Sugar free candy diabetes


Is Sugar-Free Candy Okay for People With Diabetes?

If you have diabetes, you know that while sugar doesn’t directly cause the disease, foods with too much of the ingredient can make it more difficult for you to control your blood glucose levels. But does sugar-free candy have the same effect on blood sugar? If you know how and to what extent, you may have an easier time enduring holidays like Halloween, Hanukkah, and Christmas — times when sugar cravings commonly strike.

Unfortunately, the answer to this common diabetes question isn’t so straightforward. “Generally speaking, sugar-free candy will have less of an effect on blood glucose than its sugar-containing counterpart,” says Jo-Anne M. Rizzotto, RD, a certified diabetes educator at the Joslin Clinic in Boston. “‘Sugar-free’ does not mean calorie-free or carbohydrate-free,” Rizzotto adds.

What Exactly Is in Sugar-Free Candy?

“The major difference between regular and sugar-free candy is the kind of sweetener used,” says Anna Taylor, RD, CDE, at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. She notes that typically there’s no significant difference in either the fat or protein content of sugar-free candy.

Sugar-free sweeteners include Splenda, saccharin, aspartame, stevia, and sugar alcohols.

What Studies Say About Sugar-Free Candy and Blood Sugar

While sugar-free candy itself hasn’t been studied extensively, the artificial sweeteners it contains have. A review of 37 studies published in July 2017 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that artificial sweeteners were linked with a modest increase in the risk for type 2 diabetes, among other ailments. Another review, published in the May–June 2016 issue of the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, cites research that suggests consuming artificial sweeteners regularly may be dangerous for people with diabetes because they are associated with an increased risk for obesity, which can further worsen glucose intolerance.

That doesn’t mean you have to completely swear off this brand of treats if you have diabetes or are at risk for the disease. Other research on humans suggests regular sugar may be comparatively more damaging for these individuals. A study published in July 2015 in the BMJ found that sugar-sweetened beverages, as opposed to fruit juice or artificially sweetened beverages, were most strongly associated with the incidence of type 2 diabetes. A study published in June 2017 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition also directly compared the different effects of these sweeteners, and researchers found that while regular consumption (which they defined as two or more servings per day) of artificially sweetened beverages was associated with a 21 percent increased risk of diabetes, that increased risk for diabetes rose to 43 percent when the frequently consumed drinks were sweetened with regular sugar.

Why Sugar-Free Candy May Be a Good Choice for Diabetes

When managing diabetes, experts agree that, at least based on current evidence, sugar-free candy is a better choice than candy made with regular sugar. “Having the option of sugar-free candy to satisfy a sweet tooth without causing a spike in blood glucose can be very helpful,” Rizzotto says.

Another possible benefit? Sugar-free candy often, though not always, contains fewer total carbohydrates, less sugar, and fewer calories than regular candy, Taylor says.

That said, it’s still crucial to practice portion control, as you do with all foods in your diabetes diet. This type of candy still has the potential to affect blood sugar levels if the candy contains (as it often does) sugar alcohols, which contain carbohydrates, but to a lesser degree than sugar, Taylor notes. Some examples of these sugar alcohols are sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol. If you ingest too many sugar alcohols, you may experience uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea, Taylor warns.

“It’s also easy to consume more candy with the justification that it is sugar-free, potentially causing you to eat more calories and more carbohydrates than if you were just eating the regular candy made with sugar,” Rizzotto adds. “Always read the nutrition facts label to see how many calories, carbohydrates, and sugar alcohols, if any, the candy contains.”

Tips for Eating Sugar-Free Candy When Managing Diabetes

Before popping that sugar-free candy in your mouth, follow this handy guide to ensure the sweet stuff doesn’t mess with your blood sugar levels:

Try to keep added sugar intake to no more than 25 grams (g) per day if you’re a woman and to no more than 36 g per day if you’re a man, the American Heart Association recommends. You don’t necessarily have to swap out all candy for sugar-free versions — but do be sure to check the label of each piece of regular candy to make sure you aren’t going over this recommended amount. Remember that if you have diabetes, the fewer added sugars, the better.

Focus on portion control and decreased frequency, regardless of whether you choose sugar-free candy or regular candy, Taylor says. That way, you’ll be able to budget for treats without exceeding the recommended sugar or carb intake, she says.

Limit your sugar alcohol consumption. If you’re budgeting for a sugar-free candy in your diet, watch out for ingredients like sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol, all of which contain carbohydrates and can impact your blood sugar levels, Taylor says. Other sugar alcohols include lactilol, isomalt, and erythritol. To figure out how many carbs your body is absorbing from these sugar alcohols, divide the number of grams of sugar alcohols on the nutrition label (also called “polyols”) in two, as Asquel Getaneh, MD, describes here.

