Low or No-Sugar Baking for Kids | How to Start

Low or No-Sugar Baking for Kids | How to Start

If you love baking or your kids love sweet treats, we have good news! Now, you can both have your cake and eat it, too. 

Food scientists have discovered a wide range of plant-based sugar alternatives, and many are made just for baking.

In this post, we’ll introduce you to the top plant-based sugar-substitutes and explain which work best in baking. We’ll also share recipe inspiration, and other healthy swaps that can make your baking much more nutritious.

Don’t worry. We’ve kept the pickiest eaters in mind here. Our baking advice is certified kid-centric.

Can you really swap out sugar in baking?

Yes! Anything you can bake, you can bake without using sugar or chemical sweeteners.

Sugar substitutes can match the sweetness and volume of sugar, which is super essential in baking. Some even “behave” just like sugar in surprising ways. 

If you’ve tried sugar substitutes before and didn’t love the taste or results of baking, prepare to be surprised! These swaps have come a long way since the early days. Now you can find sugar “dupes” designed specifically for baking, with the same volume and texture as sugar.

Of course, if your child has any dietary restrictions, ask your doctor or thoroughly research the sugar alternatives. Plant-based sugar substitutes are not chemicals, but even plants can cause some kids difficulties (as you know if your children have allergies, IBS or other digestive issues). 

What are the best sugar substitutes available? 

There are quite a few plant-based sugar substitutes to choose from. They’re all different but they have a few things in common. 

  • These sweeteners are very low in calories compared to sugar, or have zero calories. (Important because kids should get calories from nutritious foods, not sugar.)
  • They don’t feed “sugar bugs” in the mouth that contribute to cavities. (Dentist approved!)
  • Our bodies don’t recognize these as sugar, so they may not spike blood sugar. 

Based on at-home test-tasting with kids, these are our top picks: 

  1. Monk Fruit Sweetener: Magical monk fruit is extracted from a simple fruit—but it’s 150-200 times sweeter than table sugar! We use it in Renzo’s because it also has no aftertaste! Just pure, natural, sweet bliss.
  2. Sugar alcohols (Mannitol, Xylitol, and Erythritol): Don’t let the words “sugar” and “alcohol” throw you off. Sugar alcohols were first discovered occurring naturally in plants, fruits and vegetables. Erythritol is a favorite for baking because it can caramelize and brown just like sugar. 
  3. Allulose: Another good option, allulose tastes and behaves like sugar in cooking and baking. Like the others on this list, it’s very low in calories.
  4. Stevia: A natural low-carb sweetener derived from the leaves of the stevia plant, this sugar substitute is much sweeter than sugar. It can be used in baking or anywhere you use sugar. The downside is that stevia can have a slightly bitter aftertaste.
  5. Yacon Syrup: Extracted from the yacon plant, this lower-calorie syrup feeds good bacteria in the intestine and may have other health benefits. The syrup has a sweet taste that’s similar to caramel or molasses (a little less sweet than sugar). It's best on pancakes and drizzled on top of goodies, because yacon syrup doesn’t always work when cooked at high temperatures.

Not sure where to start? 

Some sugar-free sweeteners combine more than one of the above. We like Krisda Monk Fruit Sweetener Blend, which combines erythritol and monk fruit. It has a granulated texture, and one spoon of Krisda equals one spoon of sugar. So easy when baking! (Plus, it’s kid-approved in our house.) 

If you need a powdered sugar for icings, try Lakanto’s powdered monk fruit/erythritol.

Say bye-bye to sugar in baking and hello to healthy ingredients!

Now that you know about the amazing substitutes to sugar, what’s next? 

It’s time to pump up the nutritional profile of baked goods. Here are a few ways you can tweak traditional baking to add more of the good stuff (while cutting the not-so-great stuff).

1. Swap out white flour for better choices:

  • Whole Wheat Flour: Swapping all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour adds fiber and nutrients. Whole wheat flour has a denser texture, so for a lighter texture, you can use half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour.
  • Oat flour: You can easily make oat flour by grinding oats. Food processors, grinders, and some blenders can make a perfect flour.
  • Almond Flour or Coconut Flour: These are great for gluten-free baking and add healthy fats and protein. Both are denser than regular flour, so play around with these flours in recipes that don’t need to rise high and get fluffy. (Or adjust the baking powder or baking soda to get a higher rise.)

2. Replace simple fats with more nutrients:

  • Applesauce or mashed bananas: Replace butter or oil with applesauce or mashed bananas in a 1:1 ratio to reduce fat content. This substitution works well in cakes, muffins, and bread.
  • Greek yogurt: Use plain/unsweetened Greek yogurt to replace part of the butter or oil in recipes. It adds protein and reduces fat content.

3. Play with healthy add-ins:

  • Seeds and nuts: Add sunflower seeds, chia seeds, or flaxseeds for extra protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Seeds are usually school-safe. Nuts (like walnuts and almonds) are a great option, too, if your kid doesn’t have to worry about allergies.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: For pickier kids, try adding in fruits like blueberries, raspberries, pears and apples for added nutrients and natural sweetness. Grated vegetables like carrots or zucchini add moisture, nutrients, and fibre. If you’ve got kids who will say yes to veggies this way, go for it!
  • Dark chocolate: Add low-sugar chocolate chips or cocoa or cacao powder into your recipes for extra flavor. Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants.

4. Innovate to make healthier Icings:

  • Greek yogurt frosting: Mix unsweetened Greek yogurt with one of the sugar subtitutes above (choosing a fine powdered sweetener so your icing is smooth). Don’t skimp on the natural vanilla extract for flavor!
  • Avocado: Use mashed avocado as a base for creamy and healthy frosting. This works amazingly when mixed with cocoa or cacao powder because the dark chocolate masks the green tinge. Again, use a finely powdered sweetener like monk fruit.

It might take time for picky eaters to accept these substitutions, but have patience. Their palettes do adapt. Plus, when they’re getting a daily boost of nutrients with sugar-free Renzo’s melty tabs for kids, it takes the worry out of nutrition. 

Get inspired by these low-sugar baking recipes

We did a quick tour of the internet to find some very kid-friendly, healthy, sugar-free recipes. Here’s a round-up to get your creativity in the kitchen flowing:

Does your kid have other dietary restrictions? It’s easy to find monk fruit and other zero-sugar recipes that are also vegan, gluten-free, nut-free or suit any diet.  

Bake your own low-sugar recipes

Have a favorite cake, cookie, bar, pie, pastry, or pudding? Just swap the sugar for a low-cal alternative like monk fruit. 

There are almost no limits to what you can make without sugar. If you’re a parent who hates to say “no” to your kids, this is great news!

Just remember, some of the substitutes are far sweeter than regular sugar, so you need to adjust the amount if you’re adapting your own recipes. Check the label of the sugar substitute for the conversion to regular sugar. Easy as pie!

Let your kids help choose the recipes and figure out the conversion. When you talk about the choices you’re making to bake healthy treats, they’re learning healthy lessons.

All the best with your sugar-free baking adventures!

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