For many years, people with diabetes have had to follow meal plans that limit their consumption of sweet treats, making them feel like outlaws for enjoying a piece of pie or candy.
Today, however, virtually anything sweet can be found in a sugar-free form. Widely available today are many previously forbidden items of all kinds, ranging from cocktail mixes to marinades, from peanut brittle to marmalade.
You Name It, It’s Out There
Today’s sugar-free choices are limited only by your imagination and the size of your grocer’s shelves.
Sugar-free gum, candies and soft drinks have been around for years, but new products arrive daily. Some are so common that nearly every grocery or drugstore carries them.
Most groceries also carry sugar-free jellies, jams, dressings and spreads.
What about sugar-free Animal Crackers? Those are available, as well as gelatins, mousses, puddings, cheesecake mixes, pancake syrups, specialty sauces and much more.
You can also find barbecue sauces, salad dressings and even over the counter medicines made without any sugar.
Breakfast bars by SlimFast and others are available, along with the very popular sugar-free cereals. You might have to look around a bit for these items. Some may be shelved in special sugar-free or “diet” sections, while others may be found among their made-with-sugar counterparts. And many more sugar-free products are available only in larger stores, specialty shops and online.
Going Beyond the Grocery Aisles
Although local markets with extensive low-carb, diet or natural foods sections offer variety, a more complete selection is available online.
Aside from the many sugar-free, low-carb and diabetes cookbooks and Web sites, recipes for low-carb tortes and other desserts can be found at www.atkins.com.
Equal (at www.equal.com) also offers recipes for breakfast treats like banana bread, desserts and more.
What’s in a Name?
A few words of caution: Just because a label says that a product is sugar-free does not mean it is carbohydrate-free or calorie-free. Or fat-free. Or sodium-free.
In fact, many products have countable carbohydrates no matter what the label advertises.
Make sure to find out what sweetener is in a particular sugar-free product. The term “sugar-free” may simply mean there is no table sugar in the product, but it could contain replacement sweeteners and other substitute sugars like fructose and sugar alcohols that have countable carbs.
Also, if you should experience any stomach distress after eating, sugar-free products made with sugar alcohols may be the cause.
You should be aware that all of the sugar substitutes mentioned above can affect blood glucose. And if you have concerns about your weight, calories do count. Some sugar-free products have more calories than their sugar-sweetened counterparts.
Food editor’s note: In addition, some product labels claiming to be low in carbs are misleading because the original food is already a low-carb product.