When choosing candies, consider the saturated fat content as well. “You want to look for the lowest saturated fat content and ensure the carbohydrate content fits into your carb budget,” Taylor says. For instance, she notes that sugar-free chocolate still contains cocoa butter, which is high in saturated fat. Saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels, and should be limited to no more than about 6 percent of your total daily calories, Taylor says.

Choose quality over quantity. Ultimately, choose a treat you know will be satisfying, so you aren’t tempted to overindulge. “Treat yourself to a piece of regular candy you like, and plan for it,” Rizzotto says. “Savor it slowly, not letting guilt flaw the experience of enjoying the candy.”

Sugar Free Candy

Sugar free candy, chocolate, and gum are all great ways for diabetics and those watching their sugar intake to indulge in the occasional sweet treat. CVS carries a selection of the best sugar free candy and chocolates so that you can choose your favorites. Try all the different varieties, or just stock up on the ones you know you love!

Many people have fond memories of enjoying candies, but can no longer consume the sugar. Sugar free hard candy may allow you to enjoy the occasional treat once again. However, it is important to check in with your doctor before consuming sugar free candies, especially if you have a medical condition like diabetes or if you take any medications. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to consume sugar free treats and how often you can do so. Once you have the okay, you can go ahead and stock up on a few packs of sugar free candies! Sugar free Jolly Ranchers are one very popular choice of sugar free hard candy. You may also enjoy sugar free peppermints.

CVS also offers chewy candies that are sugar free. Keep in mind that the same precautions apply here, too. It is best to check in with your doctor before trying sugar free candies, especially if you have diabetes. In many cases, diabetics find that they are able to enjoy the sweetness of the occasional sugar free candy! Popular chewy sweets for diabetics include sugar free jelly beans and sugar free gummy bears. You may also enjoy sugar free Twizzlers.

Sugar Free Chocolate

Are you a chocolate lover? Have no fear! CVS carries a selection of sugar free chocolates for you to enjoy. As with candies, it is important to first check with your doctor before introducing sugar free chocolates into your diet, but in most cases, it is possible to enjoy the occasional sugar free chocolate. Even if you are dealing with diabetes or another health concern that necessitates you limiting your sugar intake, sugar free chocolate may be a way for you to enjoy the occasional sweet-tasting treat! Russell Stover Sugar Free and sugar free Reese’s are popular choices. For die-hard dark chocolate fans, sugar free dark chocolate is available, such as Hershey’s Sugar Free.

Talk to your doctor today about chocolate and candy for diabetics. In addition to making sure your doctor approves, it is also important to only use sugar free sweets for the occasional treat. Sugar free chocolates and sugarless candy are not intended to be consumed every day. However, when used in moderation and with your doctor’s supervision, sugar free candies and chocolates can be a great way to add a little sweetness back into your diet!

Sugar Free Gum & Mints

In addition to sugar free chocolate and candy, CVS also offers a selection of sugar free gum and mints. Whether you are a diabetic, trying to avoid sugar, or concerned about cavities, you may enjoy sugarless gum and mints. CVS offers a variety of brands and flavors, so you can choose your favorite. You should talk to your doctor or dentist to find out if sugar free gum and mints are appropriate for you. If so, you can start enjoying the many flavors that are available today!

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You know that sugar-packed chocolate bars = not-so-great for you. So…sugar-free candies must be better, right? Yeah, about that…

“Sugar-free candy is still candy,” says Alyssa Lavy, RD. While it may not pack the same sugar count as the conventionally sweetened alternative, it’s still lacking in the nutrition department…not to mention loaded with plenty of other things that aren’t necessarily better for you.

But! Both regular and sugar-free candy can fit into a balanced diet, she says. You’ve just gotta know your facts:

What’s the difference between the way sugar-free candy and regular candy are sweetened?

“Sugar-free candy can be sweetened with a variety of sugar alternatives,” Lavy explains. She’s talking artificial sweeteners, such as saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose; sugar alcohols, such as erythritol, mannitol, xylitol, and sorbitol; or food additives, such as maltodextrin.

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So far, these substitutes haven’t been proven to be any healthier than traditional sugar. In fact, some of them, including artificial sweeteners, have been associated with potentially altering the gut microbiome—or the collection of organisms in your digestive tract that protect the body against viruses and disease, says Lavy.

Other sugar stand-ins, sugar alcohols in particular, can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea in some people, says Lavy.

So…you still have to read the nutrition facts—even if a candy’s sugar-free.

You want to look specifically at what sugar-free candy is packing in order to compensate for the lack of sugar, what the recommended portion size is, and the amount of calories, saturated fats, and carbs.

“’Sugar-free’ does not necessarily mean ‘carbohydrate-free,’” says Lavy. That’s because some alternatives to the sweet stuff, like sugar alcohols and maltodextrin, are still carbs—and even if they’re not completely absorbed by your body, you’ll still take in some of them (especially key to note if you’re diabetic and you need to monitor your blood-sugar levels).

