Natural Zero-Calorie Sweeteners 101: Stevia, Monk Fruit, Erythritol, Allulose & Beyond

Oct 1 2021
There are lots of natural sweeteners out there with zero calories these days! They're the type of sweeteners we currently call for in Hungry Girl recipes, and they come in sooo many forms and types. Here’s everything you need to know…

First Things First: About Artificial Sweeteners

Some common calorie-free sweeteners include sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda), aspartame (a.k.a. Equal and NutraSweet), and saccharin (Sweet'N Low) — these are not the types of products we're talking about today. Some people avoid these sweeteners, and others are fans. We're not here to judge — it’s a personal choice. If you’re interested in learning more about natural no-calorie sweeteners, keep reading…

Stevia

One of the most common in the bunch, stevia sweeteners are made from the extract of stevia rebaudiana plants known as Reb-A. It's natural, virtually calorie-free, and far sweeter than sugar. This means a little goes a long way... Unlike sugar, it doesn't take much to sweeten your food and drinks. You can find it in packets, spoonable versions, products that measure cup-for-cup like sugar, and liquid. And because it's so intensely sweet, stevia sweeteners are often blended with another calorie-free ingredient, improving 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.)

Brands we love: Truvia and Stevia in the Raw, but there are many other good ones out there!

Monk Fruit

The fruit itself is also known as luo han guo, and it’s grown in Asia. Like stevia extract, monk fruit extract is also hundreds of times sweeter than sugar. Most monk fruit sweeteners are blended with erythritol. (You might wonder, "Why is it marked as a monk fruit sweetener when erythritol is the first ingredient?" The extract is so potent, you need a lot less.) Bonus: Monk fruit has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties!

Brand we love: Lakanto — an excellent brand to know if you're a low-sugar baker. Stock up on alternatives to white, raw cane, brown, and confectioners/powdered sugars, in addition to syrups, extracts, and other good stuff.

Erythritol

This naturally occurring sugar alcohol can be found in certain foods in small amounts, but when it comes to making mass-produced sweeteners, it's made by yeast-fermenting glucose from corn or wheat. (If you’re gluten free, you may find comfort knowing that this is used in many gluten-free products and does not contain any wheat.) As you can see, it's used in a lot of other sweetener blends, but you can also get sweeteners that are pretty much just erythritol too.

Brand we love: Swerve — also great for low-sugar bakers! Find swaps for regular sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar… They also have great baking mixes.

Allulose

A relative newcomer to the packaged-sweetener scene, allulose is a rare sugar that occurs naturally in very small amounts in fruits like figs and raisins. It can also be made from corn and other sources. One of the things that makes it unique: Structurally, it is a lot like fructose but only contributes a fraction of the calories AND doesn't raise blood sugar levels. It’s also available in granular form!

Brand we love: Wholesome, which has granulated versions as well as syrups and baking mixes. P.S. One of our favorite brands is coming out with a line of allulose sweeteners soon… Stay tuned to your daily emails for more!

Sugar Swapping

Prefer to use sugar in Hungry Girl recipes that call for no-calorie sweetener? Here’s how…

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… First, check if it’s TWICE as sweet as sweetener or cup-for-cup. For each tablespoon of sugar you use in its place, you're adding around 50 calories and 12.5 grams of sugar.

Use these formulas in reverse to convert recipes with sugar to no-cal-sweetener recipes!

HG FYI: While some calorie-free sweeteners are natural, everybody is different. You may find you are sensitive to a particular sweetener but not to others. Choose whatever option works best for you!

Chew on this:

Happy World Vegetarian Day, October 1st! We have soooo many vegetarian recipes, all conveniently searchable right here.

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