Artificial Sweeteners and Your Pregnancy

Posted on Monday, August 10th, 2009
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

There are a lot of options and much confusion when it comes to artificial sweeteners. Current government recommendations say that pregnant women can safely use low-calorie sweeteners in moderation, unless otherwise advised by their physicians. I advise patients to refrain from all artificial sweeteners during pregnancy. There are a variety of natural sugars that you can use safely during pregnancy. You will find a chart below. If you do choose to use foods with artificial sweeteners in them during your pregnancy, here are some guidelines.

Many health organizations suggest limiting artificially-sweetened foods in your diet to only 2 or 3 servings a day.

Examples of one serving include:

· 12 ounce can of pop

· 1/2 cup of pudding, ice cream, or gelatin product

· one bowl of sweetened cereal

· one portion of a bakery item

Though the following low-calorie sweeteners have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and are considered safe for pregnant women and children, again I highly disagree and recommend to all my pregnant patients to refrain from their use pre-pregnancy through breastfeeding:

· Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Sugar Twin) is a combination of two amino acids, phenylalanine and aspartic acid. It is two hundred times sweeter than table sugar. It can be used in moderation by diabetics. One packet of Equal is the same in sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar. The average amount used supplies no calories. Individuals who have phenylketonuria (PKU) and cannot metabolize phenylalanine, or are sensitive to aspartame, should not use it.

· Saccharin (Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, Necta Sweet) is not metabolized and passes through the digestive system unchanged. It is a noncaloric sweetener produced from an organic compound. It is 375 times as sweet as table sugar and can be used in moderate amounts by diabetics.

· Acesulfame K (Sunett and Sweet One, Sweet and Safe) is not metabolized and is excreted unchanged by the kidneys. It can be used in moderation by diabetics. One packet of Sweet One is equal to the sweetness of two teaspoons of sugar. It can be used in cooking and baking.

· Sucralose (Splenda) is not well absorbed and is excreted unchanged. Splenda is the only artificial sugar substitute that is made from sugar. It is 600 times sweeter than sugar. Splenda or sucrolose is often used in baked goods, soft drinks, chewing gum, frozen dairy desserts, fruit juices and gelatins. One of the unique attributes of sucralose is that it can be used virtually like sugar without losing any of its sugar-like sweetness, even in applications that require exposure to high temperatures. Therefore, it can be used in baked products as well. More than 100 studies over 20 years have found no link between splenda and any health problems. It can be used by pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers.

· Neotame (made by The NutraSweet Co.) is quickly metabolized and completely eliminated from the body. This sweetener is designed more for food industries than the direct consumer or tabletop sweetener market. The main markets for this product are soft drinks, yogurt, frozen dairy desserts and chewing gum. It would take approximately 8,000 teaspoons of sugar to equal 1 teaspoon of neotame.

· Natural Sweeteners

Although most natural sweeteners can cause many of the same problems as refined sugars when consumed in excessive amounts, they are considered better alternatives since they retain many of their original vitamins and minerals.

Date sugar

Dried, ground dates. Contains folic acid.

Substitute 1:1 for white sugar. Add hot water to dissolve date sugar before using in batters. Use in combination with other sweeteners for baking.

Fruitsource Brand name

Granular or liquid product made from grape juice concentrate and whole-rice syrup. Glucose, fructose, and maltose.

Substitute 1¼ cup for 1 cup white sugar. Reduce salt 30% to 50%. Bake at 325o F to 350oF maximum.

Sucanat Brand Name

Dried, organic sugar cane juice- minerals and molasses retained.

Can be substituted 1:1 for white or brown sugar in cooking.


Made by fermenting sweet brown rice into a thick sweet liquid.

Use in puddings, cakes, pies. Can be used as warm or cold beverage. Refrigerate.

Barley Malt

Sweetener made by fermenting sweet brown rice into a thick sweet liquid.

Substitute 1 1/3 cups barley malt for 1 cup white sugar. Boil for 2-3 minutes before adding to recipe. Reduce liquid in recipe by ¼ cup. Purchase only 100% barley malt.

Blackstrap Molasses

Syrup remaining after third and final extraction of sugar from boiled juice of sugar cane or beets. Good source of iron.

Can substitute molasses for brown sugar in recipes. Reduce liquids in recipes by ¼ cup per cup of molasses. Refrigerate.

Brown-rice syrup

Made by sprouting brown rice in water.

Good for cookies, crisps, granola, pies, and puddings. Substitute 1 1/3 cups for 1 cup white sugar. Reduce liquids by ¼ cup per cup rice syrup. Refrigerate.

Concentrated Fruit Sweetener

Commercial syrup made from peach, pineapple, pear, and other fruit juices that have been cooked down.

Use in all baked goods. Substitute 2/3 cup for 1 cup white sugar. Reduce liquid by 1/3 cup per cup of fruit sweetener. Refrigerate.


Flower nectar that is collected, modified, and concentrated by bees.

Use in all baked goods. Substitute ½ to ¾ cup honey for 1 cup white sugar. Reduce liquids in recipe by ¼ cup per 1 cup of honey. Reduce oven 250 F and adjust baking time. Don’t give honey to children under 2.

Maple syrup

Made from boiled sap of sugar maple trees. High in potassium and calcium.

Use in all baked goods. Substitute 2/3 to ¾ cup maple syrup for 1 cup white sugar. Reduce liquid in recipe by 3 tablespoons. Refrigerate.


Syrup-like sweetener made by concentrating juice of boiled sorghum (a relative of millet) stems.

Use in baked beans, granola, and puddings. Substitute ½ to ¾ cup sorghum for 1 cup white sugar. Reduce liquids by ¼ cup per cup white sugar. Refrigerate.

Other liquid sweeteners

Pureed dates, pureed banana, applesauce and apple butter, fruit juice, frozen fruit juice concentrate.

Amounts vary depending on recipe.

Stevia (ground leaves or stevioside)

Whole dried stevia leaves ground into fine powder. Stevioside is dry powder extracted from stevia leaves. Several hundred times sweeter than sugar.

Substitute 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons stevia leaves or ¼ teaspoon stevioside for 1-cup sugar in recipes. Reduce liquids to adjust.

Angela Pifer, MSN, CN Seattle Nutritionist Enjoy the day to day support, structure and accountability that will finally help you meet your health goals! New! Online Wellness Programs!

Categories: Pregnancy

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