And of course, calories and fat are still calories and fat. A lot of sugar-free candies have similar numbers to regular candies in those departments. Plus, Lavy says a lot of people give themselves permission to down the whole bag of sugar-free candies in one sitting because they think they’re better for you. Which…sorry, but no. Moderation is still important.

That said…if you’re going to help yourself to a few pieces of sugar-free candy (and def feel free!), just know that you’ll want to factor those carbs, grams of fat, and calories into your recommended daily intake.

The bottom line: While there’s not one rule-of-thumb for how much sugar-free candy it’s safe to consume, Alyssa Lavy, RD, says you should treat it like regular candy (because it’s not really better for you than regular candy) and eat it as a treat.

Aryelle Siclait Assistant Editor Aryelle Siclait is an assistant editor at Women’s Health where she writes about relationship trends, sexual health, pop-culture news, food, and physical health for verticals across and the print magazine.

It’s tempting, understandably, to buy a box of sugar-free chocolates at the pharmacy or grocery store for your favorite relative or friend with diabetes.

“Oh! This is perfect!” you’re probably thinking to yourself when you see that beautiful assortment of truffles with “sugar-free” printed on the box.

How could someone be anything but thrilled to receive sugar-free chocolate? It’s like eating chocolate without your body even noticing, especially for someone with diabetes, right?


There’s a very big difference between “low-carb” chocolates and candies and “sugar-free” varieties.

So back away from the sugar-free candy and chocolate. Please, I beg of you! They are full of sugar alcohols — the archaic substitute for real sugar. And you do not want sugar alcohols in your belly. Here’s why:

1. They can still raise your blood sugar. Sugar alcohols, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center, are derived from plant products — usually fruit. After removing the carbohydrate from these plants, they are then “altered” by a chemical process. For reasons I still don’t understand, someone once decided that these sugar alcohols should be used in candies and chocolates, and then advertised as “sugar-free.”

Sugar alcohols to look for on ingredient labels include mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates.

Sure, they contain fewer calories than white sugar, but Joslin explains that this is merely because the calories are not as easily absorbed during the digestive process. So if you insist on eating sugar-free products, you should do so as thoughtfully as you would any other sugar-laden treat.

2. They can give you diarrhea. Sugar alcohols can have the same effect on your body as a good old-fashioned laxative. And you can bet that if you eat more than just one or two of those cute little chocolates, your stomach will not be happy. The “big D” can come with cramping and pain. It’s especially dangerous, because when you see the words “sugar-free,” and it’s been a long time since you treated yourself to chocolate or candy, you might easily overeat. And that extended moment of indulgence might come back to haunt you when your body tries to digest sugar alcohols.

3. They taste truly awful. This is the most obvious reason not to bother with sugar-free chocolates and candies. The entire point of eating chocolate, in particular, is for the enjoyment of that sweet, smooth, wonderful flavor. If your chocolate is mixed with a funky fake-sugar chemical that tastes, well, like chemicals, it’s truly not worth it.

Here are two low-carb chocolates that are available online and are not sweetened with sugar alcohols: ChocZero and ChocoPerfection. I’ve tried both. They truly are lower in carb content. They won’t leave you with painful stomach cramps, and — best of all — they actually taste good!

See more helpful articles:

5 Delicious Low-Carb Comfort Foods

The Secret Names for Sugar

9 Low-Carb Foods You Should Eat More Often

We’re on a bit of a health kick here at It might seem odd to hear that the purveyors of sugar-filled treats has focused on health in recent weeks. We see no issue with it. You can live a perfectly healthy existence while indulging in your favorite confections every now and again.

Last week we looked at some healthy dessert recipes, which mostly mimicked our favorite candy bars. They’re the kinds of recipes you can make on a Saturday nigth with the family and not feel bad about on Sunday morning.

This week we’re diving into a different aspect of guilt-free sweets: sugar-free candies. After all, it’s the sugars we fear, right? If we can remove them from the equation, we can enjoy our favorite candies more frequently.

Not so fast. Something has to make those candies sweet. If you seek a healthier lifestyle, chances are you want to know what you’re putting into your body.

So how exactly do they sweeten sugar-free candies?

Sugar Alcohols

Whenever you see the sugar-free label on candy, chances are that it’s sweetened with sugar alcohols — which is kinda funny, because sugar alcohols contain neither sugars nor alcohols. So what are they? From Joslin Diabetes Center:

Sugar alcohols come from plant products such as fruits and berries. The carbohydrate in these plant products is altered through a chemical process.

Two important points about sugar alcohols in general:

1) They do have carbohydrates. While sugar alcohols do contain fewer calories and carbohydrates than table sugar, they still do contain calories and carbohydrates. They will, therefore, affect your blood sugar levels.

Check out the nutritional facts for sugar-free Salt Water Taffy Lite.

While it indeed contains no sugar, it does have 25g of carbohydrates and 110 calories per serving. Compare that to standard Salt Water Taffy, which has the same 110 calories, and only 21g of carbohydrates, per serving. The only difference is the 13g of sugar in standard salt water taffy.

