Monday, July 31, 2006

Does Sugar-Free = Low-Carb? Not Always!

When people start livin' la vida low-carb for the very first time, many of them can make certain assumptions about low-carb living that could prove devastating to their hopes and desires to lose weight on this incredible way of eating. One of the most common ones has got to be what one of my readers recently e-mailed me about.

Here's what she wrote:

"I am just starting on a low-carb eating plan and am confused as to whether sugar-free equals low-carb."

What a great question! The answer? Well, not always.

As a general rule it is safe to say that anything that is sugar-free is a lot better for you to consume that anything that still has sugar in it. Although I would advise that you might want to pay very close attention to the sugar alternative that is used in that sugar-free product to make sure it doesn't contain high amounts of the sugar alcohol maltitol in it unless you enjoy the sensation of tooting out of your backside or having to run to the bathroom with diarreah at a moment's notice! :O

But even when the sugar-free product has the right kinds of sweeteners, such as Splenda, ACE-K, or neotame, that doesn't mean it's automatically going to be low-carb. While many sugar-free products are great for people on low-carb as well, you have to watch out for the white flour carbohydrates that can creep into that product you are about to buy for your low-carb lifestyle.

Take, for example the new product line called Tastykake Sensables:

They look innocent enough with the words "sugar-free" and "net carbs" prominently featured on the front of the packaging. But just one look at the nutritional and ingredients information should make you shudder: bleached enriched flour is the #1 ingredient, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (aka TRANS-FATS!) is the #2 ingredient, and that lovely sugar alcohol malitol is also found near the top of the ingredients list. Sigh.

Additionally, this product has 19g total carbohydrates, which includes 3g dietary fiber and 9g maltitol per one-bar serving. That's still a WHOPPING 7g net carbs which is way too many for anyone who is in the weight loss phase of livin' la vida low-carb. But the flour and trans-fats would have me running into the next area code to avoid this product at all costs despite the fact that it is "sugar-free."

Don't miss this lesson: Sugar-free does NOT necessarily mean it is healthy.

Something else to look out for is the deceptive "no sugar added" phrase that shows up on the packaging and in the marketing of so-called "healthy" products. To the unsuspecting new low-carber like my reader, they may think this means the product doesn't have any sugar in it. Not so. What is DOES mean is that there are no additional sugars added than the ones that are already present in the product. As I always say, READ YOUR LABELS!

Before I started livin' la vida low-carb, one of my absolute favorite candies in the whole world had to be Twizzlers. I think I started eating these fruit-flavored licorice sticks whenever I started going to the movies as a kid. It wasn't all that uncommon for me to eat the entire package of Twizzlers in just one sitting. Plus, I ate my fair share of Twizzlers when I was on my low-fat diet in 1999 because they are a "low-fat food." What a dope I was for putting all that sugar in my mouth!

Anywho, when I heard that Hershey's made a sugar-free version of their Twizzlers product, I was excited beyond belief. FINALLY, I would get to enjoy this candy from my childhood as part of my low-carb lifestyle, right?

Well, not exactly. You see, although the sugar has been taken out of the Twizzlers, a 6-piece serving size STILL has an unbelievably high 33g carbs! That's over 5g carbs for every Sugar-Free Twizzlers piece. Yikes!

Why? Besides the fact that maltitol is the #1 ingredient (EEEK!), it also contains flour, cornstarch, and even some corn syrup (that would be sugar for those of you playing along at home!). Oh well, I knew it was too good to be true. :(

The lesson in all of this is you can't just assume sugar-free equals low-carb because it's not always the case. With the low-carb chocolates and hard candies, you can almost always count on them to fit into your low-carb plan if you need something sweet to eat. But the cakes, cookies and other candies that market themselves as "sugar-free" may not work if you are livin' la vida low-carb.

Don't just assume sugar-free foods will be okay when you are livin' la vida low-carb because that might just come back to sabotage your weight loss efforts. And that wouldn't be a good thing now would it? AAAAAAACK!


Blogger April said...

another wonderfully informative post!!!

Acme supermarkets has a line of sodas called Waist Watchers sweetened with splenda. We tried the Black Cherry and it is awesome!
I recommend.


7/31/2006 8:41 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Hey April,

I've actually tried the Waist Watchers flavored soft drink line and LOVE them! The only problem is they are so very hard to find. But you can't beat their Splenda/ACE-K sweetener blend and the fact that they are caffeine-free. That's why I settle for Diet Rite and Cheerwine since those are the ones available in my area. :(

THANKS for writing!

7/31/2006 8:48 PM  
Blogger Newbirth said...

There is low-carb, low-calorie, Sugar Free Hershey's syrup! :) I saw it at the store today and bought it. It has Ethritol, Ace-K, and Splenda.

8/03/2006 11:10 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

Oh, but Newbirth, that Hershey's sugar-free chocolate syrup is watery and has a funky taste to it. EWWW! I bought it, used it once and then threw the overpriced bottle in the trash can. It had great ingredients, but the execution of the formula is nowhere near the original.


8/04/2006 8:17 AM  

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