Why to be Wary of Sugar-Free Foods

Sugar-free often doesn’t mean low-carb. A diabetes coach provides tips for reducing sugar intake without resorting to sugar-free foods.



For years, food manufacturers have been touting the sugar-free dessert as a healthy choice for people with diabetes. While some varieties of sugar-free ice cream, frozen yogurt, and baked goods might indeed be healthier than their sugar-filled counterparts, it’s important to realize that eliminating the sugar does not mean you’ve eliminated the carbs.

When sugar is replaced by artificial sweeteners, the carbohydrates from flour and milk still exist. Also, many sugar-free products also have starch fillers to offset the sugar, and that adds carbs, as well. For example, a two-ounce slice of angel food cake made without sugar can contain 30 grams of carbohydrates, while the same cake slice made with sugar may contain 36 grams of carbs, a difference that is not significant.

When considering which carbs to eat, it’s best to look at the bigger picture. Make a choice based on the overall carb count on the label, rather than assuming the food is a safe choice because the label reads “sugar-free.” You don’t have to cut out all sugar – if making a conscious choice to have a food that has a lot of sugar, plan your carbohydrates for the day, adjust your insulin if you take it, and monitor your blood sugar levels.

If you want to cut down on your overall sugar intake, examine the foods you’re already eating to see if they are lined with added sugar. Peanut butter, crackers, tomato sauce, and soup are all products that often contain added sugar, but can taste good without it. Next time you’re at the food store, try other brands that don’t contain added sugar. While the healthier food may taste blander at first, sweetness is a taste preference that can be changed over time. By regularly eating foods with no added sugar, you might eventually find that foods with added sugar will taste too sweet to you.

The important thing to realize is that you are in control of your sugar intake and carb count, not the food manufacturers.

Fit4D is a patient-coaching program helping people with diabetes overcome complex barriers to diabetes medication adherence, leading them to a more enriching life. It offers a technology platform with intelligent scripting algorithms that enables expert diabetes educators to increase their capacity to deliver personalized care. You can learn more at fit4d.com.

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Erin Spitzberg, MS, RDN, CDE, is a diabetes coach for Fit4D and author and speaker for Living It! Nutrition. Based on her own life experiences, Erin published the Amazon Bestseller Eat Like a Normal Person: Your Guide to Real World Solutions for Healthy Living. Erin holds an MS in Nutrition and Food Studies from New York University.