2) You don’t digest sugar alcohols. One reason sugar alcohols don’t spike blood sugar to the same levels as table sugar is that we don’t fully digest sugar alcohols. That’s not entirely a good thing. While it means you can avoid some of sugar’s health-threatening properties, it also means exposure to new, uh, issues, as it were.

If you have the stomach read this blurb from The Atlantic. The long-and-short: because you don’t fully digest sugar alcohols, they can ferment in the gut. You can use your imagination from there.

There are a few types of sugar alcohols, so let’s get familiar.


Maltitol is typically use in gummy candies, such as Sour Gummi Worms. So if you’ve enjoyed those chewy treats without extra trips to the bathroom, you can thank maltitol.

There certainly are some downsides to maltitol. While it does have fewer calories per gram than table sugar, the differences aren’t that great (4 calories per gram from sugar, 3 calories per gram from maltitol). It also has a relatively high glycemic index of 36 in powder form, but 52 in syrup form, which is how you’ll usually find it used in gummy candies. For reference, table sugar has a glycemic index of 60.

Given the high glycemic index and relatively few caloric savings — plus the potential gastrointestinal distress — you might be better off just eating the full-sugar versions of gummy candies.


Another common sugar alcohol you’ll see on many ingredients lists is sorbitol. You’ll find this one commonly in sugar-free chewing gum, such as Dentyne Ice. While it’s not quite as sweet as maltitol, it’s also not even close to it on the glycemic index. Sorbitol, and most of its other sugar alcohol cousins, are in the single digits.

Oftentimes you’ll see products that mix sorbitol and another sugar alcohol. For instance, our sugar-free Chick-O-Stick Nuggets contain a sweetener called polyglycitol, which is indeed a combination of sorbitol and maltitol. Since this is, at least in the case of Chick-O-Sticks, in syrup form, you can expect that it will have a more severe effect on blood sugar than if it were in powder form.

Interesting note: sorbitol is also used in soaps because of its moisturizing effects. I’m not sure that fact makes it any more appetizing. Less so, probably.


At about a quarter-calorie per gram and a glycemic index of 1, it might seem as though erythritol is the sugar-free answer we’ve sought. What exactly is it? From Decoded Science:

Erythritol is a naturally-occurring molecule, we can find it in fruits such as pears, water melons and grapes; it is also present in some drinks like sake and wine, and sauce such as soy sauce.

Sounds great!

Due to its large demand, however, the erythritol we use is produced at an industrial level with a fermentation process, using maize/corn as starting material.

D’oh! Not that corn is in itself bad, but we’re probably talking about heavily processed GMO corn. The scariest part of the processing: they use a fungus to ferment erythritol. Yeah. A later part of the process involves filtering the erythritol “to completely remove the fungus responsible for the fermentation.” Yikes.

Still, it seems that overall erythritol is the least objectionable of the sugar alcohols (you’ll see the conern with xylitol in just a moment). You can find erythritol in artificial sweeteners such as Truvia, which they combine with stevia leaf for a robust sweetener. DeMet’s chocolates, such as Turtles and Flipz chocolate-covered pretzels also use erythritol as a sweetener. Some energy drinks, such as Monster Ultra Zero, contain erythritol.


It’s not as difficult to pronounce as it looks, and it’s probably not as natural as people claim. Xylitol has caught some attention of late, because it is a “natural” sugar alcohol.

Why the scare quotes around the word natural? It is, in some ways, natural. From The Healthy Home Economist: “Manufacturers of xylitol market it as derived from xylan, which is found in the fibers of many plants including berries, oats, beets, sugar cane and birch.” Sounds great, right?

Eh, not so fast. She goes on:

While it is true that xylitol is a naturally occurring substance, manufactured xylitol is another matter entirely. Commercially available xylitol is produced by the industrialized process of sugar hydrogenation. In order to hydrogenate anything, a catalyst is needed, and in the case of xylitol, Raney nickel is used which is a powdered nickel-aluminum alloy.

Mmmmm…heavy metals. Seriously, go read that whole post. It really puts a damper on xylitol as some kind of healthy, natural sugar substitute panacea.

(Another shiver-inducing fact: two pieces of xylitol-sweetened gum kills 100-gram rats in approximately 50 percent of tests. Yes, we’re quite a bit more than 100 grams, but sheesh.)

If you’re sufficiently scared off of sugar alcohols, it’s time to move onto the other category of sugar-free candies.

Artificial Sweeteners

Technically, at least according to the FDA, sugar alcohols are not artificial sweeteners. Never mind the processing! They’re made from GMO corn and other “natural” products!

Anyway, the FDA has approved only six artificial sweeteners. The latest (from that link) is called advantame. The others are neotame, saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose. Of those, sucralose and aspartame seem to be the most common.

(There was plenty of controversy surrounding the FDA’s decision to approve aspartame, despite a Public Board of Inquiry ruling that it was not safe. Newly inaugurated President Ronald Reagan fired the head of the FDA and appointed someone who would push approval of aspartame. If you don’t like messy corporate-political partnerships, don’t read this timeline.)

