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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Substitutes for sugar not without drawbacks

By Renee Schettler
Washington Post

Back in the old days of artificial sweeteners, the choice was simple: pink or blue packets. Now the decision-making process entails weighing the relative risks of 16 calories per teaspoon of all-natural sugar versus 0 calories per packet of chemically produced alternative sweetener.

Here is a breakdown of the sweeteners we've commonly encountered:

Stevia plus fiber

Lure: "Nutritional supplement ... Don't Sweeten Your Coffee, Supplement It"

How sweet it is: Strangely, we found stevia to be slightly sweet in some beverages — tea, lemon water, dairy and soy milk smoothies — but rather bitter when stirred into coffee, sprinkled over fruit and yogurt or tasted on its own. We have yet to yet to try a baking recipe supplied by stevia manufacturers. Because of the complex reactions that occur during baking, stevia powder cannot just be swapped for sugar in recipes.

What is it? Glycosides extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant. There are several brands of stevia products; the most common brand we saw in stores is made by Wisdom Herbs.

Because of the high fiber content of some stevia products (stevia is sometimes combined with a natural plant-based fiber), it can clump slightly if you are not diligent in stirring.

About $6.99 per 50 packets; also available in bulk and tablet form. For details, see www.steviaplus.com.


Lure: "Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar"

How sweet it is: Regardless of its source, Splenda has a slightly fake, but undeniably sweet, flavor not unlike Equal, whether incorporated into tea, coffee, fruit, cereal or anything else.

Despite advertising claims to the contrary when it first hit supermarket shelves, we were unsuccessful when baking with Splenda. We haven't tried since.

What is it? Dextrose, maltodextrin and sucralose.

About $4.29 per 100 packets; also available in bulk granular packages. For details, see www.splenda.com.

Ideal You (a)

Lure: "The Sweet, Healthy Way to Stay Trim!"

How sweet it is: The packaging didn't mention the ugly large granules of light brown sweetener, nor its entirely unpleasant, oddly off flavor and fragrance, perhaps best described as yeasty or malty.

What is it? Beneo (made of inulin, a natural vegetable fiber), calcium carbonate, lemon extract, grape extract and natural flavors. Each packet contains 10 percent of the RDA for calcium.

About $9.99 per 35 packets. For more information, see www.idealyou.com.