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[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] I[/dropcap]’ve been thinking about sugar lately. A lot. When Fergal’s Irish grandparents were here I was fascinated by how much sugar his grandpa ate.
One morning granddad polished off a bowl of rice bubbles (krispies) with 3 teaspoons of sugar. Washed it down with some tea with another 2 teaspoons and finished it all off with a club milk (chocolate biscuit). We were on holidays but still…
So I wasn’t surprised to learn that his doctor had said he was on the path to diabetes. And had given orders to cut down.
Not an easy task after a lifetime of lemonade and sugary cream buns.
Anyway it reminded me of a question I got from Stonesoup reader Brianna…
Curious about sugar free recipes and ways to reduce sugar intake when one has a terrible sweet tooth…
So what’s the best way to reduce sugar intake?
Sugar is highly addictive so just cutting down can be incredibly difficult. If that’s the case for you, the best plan is to find an alternative.
The best I’ve found is Stevia. You can get stevia in liquid form but I’m not a huge fan. I prefer to use granular stevia that has been mixed with erythritol because it bakes and tastes more like sugar.
I usually use the Natvia brand because my local supermarket stocks it but I’m sure there are other good ones out there.
And so is sugar, so natural doesn’t necessarily mean good for you. But much better than the potential problems associated with artificial sweeteners.
It looks like sugar and tastes almost like sugar.
We got Fergal’s grandad (the sugar aficionado) to try out some stevia and he gave it the thumbs up. And Paddy has very high standards when it comes to the sweet stuff.
It can help improve your sensitivity to insulin.
I know this sounds a little too good to be true. A sugar substitute that actually reverses some of the damage of eating too much sugar? According to Mark’s Daily Apple, the Japanese have been using stevia extracts to treat Type 2 diabetic patients for years and years. He also quotes studies where stevia improved insulin sensitivity in diabetic rats.
How do I use it?
You can substitute granular stevia for sugar in most baked goods. Because stevia tends to be sweeter I tend to halve the amount of sugar and go from there. For example in the cheesecake recipe below the original has 175g sugar. So my starting point was 87.5g stevia but since I like round numbers I upped it to 100g.
Just be aware that it isn’t as soluble as sugar so you may find some things end up with a gritty texture. I found when I used stevia instead of sugar to poach some quinces that they were great when still warm, but after the leftovers were refrigerated the stevia had crystallised. Not the end of the world but something to keep in mind.
If you’re substituting for icing or ‘powdered’ sugar in a recipe, just grind the stevia in a coffee grinder until you can’t see any big crystals.
Need more help?
When I think of reducing sugar intake or ‘Quitting Sugar’ it’s hard not to think about the lovely Sarah Wilson and her ‘I Quit Sugar*’ books. You might find this interview I did with Sarah earlier in the year useful.
Or if you just need help with sugar-free baking, have a read of ‘Can desserts be guilt free?‘.
* This is an affiliate link so if you do decide to buy one of Sarah’s products you’ll be supporting Stonesoup too :)
Super Easy Cheesecake (with or without sugar)
This has been my go-to baked cheesecake recipe for ages. I’ve only recently played around with a no added sugar version and am very happy with the results.
Enough for 8
200g (7oz) almond meal
100g (3.5oz) butter, melted
750g (1.5lb) cream cheese (3packets), softened
300g (10oz) sour cream (1 tub)
100g (3.5oz) granular stevia OR 175g (6oz) white sugar
1. Preheat your oven to 180C (350F). Line a 24cm (9in) spring form pan with baking paper and grease the sides with some of the melted butter.
2. Combine almond meal and butter then smooth into the base of the prepared tin with the back of a spoon.
3. Bake base for 10 minutes or until starting to brown.
4. Whizz cream cheese, sour cream and stevia or sugar in a food processor until smooth. Scrape down the sides.
5. Add eggs one at a time and whizz between each.
6. When the base is ready, decrease oven to 160C (300F). Pour filling on top of the base and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. It’s done when the top is golden brown and the cheesecake feels springy when you touch it.
7. Cool in the tin.
nut-free – replace the almond meal with cookie crumbs or just skip the base.
dairy-free – are you kidding? Actually I have seen recipes using silken tofu but haven’t ever tried it.
different nuts – feel free to replace the almonds with other nuts.
egg-free – I think you might get away by replacing the egg with an extra tub of sour cream. I haven’t tried it though so if you do please let me know how you get on!
vanilla – sometimes I add the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean to the filling.
I really love your website and your recipes.
Your little baby Fergal is just a darling!
thanks again for the great tips and recipes, Carolyn
What about brown sugar? What substitute do you recommend? Love the pics of Fergal, Jul!!! Xoxo
Great post, as always!
Who needs sugar when you have such a sweet baby!
I’m a long-time reader of your website and I have your cookbook (great, EASY recipes!). I’m glad to have finally seen a picture of your precious boy! He’s gorgeous! :)
Thanks for the great recipe and cute photos of your boy. One question – have you tried freezing the cake? I want to make it for my family but 8 pieces is a bit rich…Thanks
Hi Lena, I had the exact same question and looked it up on the internet. Apparently you can, but not for longer than a month.
We’ve eased back on the refined grains and sugar at our house. The sugar is hard, but we’ve gotten to the point where we don’t stock sugar at home. We do eat some fruit every day (maybe too much – typically some grapefruit at breakfast, an apple at lunch, and an orange at supper), so we’re getting plenty of sucrose. I’ll use honey to make an almond meal fruit cobbler once a month. I used to drink pop every day, and that’s what I miss the most. I’m down to once a week on that. It’s mostly about making new healthy habits, but not beating yourself up about it.
I would rather cut back on sugar than introduce another industrial food product.
So many good reasons to stop eating sugar. I’ve done Sarah’s 8 week ‘ I quit sugar’ plan and I haven’t eaten sugar since February. I definately recommend anyone wanting to quit sugar to read Sarah’s book. I love your recipes Jules and I love the variations you give. I can’t wait to make this sugar free cheesecake. Thankyou Jules.
I remember you posting about sugar before. I know you like Stevia, but in Ireland we seem to only get the powdery form, which has a yucky aftertaste and can’t be used for baking. My nutritionist recommended Xylitol to me, which is similar and made from birch trees, and it’s a natural sugar that does not affect your blood sugar and can be used by diabetics and glycemics. The name sounds “scientific”, but as far as I know it’s not a chemical, though it is processed, but so is regular cane or beet sugar or Stevia. I’ve only seen it in granular form, it is so much like regular sugar and you can bake with it, but it’s expensive so I’ve only used it for tea and cereal so far.
Baked the cheesecake and it surely was nice… but the bottom was sort of wet and falling apart when I wanted to put a piece on a plate, not compact enough. Any thoughts on what went wrong? The overall consistency of the cake was good!
Stevia is that miracle way to reduce calories and keep the sweet taste. I love it.
I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and absolutely love it. I have to say the Stevia thing does make me a little nervous. I did a quick Pubmed search on the topic and found: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3258097/. I looked through a bunch of the studies and found mixed results. None of these studies including the one the cited have a good design. As an epidemiologist, I would say that the research on Stevia is very early and inconclusive. And, I saw absolutely no research on the safety of Stevia among children. Of course, Stevia may end up being totally fine and any negative health effects are probably preferable to metabolic syndrome. However, why take the risk of ingesting something which could turn out to be associated with poor health outcomes in the long run when one could simply cut out sugar?
Over-consumption of sugar doesn’t cause diabetes. Fergal’s grandfather must have had some other issues, like being overweight, that was putting him on the path to diabetes.