All of these artificial sweeteners have zero glycemic index. That’s sensible, given that they’re artificial and scientists can therefore manipulate them. Why go through the trouble of creating an artificial sweetener that does spike your blood sugar?

Sucralose has become a fashionable sweetener of late. It is derived from table sugar, but you probably don’t want to know how it’s derived. But we’ll tell you anyway: it’s by chlorinating it. So if the next time you open a packet of Splenda and think about pool water, well, you know who to thank.

The original draw of sucralose was that you could use it in baking. That wasn’t the case with aspartame-based sweeteners such as NutraSweet and Equal, nor with the saccharin-based Sweet’N Low. By this point sucralose has found its way into thousands of products, including soft drinks, sauces, and energy bars. Our Sugar Free Starlight Mints are sweetened with sucralose.

If you consume products containing sucralose, you might not want to read this article from Down to Earth. “The human body is very good at detoxifying itself of certain substances, but this is not the case with organochlorine compounds, which are organic compounds that have been chlorinated.” So we’re already starting off on shaky ground. And then there’s this:

“The FDA claims that sucralose is 98 percent pure, but what about the other 2 percent? It contains heavy metals like lead, arsenic, triphenilphosphine oxide, methanol, chlorinated disaccharides, and other potentially dangerous substances.”

What’s worse: despite a glycemic index of zero, sucralose might cause an insulin response. So while you get no calories, you can still realize negative side effects. This is particularly troublesome for diabetics, who need to manage their blood sugar levels.

For diabetics, sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners can be the only way they can enjoy facsimiles of their favorite candies. We are happy to offer a selection of sugar-free candies that anyone can enjoy.

Yet the downsides of artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols should give us pause. Are we really doing our bodies any favors by ingesting them? Given everything we’ve laid out in this post, it sure seems that enjoying the normal, sugared versions of our favorite candies is the best course of action.

In moderation, of course.

If you have diabetes you may feel like sugar is your enemy. But when you have a hankering for something sweet, is sugar-free candy a healthy option?

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In this Q and A, registered dietitian Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDE,answers our questions and discusses what you need to know about sugary treats and other foods that use sugar substitutes.

Q: Should people with diabetes eat candy with or without sugar?

A: About 90 percent of your diet should focus on healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, poultry and fish. There is wiggle room in a healthful diet for treats like sweets whether you have diabetes or not. That is where candy would fit.

You should enjoy your food — and food also has social, emotional and physical health benefits. Built into the recommended dietary guidelines is room for getting up to 10 percent of your calories from sugar every day.

Treats affect your blood sugar. So if you have diabetes, it’s important to focus on portion control and moderation when you select these foods.

In other words, you can eat treats even if you have diabetes. But you need to account for the carbohydrate and calorie content they provide in your diet whether they are sugar-free or not.

Q: How much sugar should you allow in your daily diet?

A: Everyone with diabetes is different, but here’s what the American Heart Association recommends:

  • No more than 25 grams of added sugar (about six teaspoons or 100 calories) daily for women
  • No more than 36 grams (about nine teaspoons or 150 calories) of added sugar per day for men

Q: How does sugar-free candy affect your body?

A: Some sugar substitutes contain carbohydrates, while others do not. All carbohydrates turn into sugar in the body, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. You have to read the nutrition facts label to know whether a product contains carbohydrates.

It’s true that sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, xylitol, and mannitol, don’t affect blood sugars as dramatically as other carbohydrates do. So sugar-free candy with most of the total carbs coming from these alcohols will typically have less impact on your blood sugar.

Many of those who have type 2 diabetes do well with an intake of 30 grams to 45 grams of carbs per meal (for women) and 45 to 60 grams per meal (for men), and snacks with no more than 20 grams of carbs. See a registered dietitian for individualized recommendations.

Q: What are some misunderstandings that surround sugar-free candy?

A: There are several, including:

  • Sugar-free means unlimited. Sugar-free candies and other treats may still contain carbohydrates. In addition, some sugar-free candy contains significant calories and is high in saturated or trans fats. Pay attention to serving sizes, strictly avoid trans fats and limit saturated fat to 6 percent (fewer than 13 grams) of total calories per day. For a 2,000 calorie per day diet, this would be about 13 grams.
  • Sugar-free means healthy. Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are examples of healthy foods. Candy doesn’t count as healthy, even if it is sugar-free. If you eat a lot of candy and aren’t ready to cut back, however, switching to sugar-free candy may help you better control your carbohydrate intake. The long-term goal, though, is to cut down on all candy.
  • It is only for people with diabetes. Those who have diabetes can eat sugar as part of their overall carbohydrate budget. Both kinds of candy can increase blood sugars, especially if portion and carbohydrate content are not considered. In addition, people with or without diabetes may choose sugar-free candy if they are trying to lower calories or decrease sugar intake.

