Sweeten Things Up!

///Sweeten Things Up!

As sugar is a carbohydrate, you can’t eat low-carb without cutting out all types of real sugar, including sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, added fructose, cane juice, cane syrup, and honey. But once you’ve cut these things out of your diet, you’re inevitably still going to want to indulge in something sweet. You’re going to have to find a substitution.

Sugar substitutes are a polarizing topic that has been, and continues to be debated in the news, on the web, and elsewhere. Opinions vary about the different varieties of sugar substitutes, and seem to change too often to keep up with. It is only natural for us to question and, yes, even demand more information on what we put into our bodies. Sugar substitutes often cause people to wonder what is or isn’t naturally derived, and for those conscious of eating only natural foods (as we try to do on low-carb), this is wholly understandable.

As a chef, I tend to vote with my palate. It was almost 2 decades ago that I chose to use Splenda as my personal sugar substitute of choice, and have stuck with it ever since. This is simply my own preference due to taste and the fact that it didn’t interfere with my weight loss. However, your choice of sugar substitute or “sugar alternative” is left entirely up to you.

The New Substitutes 

There is a remarkable amount of sugar substitutes available in stores today, many of them entirely natural. This luxury simply did not exist back when my family lost the majority of our weight. Back then, Splenda had just hit the shelves and any other alternatives came in either blue or pink packets. These days, you have a plethora of new substitutes to choose from, including erythritol, stevia, monk fruit, and agave nectar, just to name a few. Others are marketed under many different brand names, such as Nevella, Truvia, Stevia Blend, Swerve, Organic Zero, EZ-Sweetz, and Just Like Sugar. The one type of sugar substitute I recommend against is xylitol, as, from what I understand, it can cause digestive discomfort (and is also poisonous to dogs).

Do They Cause Weight Gain?

Lately, you may have read that sugar substitutes can actually lead to weight gain. This seems to be the sensational story that is spread around the most right now. My only response to that is that my family consumed Splenda throughout our weight loss (and we still do), and it never slowed us down! We ate desserts just like those I have included below every day of our weight loss, and we had amazing results.

It’s important to remember that sugar substitutes are among some of the most scrutinized and studied foods on the planet. When in doubt, read these studies and the conclusions of those who publish them, then draw your own conclusion. I made mine long ago and feel comfortable knowing that I’ve eliminated both sugar and corn syrup from my life.

It is generally well accepted that eating excess sugar can raise your risk for diabetes and other diseases, especially for those who are overweight. The media likes to sensationalize sweeteners, but real sugar (and especially high-fructose corn syrup) is not good for those who are overweight.

Make Sure It’s Heat Stable

Regardless of your preference in sweeteners, please check to make sure it is “heat stable” before attempting to bake with it. Aspartame, for instance, (which I do NOT recommend) is not heat stable and will lose its sweetness at a high enough temperature.

When recipes call for sugar substitutes they should be measured equal to sugar, no matter which substitute you prefer. If you are using a brand of sugar substitute that does not measure the same as sugar, simply follow the directions on the package to measure out the correct amount for that particular brand.

Liquid versions of sweeteners listed tend to contain the least amount of carbohydrates, as they require no fillers to add bulk. These also usually measure the least like sugar, so be sure to follow their directions for measuring

Your choice of sweetener is truly your choice to make.

Keep On Low-Carbin’!
George Stella

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Strawberry Delight Layer Cake

There’s nothing Short about this Full-Sized Cake

Recipe by George Stella / StellaStyle.com

Prep Time: 35 min | Bake Time: 35 Min | Chill Time: 4+ hrs | Serves: 12
Calories: 265 | Fat: 22g | Protein: 9.5g | Total Carbs: 10g – Fiber: 3g = Net Carbs: 7g

This stunning strawberry layer cake is like a giant shortcake with plenty to serve a room full of guests. Piled high with my Italian Whipped Cream Frosting and oodles of fresh strawberries, this one’s a real beauty that would be a shame to eat.… But you will definitely eat it.


  • Nonstick cooking spray
    3⁄4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar substitute
    5 large eggs
    1⁄4 cup water
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    2+1⁄2 cups blanched almond flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1 batch Italian Whipped Cream Frosting, recipe below
    2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
    Note: The nutritional information above already includes the Italian Whipped Cream Frosting.


  1. Place oven rack in center position and preheat to 350°F. Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of sugar substitute around the bottom and edges of the greased pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, water, and vanilla extract, until frothy.
  3. In a separate mixing bowl, combine almond flour, baking powder, and the 3⁄4 cup sugar substitute.
  4. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until a batter is formed. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top.
  5. Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the center is springy, and a toothpick inserted into it comes out mostly clean. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.
  6. Let cool on counter for 30 minutes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  7. Invert pan onto a large plate and shake to release cake. Using a bread knife, carefully slice the entire cake into 2 layers horizontally. Place the bottom layer on a serving dish.
  8. Frost the top of the bottom layer with the Italian Whipped Cream Frosting. Place a single layer of sliced strawberries over top of the frosting.
  9. Top with the second layer of cake. Frost the top and all sides of the cake with the frosting. Arrange the remaining sliced strawberries over top of the frosted cake. Refrigerate for an additional 2 hours before slicing to serve.

Italian Whipped Cream Frosting

Light and Fluffy Vanilla Frosting with a hint of Almond

Recipe by George Stella / StellaStyle.com

This sweet, airy cream frosting has the subtle flavor of an Italian amaretto. It tastes great on almost anything. Try a dollop in your coffee. Or, better still, you should definitely use this frosting for my STRAWBERRY DELIGHT LAYER CAKE!

Prep Time: 10 min | Serves: 12
Calories: 90 | Fat: 8g | Protein: 1.5g | Total Carbs: 2g – Fiber: 0g = Net Carbs: 2g


  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
    1⁄2 cup ricotta cheese
    1⁄2 cup sugar substitute
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1⁄4 teaspoon almond extract


  1. With an electric mixer on high, whip the heavy cream, just until frothy.
  2. Add the ricotta cheese, sugar substitute, vanilla extract, and almond extract to the heavy cream.
  3. Set the mixer to low speed and mix until all ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Set the mixer to high speed and continue whipping until soft peaks form.
  5. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Store baked goods frosted with this frosting for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.

George’s Tips

In a pinch, 1⁄2 teaspoon of additional vanilla extract can be used in place of the almond extract, however this is truly best when made as written…but of course I would say that, seeing as it is my recipe!


Blueberry Cheesecake Mousse

Decadent Fruit-on-the-Bottom Parfaits

By George Stella / StellaStyle.com

Prep Time: 15 min | Serves: 6
Calories: 240 | Fat: 21g | Protein: 3.5g | Total Carbs: 10.5g – Fiber: 1g = Net Carbs: 9.5

From the French meaning “perfect,” parfait sure thinks highly of itself.… But with good reason! It’s cool, sweet, smooth, and even easy on the eyes. Especially this variation, which is swirled with violet streaks of mouthwatering, fresh blueberry purée. It’s like a succulent, edible galaxy of fruit and cream.


  • 2 cups blueberries, plus additional for garnish
  • 1⁄3 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar substitute, divided
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1+1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • Fresh mint, for garnish


  1. Using a blender or food processor, purée blueberries with the 2 tablespoons of sugar substitute, blending until smooth. Set aside.
  2. With an electric mixer on high, whip the heavy cream, just until frothy.
  3. Add the 1⁄3 cup of sugar substitute, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and softened cream cheese to the mixer and whip on high speed, just until soft peaks form. Be careful not to over-whip.
  4. Use a spatula to fold 1⁄4 of the blueberry purée into the cheesecake mousse, leaving visible streaks of blue and white.
  5. Spoon an equal amount of the remaining 3⁄4 of blueberry purée into the bottom of 6 parfait glasses. Top each with the swirled cheesecake mousse and serve chilled. Garnish with fresh blueberries and mint, if desired.

Helpful Tips
Fresh or frozen blueberries can be used in this recipe, though frozen blueberries should be thawed before blending


By | 2017-06-02T13:42:43+00:00 June 5th, 2017|Culinary Corner|0 Comments

About the Author:

George Stella
George Stella, a professional chef for more than 30 years, is the official spokesman for the Junior League’s Kids in the Kitchen program, which aims to help kids lead healthier lives by encouraging family cooking time. He has appeared on numerous television shows, including two seasons of his own show, Low Carb and Lovin’ It on the Food Network. His family continues to work together today and has written five healthy eating cookbooks. For more information, please visit StellaStyle.com.

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