Sugar-free food or candy or not? I hear this so much, I just thought I must post on it! It happens with my children at school, where my daughter, when she was younger, was given sugar-free candy rather than regular by the teachers as a reward. I frequently hear it from patients, saying “I snack on sugar-free candy” and they wonder why their blood sugars are high, and I see it widely in the community just hearing people talk about how people with diabetes need the sugar-free products. But do they really???
Sugar-free products are made with sugar alcohols, which have about half the calories of sugar because they are not completely digested. (Thus, be forewarned, they cause gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea!) This can cause a lower rise in blood sugar. But, the calories and grams of carbohydrates are only minimally reduced. Often, the total carbohydrate is the same, and it is the total carbohydrates which cause the rise in blood sugar.
So how do you work sugar-free products into your diabetes meal plan? Look at the label. If the sugar alcohols are greater than 10 gms, you can subtract out half the sugar alcohols from the total carbohydrates.
But, many products have less than the 10 gm of sugar alcohols. And the total carbohydrates is frequently the same as the regular products. So, my recommendations to my clients is usually, “Eat the real stuff, enjoy the better taste and save your money, just enjoy it in moderation, and work the total carbohydrates into your meal plan or cover the carbs with insulin. So, my bottom line is, in general, skip the sugar-free products!