Q: Are there benefits to choosing sugar-free candy?

A: There are several possible benefits, including:

  • When eaten in moderation, sugar alcohols don’t dramatically increase blood sugars.
  • It may contain fewer total carbohydrates than regular candy.
  • It obviously has less added sugar than regular candy.
  • It may have fewer calories than regular candy.

Q: Are there any problems with sugar-free candy?

A: Sugar alcohols can cause adverse gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, abdominal pain, gas and diarrhea. So it’s a good idea to stick to the serving size recommendations.

Some studies suggest that certain zero-calorie sweeteners may also stimulate appetite, which can be counterproductive for someone who is trying to watch their weight.

The bottom line: Most people can enjoy treats — with or without sugar — as part of a healthy diet. If you have questions about sugar or carbohydrate intake, consult your doctor or a dietitian.

Is Sugar Free Candy really BETTER for You?

Written by Kendra Glassman MS RD/LD CNSC

You see them lining the aisles labeled “diet food”. I hear many people in the grocery stores selecting the sugar free candy items over the regular chocolate concoctions. So, is sugar free really better? It must be right, according to the label there is no sugar. Not so fast! Let’s look at two nutrition facts labels: A sugar free candy product and its full sugar counterpart. First thing we must look at is the serving size so that we can make sure our comparisons are equal. While you will save calories on the sugar free product that is all you will be saving. Next, take a look at the total fat. Both products have the same amount of fat for 5 pieces, but the sugar free product contains 0.5 g more of saturated fat.

I also like to point out the total carbohydrates. If you have diabetes, you will definitely need to pay attention to this section. While the sugar free product does not contain any sugar, it still contains CARBOHYDRATES. To top it off, the sugar free product has one more gram of carbohydrate than the regular product! If you are asking yourself how this can be, it is due to the sugar alcohols in the product. While sugar alcohols can help manage blood glucose levels too much in excess can cause adverse side effects to your digestive system. If you can read the bottom line of the nutrition facts panel, it even warns you that “excessive consumption may have a laxative effect”. Bottom Line: If you are craving some sweets go for the real thing, but enjoy it in moderation. The only sugar free products I would opt for are the ones that are naturally fat free i.e. jelly, syrup, and jellos. These will save you on fat and calories! Happy Eating!

Serving Size

5 pieces

Servings per container

Amount Per Serving:


Calories from fat

Total Fat

12 g (18% DV)

Saturated Fat

Trans Fat

4.5 g

0 g




115 mg (5%)

Total Carbohydrate

22 g (7%)

Dietary Fiber

1 g (4%)


19 g


4 g

Sugar Free Item Regular Item

Do Sugar-Free Snacks Really Save Carbs and Calories?

What to Know About Sugar-Free Foods

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When people discover you have diabetes, they may proudly offer you sugar-free versions of favorite treats, such as cocoa and cookies. But sugar-free claims don’t mean these items are carb- or calorie-free. They often contain other ingredients with carbohydrate — such as milk, flour, or fruit — that count toward your carb allowance.

Tip: 12 Healthy Ways to Lower Your Blood Sugar

Sugar-Free vs. No-Sugar-Added
Government labeling rules dictate that sugar-free products must have less than 0.5 gram of sugar in a serving, and no-sugar-added foods can’t contain added sugar. To add sweetness without sugar, some of these products use sweeteners called sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, which contribute to the carb count but not as much as sugar. Many products also contain no-calorie sweeteners, such as sucralose, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium, which don’t provide carbohydrate.

In many cases, sugar-free and no-sugar-added foods offer significant carb and calorie savings, making them smart choices. But sometimes these foods cut your carb intake only slightly and may cost more, too. And if you simply prefer the taste of the regular version of the food, you may find a smaller portion of it is just as satisfying as a full serving of the sugar-free option.

Sugar Alcohol 101
Sugar alcohol sweeteners typically have names that end with “ol,” such as sorbitol and maltitol. Our bodies don’t absorb sugar alcohols very well, so on average they provide half the calories and carbohydrate of sugar and affect your blood glucose less. But eating a lot of these sweeteners may cause digestive side effects (such as diarrhea), so limit your intake.

To count foods with these sweeteners, check the nutrition label for sugar alcohol. If the food has more than 5 grams of sugar alcohol per serving, subtract half of these grams from the total carbohydrate grams to get your carb count.

Sugar alcohol quick math:
Total carb grams – half the sugar alcohol grams = your carb count

Keep reading for our no-sugar-added, sugar-free, and reduced-sugar food comparison guide.

Please note that product information, packaging, and availability may have changed since our story first appeared.

Cool Whip Whipped Topping

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Sugar-Free Version

  • Serving Size: 2 tbsp.
  • Calories: 20
  • Fat: 1 g
  • Carb: 3 g
  • Price: $1.89/8-oz. tub

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 2 tbsp.
  • Calories: 25
  • Fat: 1.5 g
  • Carb: 2 g
  • Price: $1.89/8-oz. tub

How They Compare
Sugar-free product (with aspartame) doesn’t have a carbohydrate advantage, although it has slightly less fat and fewer calories, which could add up with multiple servings.

