Eating nutritious meals is often the easy part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It's between and after meals that can be problematic, when salty snacks and sweet treats beckon. Strictly avoiding treats is one option, but it's a hard and lonely road. Making your indulgences healthier, and enjoying them in moderation, is usually a better choice. Simple substitutions, such as learning how to use applesauce as a sugar substitute in your favorite recipes, can make it easy.
Start by taking a good look at your applesauce. Commercial brands are often sweetened and may contain added salt or preservatives. The simplest way to avoid additives, and guarantee the freshest flavor, is to make your own in a Vitamix blender. Choose apples with a sweet flavor, like Golden Delicious, for the best taste. Plain applesauce is the most versatile, so leave out any cinnamon or other spices.
Time to Experiment
There isn't a hard-and-fast ratio for substituting applesauce. In your morning oatmeal or plain yogurt, just add applesauce to suit your taste. Recipes for baked goods will require a bit of adjusting if they weren't written to use applesauce, so be prepared to experiment a little. As a rough guide, start by trying a one-to-one replacement for the sugar. Depending on the recipe, and the sweetness of your applesauce, you can increase that ratio up to 1 1/2 parts applesauce for every part of sugar. Bear in mind that applesauce is a wet ingredient, and sugar is dry. For every cup of applesauce you use, you'll need to reduce wet ingredients, such as milk, by 1/4 cup. Don't cut the eggs, which serve other important purposes in your batter.
Knowing When to Swap
Swapping out sugar for applesauce removes a lot of the guilt from your favorite guilty pleasure. Unsweetened applesauce checks in at just 102 calories per cup, while the same amount of sugar measures 774 calories. The problem is that sugar isn't just a sweetener. It also plays an important role in the chemistry of most recipes, providing structure and browning power to the mixture. In a cake, for example, swapping out the sugar can leave the end result pale, dense and chewy. The best recipes for substitution gain their texture and structure from other ingredients. Swap in oatmeal cookies rather than sugar cookies, for example, and muffins or quick cakes rather than conventional cakes.
Try, and Try Again
If your first experiment isn't entirely successful, don't be discouraged. Try replacing just half of the sugar in a recipe, leaving the rest to play its usual role. Remember, cutting even 1/2 cup of sugar saves over 300 calories. If that works, try a little more applesauce the next time. You'll soon find the "sweet spot," where the recipe still works but you've replaced all the sugar you can.