Stevia and Other Natural No-Calorie Sweeteners

Jun 15 2016
Question@2x Dear Hungry Girl,

I've noticed that your sweetener of choice these days is natural no-calorie sweetener, and you recommend stevia. Isn't stevia artificial? Especially since stevia packets often contain other ingredients? What if I want to use real sugar in your recipes instead?

Stumped About Stevia
Answer@2x Hi Stumped,

There's a lot of misinformation out there about stevia, but the bottom line is this: Stevia is 100 percent natural, as are most stevia blends you find in packets and other products. If they weren't, the shelves at Whole Foods and other natural food stores wouldn't be filled with 'em! Here's some more info...

Stevia is not artificial; it comes from a plant, and it's completely natural. It's virtually calorie-free, and it's naturally much sweeter than sugar. This means a little stevia goes a long way... Unlike sugar, it doesn't take much to sweeten your food and drinks. Another all-natural no-calorie sweetener? Monk fruit, which is also plant based and much sweeter than sugar.

Stevia is often blended with other ingredients, but those are typically natural as well. Stevia blends usually include another natural calorie-free ingredient, in order to improve the texture and taste. For example, Truvia is made with erythritol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol; and SweetLeaf features inulin, a naturally occurring dietary fiber. (If you're sensitive to sugar alcohols, stick with brands that don't contain 'em.) Again, these added ingredients are also natural. When in doubt, just head to a natural food market to pick up your stevia blends. If you prefer pure stevia, look for liquid varieties or multi-serving jars of stevia powder.

Natural no-calorie sweetener blends come in two main forms: packets and scoopable. The packets are great on the go and when you only need a bit of sweetness. When you need more than a few packets' worth, go for the scoopable types that come in tubs or bags. Just make sure it's the zero-calorie kind, as there are some mid-calorie blends made with sugar. When it comes to packets, my top picks are Truvia and SweetLeaf. For the scoopable stuff, Truvia is the hands-down Hungry Girl favorite. Stevia in the Raw is good too!

If you still prefer real sugar, use the info below to make the swap in recipes. But keep in mind, the calorie counts will be higher. The same goes for agave syrup and cane sugar -- click for more on those.

For each no-calorie sweetener packet called for in a recipe... You'll need two packets (or about 2 tsp.) of sugar. For each packet you swap out, you'll add about 35 calories and 8.5 grams of sugar to the recipe.

When it comes to recipes that call for spoonable calorie-free sweetener... You'll need to use twice as much sugar. For each tablespoon you swap out, you're adding around 95 calories and 25 grams of sugar.

There you go... Have a sweet day!

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