Dannon Yogurt

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Low-Sugar Version

  • Serving Size: 4 oz.
  • Calories: 45
  • Fat: 1.5 g
  • Carb: 3 g
  • Price: $2.99/4-oz. four-pack (19 cents/oz.)

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 6 oz.
  • Calories: 150
  • Fat: 2.5 g
  • Carb: 25 g
  • Price: 69 cents/6-oz. carton (12 cents/oz.)

How They Compare
A 4-ounce serving of Carb & Sugar Control product saves 22 grams of carbohydrate and 105 calories compared with 6 ounces of sugar-sweetened Dannon All Natural Vanilla.

Del Monte Mandarin Oranges

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No-Sugar-Added Version

  • Serving Size: 4 oz.
  • Calories: 40
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carb: 12 g
  • Price: $2.89/4-oz. four-pack

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 4 oz.
  • Calories: 70
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carb: 17 g
  • Price: $2.89/4-oz. four-pack

How They Compare
No-sugar-added product saves 5 grams of carbohydrate and 30 calories per serving, plus it costs the same as the brand’s regular oranges in light syrup.

Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate Miniatures

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Sugar-Free Version

  • Serving Size: 5 pieces (40 g)
  • Calories: 150
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Carb: 24 g
  • Sugar Alcohol: 17 g
  • Price: $1.99/3-oz. bag (66 cents/oz.)

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 5 pieces (41 g)
  • Calories: 190
  • Fat: 13 g
  • Carb: 24 g
  • Price: $3.09/11-oz. bag (28 cents/oz.)

How They Compare
Sugar-free product saves 8.5 grams of carbohydrate (after subtracting half of the sugar alcohol) and 40 calories per serving but costs more than twice as much as regular bars.

Note: Amount of sugar alcohol is more than 5 grams, so subtract half the amount of sugar alcohol from total carbohydrate to find how many grams of carbohydrate to count per serving.

Jell-O Cook & Serve Chocolate Pudding

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Sugar-Free Version

  • Serving Size: 1/4 package
  • Calories: 30
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carb: 7 g
  • Price: 99 cents/four-serving-size box

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 1/4 package
  • Calories: 90
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carb: 22 g
  • Price: 99 cents/four-serving-size box

How They Compare
Sugar-free pudding mix saves 15 grams of carbohydrate and 60 calories per serving, plus it costs the same as regular pudding (avoid added fat by preparing with fat-free milk).

Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

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Sugar-Free Version

  • Serving Size: 2 cookies (24 g)
  • Calories: 100
  • Fat: 5 g
  • Carb: 16 g
  • Sugar Alcohol: 7 g
  • Price: $3.19/6.75-oz. box (47 cents/oz.)

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 3 cookies (34 g)
  • Calories: 160
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Carb: 25 g
  • Price: $4.19/18-oz. package (23 cents/oz.)

How They Compare
Sugar-free product saves 2 grams of carbohydrate (after subtracting half the sugar alcohol grams) and 3 calories per cookie compared with the regular version but costs more.

Note: Amount of sugar alcohol is more than 5 grams, so subtract half the amount of sugar alcohol from total carbohydrate to find how many grams of carbohydrate to count per serving.

Pillsbury Milk Chocolate Brownie mix

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Reduced-Sugar Version

  • Serving Size: 1/12 package (29 g)
  • Calories: 100
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Carb: 23 g
  • Sugar Alcohol: 6 g
  • Price: $2.59/12.35-oz. box (21 cents/oz.)

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 1/20 package (28 g)
  • Calories: 110
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Carb: 23 g
  • Price: $1.39/19.5-oz. package (7 cents/oz.)

How They Compare
Reduced-sugar product saves 3 grams of carbohydrate (after subtracting half the sugar alcohol) and 10 calories per serving but costs three times more (per ounce).

Note: Amount of sugar alcohol is more than 5 grams, so subtract half the amount of sugar alcohol from total carbohydrate to find how many grams of carbohydrate to count per serving.

Quaker Instant Oatmeal Maple & Brown Sugar

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Lower-Sugar Version

  • Serving Size: 1 packet
  • Calories: 120
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Carb: 24 g
  • Price: $3.79/10-packet box

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 1 packet
  • Calories: 160
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Carb: 33 g
  • Price: $3.79/10-packet box

How They Compare
Lower-sugar product saves 9 grams of carbohydrate and 40 calories per packet, plus it costs the same as the regular version in the same flavor.

Ragu Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce

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No-Sugar-Added Version

  • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 50
  • Fat: 1 g
  • Carb: 9 g
  • Price: $2.32/26-oz. jar

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 60
  • Fat: 1.5 g
  • Carb: 10 g
  • Price: $2.32/26-oz. jar

How They Compare
Carb savings with the light, no-sugar-added version is small because the tomatoes provide most of the carbohydrate. But this no-sugar sauce saves 80 milligrams sodium.

