Baking Without Sugar: What are the Healthy Alternatives?





Whether you are trying to lose weight, stay healthy, or just looking for an alternative to regular sugars when you are cooking and baking, there are a variety of alternative sweeteners out there that can easily help you take charge of your healthier lifestyle. There are a great deal of sugar alternatives on the market today, so it is important to take a look at your dietary needs and what you plan to do with it. Here is a brief listing of some of the more popular sugar alternatives, what makes them different, how to use them, and when to use them.





Honey

Using honey as an alternative to sugar is a great idea for teas, baked goods, and fruity dishes, as it adds a bit of an earthy undertone to the food you are preparing with it. By substituting honey in place of sugar, you are actually cutting down on the amount of sweetener that you need to use, as honey tends to have an overall sweeter flavor than that of real sugar. You will also need to keep in mind that when using honey in baked goods, you will need to cut the amount or liquid down - it is a general rule that when you are using honey as a sweetener, you will need to subtract about a quarter cup of other liquid from your recipe, because there is a lot of water in honey. Also add a bit of baking soda to your recipe to counteract the natural acidity of the honey. Honey can make wonderful muffins, cookies, and other baked goods that have a bit of a fruity taste to them.


Molasses

Molasses is for using in things such as spice cookies, ginger cookies, cakes, and pies. Molasses is the perfect sugar alternative when you are creating a dish that has a bit more of an earthy flavor, or one that relies on spices such as allspice, ginger, and cloves. The molasses really brings out the taste of the baked goods. While not as sweet as refined, white sugar, it does add a darker color to the finished product and can be healthier, thanks to the fact that it contains some iron, calcium, and B vitamins. To use molasses, you should use roughly 1/3 cup extra for each cup of sugar your recipe calls for. For example, if your recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use 1 1/3 cup molasses, and then subtract some of the liquid from the recipe so that it still comes together properly.


Maple Syrup

There's a huge difference between the highly commercialized syrup products on the shelf in the breakfast food aisle and real maple syrup, so be sure to select only real maple syrup when substituting, otherwise you will be adding even more sugar and corn syrup to your finished product. Maple syrup isn't as sweet as sugar, so while your finished product won't be as sweet as the recipe calls for, it will have a distinctive maple flavoring that makes great cookies, scones, and oatmeal. You can also rest assured that maple syrup is one hundred percent natural, so there are no chemicals or additives that you will need to worry about!


Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar is a sweet "sugar" like substance that has a bit of a flavor and texture like brown sugar. It can be used in any baked good recipe just like sugar, and is lower in calories and is lower on the glycemic index than regular sugar, making it a better choice for those who need to watch their blood sugar. Coconut sugar is easy to use and imparts a more syrupy taste - making this substitute perfect for cookies, cakes, and even breakfast foods.


Agave Syrup

Agave syrup is a natural sweetener that has been used for hundreds of years, despite the fact that it is only now becoming popular in the United States. The plant that Agave syrup comes from, the Agave plant, grows in Mexico, other parts of South America, as well as the very southern United States. You probably know that Agave sap and syrup is a major ingredient in tequila, which can really add some deliciousness to your cooking! But if you are looking to add that to any of your sauces (think spaghetti sauce), you can even bypass the alcohol and use a tiny amount of Agave syrup to add extra flavor. Refined Agave syrup has a high fructose content, which makes it ideal for using in just about any baked goods as well.


There are plenty of sugar substitutes out there, and while some of them are processed and full of chemicals and should be avoided, some, like the ones listed above, are perfect for those looking for healthier sugar alternatives.