Sugar Substitutes

In a recent post I spoke about sugar and me; and why we have greatly reduced the amount of refined sugar in our diet in the Simply Homemade home. Sugar has also of course been very prevalent in the media. I have to be honest, in my opinion, I do believe that the majority of the bad press sugar gets is justified. Let me explain, in recent years, sugar is everywhere, added to everything, foods you would never suspect it is added to, such as the ‘healthy cereal bar’ or the ‘low fat’ yogurt, trust me, it’s there.

A slice of cake once in a while as a lovely treat is not going to do a lot of harm, everything in moderation and all that. It is the hidden sugar in your cereal, your ketchup, the relish on your sandwich, even the bread you used to make your sandwich; that you need to be mindful of.

While I would always encourage cooking meals from scratch, baking your own bread, school lunchbox snacks, cakes etc I am not going to tell you you should. I am also very aware of the time limitations that are on people and of course your confidence in your kitchen abilities; confidence and ability will grow with practice of course.

Whilst reducing the refined sugar we consumed, I experimented with natural alternatives, discovered which I preferred and use these products regularly. I haven’t and won’t ban sugar completely. I allow my children treats and I hope I am encouraging them to have a healthy, sensible attitude to food. It is I believe, all about balance.

There are a huge number of sugar substitutes available now, these are just the ones I use.I don’t ever use artificial sweetener, it’s called artificial for a reason.



Honey, often referred to as liquid gold, carries many nutritional benefits and is a great substitute for sugar.It is very much regarded as a natural antibiotic. How many of us have had a warm drink made with lemon & honey to soothe a sore throat?
Honey is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, great for boosting energy, can help maintain blood sugar levels and can boost the immune system.
While some of the nutritional benefits can be reduced during cooking it is still a much better alternative to refined sugar.
Raw honey, honey in it’s purest form, is obviously the best there is however I am not going to tell you this is what you must buy. I am very budget conscious and as much as I’d love to use raw honey I cannot afford to and therefore buy my honey in the supermarket. It’s still preferable to a bag of sugar!
When it comes to baking, I have experimented with recipes, some have worked, some have not. Generally, just remember to reduce the other liquid in the recipe by 1/4 approximately and remember, honey is sweeter than sugar so you can reduce that quantity by half.
For sauces, relishes etc, always add half the amount of the sugar specified on the ingredients list too.

Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup

Like honey, maple syrup is a liquid substitute.Along with honey it has a lower GI* (Glycaemic Index) score. Maple syrup also contains numerous vitamins and minerals, it has anti inflammatory properties, it is much kinder on the digestive system than refined sugar.
Maple syrup is readily available in all supermarkets, and reasonably priced. When it comes to the label, as with honey, there should only be one ingredient listed!
When baking with maple syrup the same as I applies as with the honey. Reduce other liquids and experiment.

Coconut Sugar

Coconut Sugar

I love coconut sugar. It’s expensive, so I use it very sparingly. It can be used as a direct substitute however I always reduce the quantity. It is sweet and I have also found over time that my tolerance for sweet food is no longer what it used to be (a great result I think you’ll agree!)
With a GI score of just 35, and a good range of vitamins and minerals coconut sugar is far healthier than refined sugar.

These are the products I use, it is important to find what suits you. There are others widely available that I haven’t used yet and I’m not sure I will. I am quite happy with these three.

Something else that is really worth considering is not using any sweetener. This of course does depend on the recipe but look at the other ingredients. Cinnamon is a strong flavour, depending on what it is paired with it may not require anything other than a dash of vanilla. Which leads quite nicely onto vanilla, sweet & fragrant, this too can be used in place of sweetener in some recipes such as granola for example. Fresh scones, packed with luscious dried fruits should be sweet enough without the need for any other sweet additions. I’m sure you get the picture, experiment with your recipes.

It is also very important that I say,  we must be mindful of the fact that sugar is sugar, the difference between these and refined sugar is that refined sugar contains absolutely no nutritional benefit, it is empty calories and an over consumption of it can cause fatty liver, contribute to heart disease, play havoc with blood sugar levels and we are all aware of it’s role in the current obesity epidemic. However, it’s worth noting,  that doesn’t give us license  to consume sugar alternatives freely.

*If you would like to learn more about Glycaemic Index, this website is very good,

This post is based on my opinion and facts as I know them, it is not intended as nutritional or dietary advice.

4 thoughts on “Sugar Substitutes

  1. Great post Nicola! I love your honest disclaimer at the end too, I wish others would be as modest. I like to add apple syrup in place of sugar too although I’m not sure of the nutritional value if any. I rarely buy low fat products as the amount of sugar in them is insane. I’d prefer to take my chances with the fat. Also a few ‘healthy’ bloggers use far too much sugar, albeit unrefined, in their recipes. As you say “we must be mindful of the fact that sugar is sugar”. I think we need to retrain our palates to appreciate foods that are less sweet as you have done.

    1. Thanks so much Donna. All you have said is so true, low fat products are shockingly high in sugar. Food marketed at children is quite frankly frightening. Like you I’d rather take my chances with the fat!

  2. Very good post, I am currently on a war path against sugar. I recently found a recipe posted in the New York Times for a gluten-free carrot cake and couldn’t help but post a comment about how the amount of sugar in it was outrageous, something like twice the recommended daily intake in just one slice.
    I hope you get many readers who will follow your lead and start cooking more. It is the key to true health. I wish I had known to avoid certain processed foods years ago; it may not have changed my gluten sensitivity, but my husband’s gut would certainly be in better shape…

    1. Thank you very much for taking the time to comment and good on you for speaking out on the recipe, the sugar content in some foods is really quite shocking. We seem to have lost sight of everything in moderation. And don’t be too hard on yourself re processed foods years ago, we live and learn and it’s never too late for positive change.

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