Baby and You

Sweetener tablets and hand with box whit cup of tea

Fiona Hunter has some great tips to help you reduce sugar and fat in your recipes and highlights some common ingredients and items to watch out for if cooking for special diets

If you’re trying to lose weight, eat less fat, salt or sugar or you simply want to eat more healthily, there are several things you can do. One of the most useful is to cook as much of the food you eat from scratch as this gives you complete control over what goes into your food. By making small changes to ingredients or cooking techniques, you can make recipes much healthier and then you really can have your cake and eat it without feeling guilty.   


A simple and effective way to reduce sugar is to use a calorie-free sweetener to replace sugar. There are several options available and the best sweetener for the job depends on what you need it to do. If you’re making baked goods like cakes or muffins, you need a sweetener to add sweetness but also texture and bulk so a sugar/sweetener blend will give the best results (these can easily be found in most supermarkets). Alternatively, you need to use a recipe that has been specially adapted to use a sweetener. If you want to sweeten something like stewed fruit, custard or fruit fool, you can use a sweetener such as sucralose, stevia or aspartame. Sweeteners containing aspartame lose their sweetness at high temperatures so it’s best to add them at the end of cooking. Sweeteners based on a mix of aspartame and acesulfame K are heat stable so can be used in recipes which are cooked at high temperature. You can substitute a granular sweetener for sugar on a spoon for spoon basis but because they are around 10 times lighter than sugar, you can’t substitute sweetener for sugar on a weight for weight basis.

A simple and effective way to reduce sugar is to use a calorie-free sweetener to replace sugar


Using rapeseed oil instead of butter to make baked goods like muffins and cakes is a good way to reduce saturated fat. To reduce total fat, you can replace some of the fat in a recipe with prune puree or apple sauce – you can replace up to half of the fat listed in a recipe with the same weight of prune puree or apple sauce.


Cooking for a friend or family member who can’t eat gluten or dairy or someone who follows a vegetarian or vegan diet can seem a bit daunting. Fortunately, help is at hand as most supermarkets now sell a good range of gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives. In addition, organisations like Coeliac UK, Diabetes UK and the Vegetarian Society have a wide selection of recipes easily accessible on their website. Of course, you can always adapt your own favourite recipes but it can be easy to get caught out by certain ingredients which you might assume are suitable but aren’t so check out the yellow box opposite.



Fiona Hunter began her career as a dietitian, moving on to become Nutrition Editor at Good Housekeeping magazine. Now freelance, she writes for a variety of publications and works as a consultant with the food industry.


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