Smucker’s Caramel Sundae Syrup

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Sugar-Free Version

  • Serving Size: 2 tbsp.
  • Calories: 90
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carb: 24 g
  • Sugar Alcohol: 15 g
  • Price: $3/19.25-oz. jar (16 cents/oz.)

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 2 tbsp.
  • Calories: 100
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carb: 25 g
  • Price: $2.69/20-oz. jar (13 cents/oz.)

How They Compare
Sugar-free product saves 8.5 grams of carbohydrate (after subtracting half of the sugar alcohol) per serving and costs only slightly more than regular caramel syrup.

Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix

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No-Sugar-Added Version

  • Serving Size: 1 envelope
  • Calories: 60
  • Fat: 1 g
  • Carb: 10 g
  • Price: $2.79/8-packet box (35 cents/packet)

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 1 envelope
  • Calories: 120
  • Fat: 2 g
  • Carb: 23 g
  • Price: $2.79/10-packet box (28 cents/packet)

How They Compare
No-sugar-added product saves 13 grams of carbohydrate and has just half the calories, but it costs a little more (per packet) than the brand’s regular hot cocoa mix.

Wilderness Cherry Pie Filling

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No-Sugar-Added Version

  • Serving Size: 1/3 cup
  • Calories: 35
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carb: 8 g
  • Price: $2.99/20-oz. can

Regular Version (same brand)

  • Serving Size: 1/3 cup
  • Calories: 90
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Carb: 23 g
  • Price: $2.99/21-oz. can

How They Compare
No-sugar-added product has 60 percent fewer calories and saves 15 grams of carbohydrate per serving versus regular version.

  • Related:
  • Best Foods for Diabetes
  • The Best 7-Day Diabetes Meal Plan

Sugar Free Candy Recipes You Need To Try!

Is sorbitol okay on keto?

Sorbitol is not an ideal sugar alcohol to consume on a keto diet because it can raise blood sugar and insulin.

Is maltitol okay on keto?

Maltitol is not an ideal sugar alcohol to consume on a keto diet because it can raise blood sugar and insulin. Also, when maltitol is consumed in large quantities it can cause gastrointestinal issues like bloating and diarrhea. So be aware when consuming sugar free candies containing maltitol.

Can sugar free candy raise your blood sugar?

Yes! Sugar free can that contains sugar alchocols especially maltitol and sorbitol can raise your blood sugar. For more information on which sweeteners are best for a keto diet, check out this post I wrote about keto sweeteners.

Can diabetics eat sugar free candy?

Yes, diabetics can eat sugar free candy. Looks for sugar free candies that do not contain maltitol, xylitol or sorbitol.

What sugar alcohols can I have on keto?

I wrote an entire post about which sugar alcohols and non-caloric sweeteners you can have on a keto diet. Check out the post I wrote about keto sweeteners here.

Do you count sugar alcohols as carbs?

Some people who follow a keto diet count total carbs, these people would count sugar alcohols as carbs. Also, others who follow a keto diet that count net carbs will subtract fiber, but will bot subtract sugar alcohols. In this case, sugar alcohols will count as carbs.

Do sugar alcohols raise blood sugar?

Yes! Well, some do at least. Maltitol and Sorbitol are two sugar alcohols that will raise blood sugar and elicit an insulin response.

Can sugar alcohol give you diarrhea?

Totally! This is something that individuals find out the hard way! This mostly happens when someone is new to keto and they go out shopping and find some sugar free candy at the grocery store. They then decide to eat half or the entire entire bag of sugar free candy and then spend the next few hours running back and forth to the bathroom.

If you have friends following a keto diet, I bet this has happened to at least one of them.

Is splenda a sugar alcohol?

No, Splenda is an artificial sweetener made from sucralose which does not contain any carbohydrates. Sugar alcohols contain carbohydrates. In it’s powdered form, Splenda is normally bound to dextrose or maltodextrin which contain carbohydrates and will cause a glucose response.

Do sugar alcohols cause bloating?

Depending on the type of sugar alcohol consumed, and individual sensitivity, sugar alcohol can cause bloating along with other gastrointestinal symptoms.

Will sugar free candy kick you out of ketosis?

It depends on which sugar free candy you eat. Sugar free candy made with maltitol, xylitol, or sorbitol will most likely kick you out of ketosis and therefor should be avoided.

Sugar Free Candy Recipes You Need to Try

Low Carb Chocolate Covered Vanilla Buttercream Truffle Candy – The Keto Queens

Almond Joy Keto Candy Bars – Healthy Sweet Eats

Keto Orange Creamsicle Gummies – Resolution Eats

Keto Muddy Buddies – Texas Granola Girl

Keto Bourbon Balls – This Mom’s Menu

Sugar Free Gummies – Low Carb Yum

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