Pros and Cons of Sugar Free Candy

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Many people choose to purchase sugar-free candies as opposed to regularly sweetened candies with the impression that they are healthier than the original version. The truth is that candy, whether it be sugar-free or regular, is still candy and most candies are high in calories, fat, and carbohydrate. Sometimes though, cravings hit and you just need a small treat to satisfy your sweet tooth. If you're wondering whether sugar-free candy is an option for you, here are a few points to ponder:

  • Sugar-free candy typically will provide fewer carbs and calories than regular candy, although sometimes just slightly fewer. The key here is that sugar free does not mean carbohydrate free, so if you're watching carbs or calories, you still need to be mindful not to overdo it. Read the nutrition label in order to keep track of how many total carbs and calories you take in.
  • Sugar alcohols (like maltitol, erythritol, lactitol, mannitol, sorbitol, etc.) are often used in sugar-free candy and sweets. Sugar alcohols typically have less effect on blood sugar then regular sugar. They are also great for lowering the carbohydrates and calories in a food, containing one-to-four times fewer calories than sugar. But, they have some possible negatives too. The most common negative side effects is bloating, gas, and diarrhea. The American Diabetes Association claims that sugar alcohols are acceptable in a moderate amount, but should not be eaten in excess. So, it really depends on how well you tolerate them as to whether or not you can eat them.
  • Sugar-free doesn't mean fat-free either. Sugar-free chocolate candies, in particular, may be high in saturated fat, which is found in cocoa butter. In addition, many baked good that use sugar alcohols as sweetener have more saturated or trans fat than regular versions. Therefore, it's important to be mindful when eating sugar-free chocolates especially if you have heart disease, are overweight, have diabetes, or have any other reason to be careful about your fat intake.
  • Control your portion. If you have the mindset that because something is sugar-free that means you can eat more than you normally would, then perhaps sugar-free isn't the right option for you. Sugar-free treats are not free foods, because they still contain calories, fat, and carbohydrate. Sometimes these types of treats are not as satisfying as the real thing. Therefore, it may make more sense to simply have a small serving of a sweet treat. For example, 1 oz of dark chocolate or 1/2 cup of real ice cream. 
  • What about the taste? When considering taste, you might find that sugar-free chocolates or baked goods are hit-or-miss. If you don't like the taste, skip it. It doesn't make sense to eat it just because it's sugar-free. Instead, it might be best to have a small amount of the real thing. Better yet, skip the candy and choose a snack that blends something sweet with some other healthy ingredients like fiber and protein. For example, pair some strawberries with a piece of dark chocolate or dip apple slices in peanut butter. You can find snacks that are satisfying and healthy: 20 Diabetes Friendly Snacks for 200 Calories or Less. 

Sources:

American Diabetes Association. Sugar Alcohols. 

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