If you bake, then you have at one point or another used sugar. Sugar is almost a necessity for baking.. not only does it give the food a sweeter flavor, it provides it moisture and helps increase the shelf life of your finished product.
Refined sugar is 99% sucrose – a simple carb. And while you can use brown or white, or even raw (or, organic), sugar is sugar – they are all refined. Believe it or not, 85% of sugar beets in the U.S. are all Genetically Modified – that’s some scary stuff. (Source) Even worse, the USDA gave the “green light” for farmers to grow roundup ready sugar beets.
(If you are buying organic sugar, Costco has large 10 lb bags for around $7 – so even if you don’t use it to bake all too often, it’s relatively inexpensive to buy in bulk).
There are other sugars out there – maple syrup and honey for example, that have a sweeter taste than sugar, and are considered natural sweeteners.
In some cases, you will want to forego the refined sugar to use natural sweeteners (ie. Honey or Maple Syrup) – I do that often myself because I’d rather use Honey instead of refined sugar for many reasons. When I make food for the kids, and I see a huge measurement of sugar, I tend to close up the recipe and not want to make it…
But then it could also be because we were fortunate enough to pick up a 5 gallon drum of Raw Honey from a local friend here in Phoenix and so I’m swimming in honey right now.. so using that just makes sense. We use raw honey in our Healthy Loaded Chocolate Zucchini Muffins, and in our Skinny Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, too. We also used it in our Healthy Banana Bread and our Skinny Fudge Brownies. They were amazing too.
In most cases, switching or substituting isn’t always black and white though.
Here’s a guide to follow if you should want to substitute honey or maple syrup for refined sugar in recipes (and some tips that might help too!)
Honey is darker and stronger than using regular sugar and if you are using honey in recipes, items usually brown up a little faster. If you do opt to sub honey instead of sugar, use 3/4 C. Honey plus 1 Tbsp in place of 1 C. sugar, and reduce the other liquid ingredients by 2 Tbsp. If the recipe includes buttermilk or sour cream, leave as is – but if it doesn’t, then you will want to add a pinch of baking soda (around 1/4 tsp) to neutralize the acidity (honey is very acidic so baking soda will counteract that).
Using Maple Syrup
Maple Syrup is 60% as sweet as sugar, so you won’t need quite as much – use 3/4 C. for every C. of white sugar and since it is liquid, you will want to decrease the liquid in the recipe by 3 Tbsp.
Molasses is not quite as sweet as sugar, but it is dark and strong. If you are using Molasses in recipes in lieu of sugar, use 1 1/3 C. Molasses for every 1 C. sugar, and reduce the liquid in the recipe by 5 Tbsp. Like Honey, Molasses is also acidic – so grab your baking soda and add 1/2 tsp for every “cup” of molasses.
Note though: if you do opt to replace the sugar with molasses, don’t replace it completely – you should try for no more than half.