Sugar-free candy has some pros and cons when it comes to your health. The truth is that candy, whether sugar-free or regular, is still candy.
If you're trying to lose weight, you can eat sugar-free candy on a diet, but overindulging may sabotage your efforts.
For people with , the carbohydrate impact of many sugar-free candies may come as a surprise. And some sugar substitutes can have unpleasant effects, as well.
Sugar-free candies use artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes to create a sweet taste while foregoing real sugar. Most of these sweeteners have fewer calories and carbohydrates than sugar, but not all of them are calorie-free or carb-free.
Some sugar substitutes you'll see on labels are:
is a non-alcohol, non-artificial sugar substitute made from the leaf of a sweet plant.
Saccharin, aspartame, stevia, and sucralose are calorie-free and carb-free.
Sugar alcohols contain some . You're especially likely to encounter sugar alcohols in sugar-free candies, so be sure to check labels.
Also keep in mind that other ingredients in candy may be unhealthy, as well. You need to consider the entire product, not just how it's sweetened.
Sugar-free candies have some advantages over candies sweetened with sugar—but there are limits to the advantages.
Sugar-free candies do have their drawbacks. It pays to keep these things in mind when deciding how to satisfy your sweet cravings:
In the ice cream aisle, you may come across packaging that says "no sugar added." What that means is that the manufacturer didn't add sugar to the ice cream itself. But other ingredients (such as chocolate chunks) may in fact contain sugar.
Be sure to look specifically at the calorie and carb counts on the label to see just how much sugar is really in there.
Which types of sugar-free candies are best? That depends on your personal taste and what you're going for.
If healthiness is your ultimate goal, you're better off skipping the candy and choosing a snack that blends something sweet with other healthy ingredients, such as fiber or protein. For example, pair strawberries with a piece of dark chocolate or dip apple slices in peanut butter.
You can also find sugar-free recipes online to make your own sweet treats at home. Look for those that include whole grains, nuts, or dried fruit (or add them to the recipe) to help keep your blood sugar steady and increase the beneficial nutrients you're getting along with the carbs, calories, and fat.
As with any less-than-healthy food options, your best bet with sugar-free candies is to enjoy them sparingly and to avoid thinking of them as "safe" foods that you can eat in large quantities.
Know what you're putting into your body and how it might impact your health and your goals, and make healthier choices most of the time.