Recipe Makeover: Reducing Sugar in the Kitchen

bowl of chocolate chip cookies

Looking for ways to limit your sugar intake? Good news! Reducing sugar doesn’t mean reducing flavour. Whether it’s a family favourite or a brand new recipe, consider some of these recipe “make over” ideas for a healthier you.

Reducing sugar is a healthy choice

Canadians consume added sugars mostly in processed and pre-packaged products, including cakes, cereals, yogurts and sweetened beverages. Too much sugar can add too many calories, which may lead to weight gain. Sugar can be part of healthy food choices in moderation. It is important to limit eating foods that have high amounts of sugar with little or no other nutritional value.

There are many forms of sugar. Honey, brown sugar and white sugar all provide the same amount of calories. Sugar is also naturally found in many fruit and vegetables.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends limiting our added sugar intake. This includes the sugars we use when preparing our meals.

Reducing sugar doesn’t mean reducing flavour

There are many ways to limit sugar when you prepare foods. See some suggestions below for easy and tasty sugar substitutions in your favourite baking recipes like cookies, quick breads and other desserts:

  • Experiment with reducing the amount of sugar the recipe calls for. Up to 1/3 of the sugar in most recipes can be taken out without a noticeable difference. You should not reduce all the sugar in a recipe, as it is still needed for taste and texture. Note: Do not reduce sugar in yeast breads as the sugar is needed to activate the yeast.
  • Use fruit such as raisins, dried apricots, dates or bananas instead of sugar, which naturally add sweetness. 
  • Use vanilla, almond, maple, orange or lemon extracts for their natural sweet flavour. If a recipe calls for one of these extracts, try doubling the amount for added sweet taste.
  • Sweet-tasting, calorie-free spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger are a great way of adding flavour.
  • Substitute up to ¼ of the granulated sugar in baking recipes with powdered milk. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, use ¾ cup of sugar and ¼ cup powdered milk.
  • Use dried fruit puree, applesauce, or mashed bananas to replace some of the sugar and fat in cookies and muffins.
  • If a recipe calls for canned fruits, look for those packed in water instead of sugar.
  • If a recipe calls for jams or jellies, look for unsweetened, low-sugar varieties. Try jams or jellies sweetened with a no-calorie sweetener.
  • Instead of sugar, glaze cookies and breads with unsweetened jams mixed with water.
  • Replace sugar with the artificial sweetener, sucralose (Splenda). One cup (250mL) of Splenda is equal to one cup (250mL) of sugar. Only ½ a cup (125mL) of brown sugar Splenda is equal to one cup (250mL) of brown sugar. Note: Other artificial sweeteners should not be used for baking.   

Recipes that reduce the sugar

Try some lower sugar recipes or explore the sugar substitutions in these great tasting recipes:

Soft Oatmeal Raisin Delights

Banana Muffins Two Ways

Best Ever Chocolate Cookies, Dietitians of Canada

For baked goods with less sugar that are perfect for a bake sale, see Bake it Up! by the Nutrition Resource Centre.

You may also be interested in:

Recipe Makeover: Reducing the Fat in the Kitchen

Recipe Makeover:  Reducing sodium in the kitchen

Last Update – May 10, 2018

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