Recipe Makeover: Reducing Sugar in the Kitchen

bowl of homemade 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 more nutritious choice.

Reducing sugar is good for your health

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 added calories. Sugar can be part of healthy food choices in moderation.

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 fruits and vegetables. Learn more about sugar here.
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 reduce 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 taste.

  • Sweet-tasting 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 syrup.

  • 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.

Can I use sweeteners to replace sugar?

Many people use artificial sweeteners like Stevia and sucralose to help reduce their sugar intake. Your choice to use sweeteners is individual and a dietitian can help you decide what is right for you. For more information, read this article for advice on using sweeteners.

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
Blueberry Oatmeal Lentil Muffins
Best Ever Apple Berry Crisp

How can a dietitian help?

Dietitians can support you throughout many phases of your life from pregnancy to eating well when you are older. Counselling sessions with a dietitian can also help you to prevent and treat health conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Your dietitian will work with you to give you personalized advice that meets your lifestyle and goals. Connect with a dietitian today!

Bottom line

Reducing the amount of added sugar you eat is good for your health. Making foods from scratch, like muffins and desserts, is a way to reduce the amount of sugar in these foods. Use the tips in this article to help modify your favourite recipes.

You may also be interested in:

What You Need to Know About Sugar
Recipe Makeover: Reducing the Fat in the Kitchen
Recipe Makeover: Reducing Sodium in the Kitchen
Where Do Dietitians Work and What Do They Do?
This article was written and reviewed by dietitians from Dietitians of Canada. The advice in this article is intended as general information and should not replace advice given by your dietitian or healthcare provider.


Last Update – February 17, 2023

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