrasweet)

Not for baking as it loses sweetness in high heat. May work in custards and puddings.

200-times sweeter than sugar

1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet



Can be used in baking, but will yield a slight bitter aftertaste.

200-times sweeter than sugar

1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet


NEOTAME by Nutrasweet

Developed to be used in baking as the sweetness holds up to high heat with no metallic or bitter aftertaste.

8,000-times sweeter than sugar

Not widely available for purchase


ERYTHRITOL (e.g., Nectresse)

Good for baking with no aftertaste; has fewer calories than sugar, but is not zero-calorie like many other artificial sweeteners.

150-times sweeter than sugar

1 tsp. sugar = ½ packet or ¼ tsp.


100a95fd-096b-4ee5-a24a-45fac7c1dd48Although it is tempting to turn to artificial sweeteners to reduce sugar, carbs, and calories in your baked goods, I recommend that you stick to the natural stuff (like honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar) and try to increase the healthy fats in your recipe. This will help to stabilize your blood sugar and balance out your macro-nutrients too!


Stay happy, healthy, and N motion, AND REMEMBER…age is just a number!




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