BEWARE: Sugar Free Treats


With Halloween coming up and Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, the temptations of sweets and treats are everywhere. So, I thought it would be a good time to share my experience, or rather inexperience, with sugar alcohol.

It was my first Christmas since being diagnosed with diabetes, and unfortunately, I do have a bit of a sweet tooth. My strong will was diminishing quickly as the smell of fresh baked pies wafted through the office, commercials of hot cocoa shown on the screen, and sweet candies were given to me as Christmas treats. Everywhere I looked, sugary treats were there.

To crave my sweet tooth I decided to find a sugar free treat. “This is perfect,” I thought. I could have a little treat without having my blood sugar sky rocket. I also remember my nutritionist saying something about being able to subtract the sugar alcohols from my carb count for my insulin.

For example, if I wanted a sugar free candy, and the carbs for one treat were 15 grams, but the sugar alcohol count was 12 grams, I would just subtract the two and have a carb count of only 3 grams.

I was on cloud nine. I thought I had beaten the system. I could truly have my cake and eat it too.

However, something peculiar started to happen after my evening treat before bed. My blood sugar kept getting increasingly higher at night. I couldn’t explain this phenomenon. Why was it so high? I was inserting the carbs correctly on my sweet treats wasn’t I?

I quickly grew suspicious of my little candies and decided to do some much needed research. I unfortunately discovered I was a little mistaken when it came to sugar free treats and sugar alcohol.

Sugar alcohols can be subtracted from the total carbohydrate amount, but there are provisions.

When counting carbohydrates for products made with sugar alcohols, subtract HALF of the grams of sugar alcohol listed on the food label from the total grams of carbohydrates. This is because sugar alcohol is incompletely absorbed. So, we must estimate that only half of the sugar in sugar alcohol will be absorbed and impact your blood sugar.

So, instead of only calculating 3 grams of carbohydrates for my sugary treat, I needed to calculate 9 grams.

12 g of Sugar Alcohol ÷ 2 = 6 g (New Sugar Alcohol Amount)

15 g of Carbohydrates – 6 g of Sugar Alcohol = 9 TOTAL CARBOHYDRATES

Through this experience, I have realized the importance of carb counting (correctly) and staying educated on diabetes management. There are always things to learn and new things to discover when it comes to your health and peace of mind.


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