By Kerry Neville, RD
What’s a birthday without a slice of birthday cake? A morning mug of coffee without a little sweetness stirred in? A PB&J without the J? Using stevia in place of other caloric sweeteners can help you more easily fit the sweet tastes you love into your healthy eating plan.
Since stevia is calorie-free, substituting stevia for other caloric sweeteners in food and beverage products can help cut total calories. On its own, stevia has no effect on blood sugar levels and has a glycemic index of zero.
In the grocery store, you will find zero-calorie stevia in products including soft drinks, yogurts, salad dressings and baked goods. Stevia sometimes goes by several different names, so if you see stevia, stevia extract, purified stevia leaf extracts, high purity stevia, or rebiana listed on the label, know that it’s all the same.
You can find stevia as a tabletop sweetener, too–it’s usually in the baking section, next to the sugar. Whether stirred, mixed or sprinkled, you can use stevia alone or in combination with sugar, maple syrup, honey and other sweeteners to add a sweet flavor to recipes. Because stevia can be up to 350 times sweeter than sugar, you’ll need less of it to get the same level of sweetness.
Look for these stevia-sweetened foods and beverages in your local grocery store and try using stevia in place of other sweeteners in your favorite recipes:
- Add a spoonful of stevia into a mug of piping hot coffee or tea. Look for hot cocoa mixes sweetened with stevia if you prefer a chocolate-y way to perk up your day.
- Sprinkle stevia into oatmeal or on top of other unsweetened whole-grain cereals. Look for ready-to-eat cereals pre-sweetened with stevia, too.
- Spread the “J” in your PB&J using stevia-sweetened light jams, jellies and fruit spreads. Or use stevia to sweeten your homemade version of these favorites.
- Dig into a container of yogurt sweetened with stevia as a snack or enjoy a dish of it mixed with fruit for breakfast. Make a breakfast smoothie with stevia-sweetened yogurt. And if your fruit smoothie is still lacking that just-right sweet flavor, add a dash of stevia to perk it up.
- Mix stevia into muffins, like these delicious oatmeal-apple Or warm up a chilly evening with a fruit-filled dessert: this apple crisp uses a combination of brown sugar and stevia for sweetness.
- Quench your thirst with soft drinks, light juices and flavored waters sweetened with stevia. Some sports drinks use stevia, too.
- Add stevia to balance the tang in your homemade barbeque sauce. Need a recipe? Savor this barbecue pulled chicken piled on a whole-wheat bun. Or try these sweet and spicy tamarind chicken skewers. You can use stevia as the sweetener to make glazes for ham and other meat, poultry and fish entrees, too.
- Sweeten a refreshing glass of iced tea, lemonade or an iced coffee. You’ll find bottled versions of these favorite drinks sweetened with stevia in the cooler at stores, too.
- Whisk stevia into sweet–and–sour style dressings to add bold flavor to Asian salads. Drizzle the dressing over veggie side dishes, too. Bottled salad dressings that use stevia as a sweetener are also available. And if you’re making coleslaw, try stevia in place of other sweeteners in your recipe.
- Look for light ice creams, popsicles and other frozen treats that use stevia as a sweetener.
- Instead of maple syrup, use stevia to make a fruit compote to top pancakes and French toast. Compotes also make a perfect topping for light ice cream! Just mix sliced fruit or berries with a splash of water, add a sprinkle of stevia, and cook the mixture down until it thickens. You can use stevia-sweetened juice in place of the water and add warm spices like cinnamon or nutmeg if that suits your taste.
- Use stevia to replace some of the sugar in brownies, cakes, cookies and other baked goods. It works in frostings, too. This chocolate chip zucchini bread and these peanut butter cookies are scrumptious, once-in-a-while treats.