Sugar Alcohol - a Festive Drink or an Artificial Sweetener? Plus a Gluten-free Sugar-free Muffin

By Kristen Mccaffrey on
Sugar alcohols sound like something fun and delicious that’s consumed around holidays, right? They very well may be consumed around holidays, but they are actually available year round and it’s not really something to celebrate. If you haven’t heard of sugar alcohols – they are used as sweeteners in diet foods because they have no caloric value, which also means, no grams of sugar either. Sounds blissful right? Maybe, but maybe not. So, what are they? Sugar alcohols, such as maltitol, sorbitol, and malitol, are made from hydrogenating sugar from its starch form. For example, hydrogenating maltose creates maltitol. Wait a second, isn’t that how margarine was created – by hydrogenating oils to make it a solid at room temperature? Yes, yes it was! Didn’t that create trans fat which causes heart disease and other health complications? Oh gosh, that makes my stomach turn, and it’s not just because sugar alcohols reach your intestines intact and draw water to attempt to break it down, causing gastrointestinal upsets. Even though currently there are no studies linking the hydrogenation of sugar to cancer or other health effects other than instantaneous bathrooms visits, we all consumed trans fat for a long period of time without knowing the harmful effects of that as well. If it smells like a fish, looks like a fish, and acts like a fish, it’s probably a fish :) If you really enjoy the zero calorie component of sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners I suggest switching to stevia which is a naturally sweet herb that has been ground up or put in an extract form. It’s extremely sweet so it’s not a cup-for-cup replacement, but it can be great to attack that sweet tooth. Honey and maple syrup are also excellent nutrient dense artificial sweetener replacements and replacements for white sugar. Let’s look at how some of them can be substituted in baked goods so you can be a healthier you! Pssst. If you scroll a bit lower, there’s a gluten-free recipe there for you!

Replacing White Sugar In Baking

  • Honey - 2/3 cup honey per 1 cup sugar + reduce recipe liquids by 1/4 cup - ie. milk or oil or water. I also find it helpful to reduce the heat of the oven about 25 – 50 degrees since honey can burn more quickly.
  • Maple Syrup – ¾ cup real maple syrup per 1 cup sugar + reduce recipe liquids by 3 tbsp. I also find it helpful to reduce the heat for this one as well approximately 25 – 50 degrees.
  • Stevia – 1 tbsp stevia powder per 1 cup white sugar – yes only 1 tbsp! It’s that sweet! However, the recipe will lose a lot of bulk so you want to add back ½ cup and you can do this by adding pumpkin puree, applesauce, plain yogurt, other veggie purees, or a banana. Choose the ingredient based on what you feel will suit the taste of your recipe. For example, if it’s already a banana bread, definitely add more banana. For the recipe below, I added in carrot puree.
  • Applesauce – ½ - 3/4 cup applesauce per 1 cup white sugar + reduce recipe liquids by 1/4 cup. This substitute will be significantly less sweet but also incredibly more moist and works excellently with gluten free baking that can be a bit dry.

Caribbean Carrot Muffins

Created by Sarah Maughan

Breakfast - carribean carrot muffins


  • ¾ cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup chickpea flour
  • 1 tbsp stevia
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup carrot purree (babyfood)
  • 1 cup grated carrot
  • 1 cup crushed fresh pineapple plus juice from crushing


  1. Combine eggs, carrot, carrot puree, and pineapple
  2. In a separate bowl, combine all other ingredients, which are dry
  3. Combine both bowls and stir until covered – do not over stir.
  4. Fill muffin tin ¾ the way full (I like mini muffins)
  5. Bake at 325F for 12 - 15 minutes until wooden toothpick comes out clean

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On Sugar Alcohol - a Festive Drink or an Artificial Sweetener? Plus a Gluten-free Sugar-free Muffin