If you want something sweet do you use real sugar or a substitute? Why do you mke the choice you do?
I refuse to use a sweetener. IMO they taste gross and I'm not looking to lose weight so who cares about the calories? Not I ;) I think if you're going to have something sweet, have the real thing. All of the fake crap available to us today is a by-product of the low-fat USDA recommendations, and we all know better than to take heed of anything they say!
I have a teaspoon of coconut palm sugar with my espresso every morning. Coconut sap is tapped from the palm blossoms. It's full of trace minerals, vitamin, amino acids, and has a GI of 35 (classified as a low-GI food) and is safe for diabetics. I can get it super cheap at any Asian market/store, and comes in a dried form (for which you'd need a grater, like with a chunk of rock salt) or a jar from which you can scoop from.
I use locally-sourced honey in lots of things: tea, recipes, or just something to drizzle onto slices of apple. I haven't used refined sugar in so long, I don't even care for the taste any more.
Ive been making my own ice cream lately. Since going paleo I am very sensitive to sweet things, therefore I feel that I can use real sugar, but just use about 1/3 of what the recipe calls for.
Since going Paleo I don't care for sweet things other than the wife. I make my own citrus drink and once in a while if I do crave something sweet I would add agave to the drink. Other than that it's 85% Dark chocolate. L really love my wine so if the craving gets bad I open a bottle on white wine.
I cheat with dates. I have a really, really bad problem with them (I don't eat them in moderation) so I have to use them as cheats. When I do (once a week or every two weeks) I kinda go nuts.
To answer your question, if I cheat, and there's a sweetener/sugar substitute option, I'll usually go for that, but only if there's a meal (preferably protein or fat) to accompany it. (Like coffee and heavy cream for example) If you think about the process of insulin secretion (in a very over-simplified way) insulin secretion begins with both psychologically, and physiologically stimuli.
Psychologically, the body preps itself for caloric intake, whether glucose or protein, and begins secreting insulin to get the body primed for use and storage of the calories. This increases efficiency.
Physiologically, the process begins when the body's chemoreceptors sense glucose in the bloodstream and a signaling cascade leads to insulin secretion. The insulin is secreted (this time) to deal the ACTUAL glucose present in the blood.
As mentioned in this article: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080210183902.htm sweeteners stimulate only the psychological stimulus, however the system is confused when caloric intake does not accompany the psychological stimuli, leading to all sorts of issues including hunger and fat storage (Among other things.) Avoid the body's "confusion" with a small amount of caloric intake.
So, JUST drinking a stevia (or aspartame) sweetened drink with no actual calories deranges you metabolically. But if you sprinkle some stevia over some berries and heavy cream, that's not so bad. (because your spikes are relative to ONLY the psychological pathway vs. BOTH the psychological and physiological pathways) I still think that's preferable to the same dessert option but with sugar, which downright makes-out your chemoreceptors stimulating a bigger and more prolonged insulin spike, until glucose levels subside in your bloodstream.
The only thing I want sweet is ice cream so I eat real sugar. Afterwords I swish a sugar substitute: xylitol.
Xylitol is eaten by the bacteria that causes cavities and kills the bacteria.
One big hit of fructose isn't a big deal if you do Hunter-Gatherer level of activity, Hunter-Gatherer's eat a crap load of fructose when they eat honey because they don't eat a teaspoon they eat pounds. I think fructose is bad because of the frequency people use it and/or the lack of high levels of activity.
My goal is to get an ice cream maker and make my own using a certain variety of date that is very juicy and has an invert sugar(free glu/fru instead of sucrose) so it is more sweet and less cariogenic(since the bacteria that causes plaque thrives on sucrose). Also the date has more nutrients than plain sugar and possibly other whole food factors.
Here is research reported by Chris Masterjohn showing free glucose and fructose produces more harmful effects than honey and concludes:
For now, we should all consider it incredibly clear that we cannot attribute the effects of isolated fructose to the fructose in honey and fruit. http://blog.cholesterol-and-health.com/2010/10/high-fructose-corn-syrup-is-sweet.html
Sucrose could have the same effect or maybe not. It seems logical it would but maybe the rats aren't eating the meal of sugars with other foods/nutrients where as in real life people do.
If I want something sweet, I usually go for fruit (so no sugar but some fructose) or dark chocolate (real sugar). The only time I would go with a sugar substitute is if I wanted it in my coffee, since I used to drink it sweet, in which case I would use stevia. I use the stevia simply because I have it :P My other cheats will be home-baked birthday cakes and such, which have real sugar.
On rare occasions I'll indulge in a Rockstar energy drink which is artificially sweetened (the uncarbonated lemonade "recovery" variety or the "sugar-free" one in a white can).
Prior to going paleo, I probably had them 2-3 times a week, but even then never drank the regular sugared variety.