Q. When is it okay to use sugar substitutes in place of sugar? Are there any rules to follow?
A. For some people, such as those on special diets or people with diabetes, eating real sugar is not an option. However, a strict replacement of artificial sweeteners for real sugar isn't always a good idea, either: Not all sugar substitutes are made the same, and not all of them interact with food in the same way. Here are some tips for using artificial sweeteners:
- Always check cooking instructions on the package of the sweetener you're using to determine how and when to substitute it for sugar.
- Some sweeteners, particularly those with aspartame, may lose their sweetness when exposed to heat, so these should be used for sweetening cold dishes or added to hot foods only after they have cooled somewhat.
- Saccharin sweeteners can become bitter-tasting when food sweetened with them is then cooked or heated.
- Most baked goods need sugar not just for sweetening but also for proper texture and volume. Check package instructions for substituting the sweetener for sugar in baked items. A new granulated form of aspartame sweetener can be substituted for half the sugar in baked items with good results.
- A little goes a long way. Most artificial sweeteners are 180 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so a heavy hand could ruin a dish.
- Remember that "sugar-free" does not necessarily mean "calorie- free" or "carbohydrate-free." Although no-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose are "free" foods for people with diabetes, fructose sweeteners do contain calories and carbohydrates, and therefore must be included in your carbohydrate count.
Q. What can I use as a substitute for powdered sugar?
A. For a low-calorie sugar substitute for powdered sugar, try mixing a packet or two of your favorite sugar substitute, such as aspartame or sucralose, with a teaspoon or two of cornstarch.
With a fine wire-mesh sieve, sprinkle the mixture over your favorite dessert. The new spoonable sugar substitutes can also be sprinkled using a sieve. And remember, sugar is okay in small amounts, and a little powdered sugar goes a long way when sprinkled. Be sure to count your total carbs, and not just the sugar.