I frequently receive email from many of you wondering how to capture the taste of good food without the excess sugar or fat. Some are dealing with diabetes, others with heart disease, and some just want to lose weight. I hope the following hints will help you realize that eating healthy doesn't mean eliminating your favorite treats. Desserts can fit into a balanced, healthy diet, when eaten in moderation.
Beyond that, desserts provide emotional comfort-tastes and memories of joyful times. While these lightening-up tips can reduce fat and sugar content of treats, eating a greater amount of them would defeat the purpose of reducing their calorie content. Whether low-carbohydrate, low-fat, or low-calorie, desserts in any form are best incorporated into meal planning sparingly. So go ahead and eat them guilt-free and not in abundance.
Can any dessert recipe be adjusted for fat or sugar content? That depends on how well you like to take risks. In my view, mindset is the determining factor in whether a dessert will taste good after altering the recipe. Try to taste an altered recipe for what it is, instead of comparing it to what the unaltered recipe would taste like. Then decide whether you like it or not. Being as objective as possible, you'll probably find that most recipes can be deliciously reduced in fat, sugar, or calories, even though the texture or flavor may be different from what you expected. You've entered the realm of experiment. If you adjust a recipe and find it to be delightful, rename it and send it into a recipe contest.
Sugar Reducing Tips
Fat Reducing Tips
Sugar Reducing Tips
Because sugar provides more than sweetness in baked goods, knowledge of these properties is important in making substitutions with artificial sweeteners. Sugar provides structure, texture and volume to food. Its caramelizing properties help foods brown to an appetizing color. The sugar helps food retain moisture and tenderness, which then assists in preserving the freshness of baked goods. When other sweeteners replace sugar, some of these properties may be lost. For example, cakes baked with Splenda would be best eaten quickly or stored in the refrigerator to prolong freshness.
Below, I've highlighted three main sweeteners available to the home cook that can be used to replace sugar in recipes. For additional information and recipes, visit the websites of each producer.
Made of aspartame, Equal® works well in pie fillings and other desserts that are not baked. Several products are available in the Equal® line. One packet of Equal® equals 2 teaspoons of sugar in sweetness, while an Equal® tablet is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar. Finally, Equal® spoonful measures just like sugar. Because aspartame can lose its flavor and turn slightly bitter when subjected to high heat, it is best to add Equal® to food after removing it from the heat. Access more information and recipes using Equal® at www.equal.com.
Splenda® achieves its sweetening properties from sucralose, a sweetener formed from sugar cane. It is available in both packet and granular form. A packet of Splenda® is equivalent 2 teaspoons sugar and the granular form measures cup for cup like sugar.
Though best when used just for its sweetening properties (fruit fillings, custards, puddings, marinades, beverages), Splenda® can be used in baked goods with a few minor changes to recipes. These adjustments are noted in detail at www.splenda.com in their Cooking and Baking Tips section.
Between 300-500 times sweeter than sugar, saccharin is the main ingredient in Sweet-n-Low®. This artificial sweetener is available in packet, bulk, and liquid forms. Again, 1 packet Sweet-n-Low® is equivalent to 2 teaspoons sugar. For the bulk product, 2 teaspoons Sweet-n-Low equals 1/4 cup sugar, and 2-1/2 teaspoons equals 1/3 cup sugar. Lastly, for the liquid form, 1 1/2 teaspoons equals 1/4 cup sugar, while 2 teaspoons could replace 1/3 cup sugar.
Again, this sweetener is best used in beverages and sauces. However, if you are one who enjoys baking and experimenting, you can replace up to half of the sugar in a recipe with Sweet-n-Low®. The remaining sugar will lend the properties of texture and volume, while the Sweet-n-Low® will reduce the calorie content. Be sure to take notes on what worked and what didn't. Recipes are available at www.sweetnlow.com.
Fat Reducing Tips
Many low-fat products (fat-free whipped topping, Neufatchel cream cheese) are available to replace higher fat products called for in recipes, making it easier to reduce the fat in recipes, without changing textural properties too much. However, some just don't care for the flavor of these products. With this in mind, the following substitutions will give additional ideas of how to reduce the fat content in all types of foods.
- 1 egg = 2 egg whites or ¼ c. egg substitute or ¼ c. homemade egg substitute: combine 6 egg whites, ¼ c. nonfat powdered milk, 1 T. oil, and 6 drops yellow food coloring. Store in refrigerator up to one week.)
- 1 cup cream = 1 cup evaporated skim milk
- 1 cup shredded cheese = ¼ cup very sharp cheese or mix ½ cup low fat cottage cheese with ½ cup lower fat or regular cheese for casseroles
- 1 cup whipped cream = try low fat vanilla yogurt for a change or try the fat fee whipped toppings.
- 1 cup mayonnaise = ¾ cup plain low fat yogurt mixed with ¼ cup or less low calorie mayonnaise; or try the fat free kinds.
- 1 cup sour cream = 1 cup plain low fat yogurt (take care not to boil this, or it will curdle). Or 1 cup Mock Sour Cream: blend 1 c. low fat cottage cheese, 2 T. buttermilk and ½-1 t. fresh lemon juice in a blender until smooth.
- 1 oz (square) baking chocolate = 3 T. cocoa + 1 T. oil
- 1 pound ground beef = Try ground turkey! Or, use ¼ pound less per person; drain (and rinse if used for casseroles) the fat after cooking.
- 1 c. crushed potato chips or corn chips = 1 c. rice crispies or cornflakes.
- Fat in baked recipe = Try applesauce or pureed prunes (1/2 or all).
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *