Q: When manufacturers reduce the added sugar in food, do they replace it with anything?
Many food manufacturers are reducing the amount of sugar they add to foods and drinks. And yes, they usually replace the sugar with other ingredients. This is partly to maintain the same degree of sweetness that consumers expect, but sugar adds more than just a sweet flavour. It can affect texture (such as the crispness of a biscuit or lightness of a sponge), shelf life (it holds on to moisture so products stay fresher for longer), colour and mouth feel.
Alternative sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose, stevia, xylitol and erythritol, get around the issue of sweetness. But other ingredients may need to be added to make up for the other functions of sugar. For example, preservatives may be added to improve shelf life and thickeners to improve texture. Fat is sometimes added as this affects texture, colour and mouth feel. So you may find there are more calories in a lower-sugar product.
Even if sugar is reduced and nothing else is added, the calorie saving may not be as great as you’d expect. Removing 1tsp sugar will save 16kcal.
It’s a step in the right direction, but a daily reduction of this size will only help you lose 1½lb in a year. Instead, swap high-sugar biscuits and choc with fruit, to reduce calories and fat and boost fibre and vitamins.