Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 9 meant I attended a lot of class holiday parties with a bag of strange-tasting sugar-free chocolates while watching my classmates indulge in the real thing. Fortunately for people with diabetes, the confectionery industry has made some pretty delicious strides in candies and chocolates that are sugar-free, but don’t necessarily taste like it.
However, even with better-tasting options available, you should still take into account a few things when picking up some Valentine’s Day goodies for your diabetic loved one.
Viola Holmes, the associate director of nutrition science and health care for the American Diabetes Association, said there is a distinction between no-sugar and no-carbohydrates sweets, both of which can impact glucose level, however, no-sugar treats will very often be low-carbohydrate.
“Both types of sweets use sugar alcohols to provide sweetness or a combination of sugar alcohol and non-nutritive sweetener (like sucralose or stevia). Only a small amount of sugar alcohol converts into carbohydrates. Therefore, sugar-free and low-carb sweets have little impact on blood glucose [or sugar levels],” Holmes said.
Even with this reduced impact on blood sugar, Holmes said that you should still practice some form of portion control because some sugar alcohols, like sorbitol, for instance, can cause abdominal discomfort.
When looking for sweet-tasting goodies for that person in your life with diabetes, Jannin Macias, a registered dietitian at Covenant Health, suggested relying on the nutrition labels to read carbohydrate and sugar contents rather than looking to the popular claims of “Keto Friendly”and “Zero net carbs.” Macias said that according to the American Heart Association, all individuals, including those with diabetes, should limit added sugar intake to “about 36- grams per day for men and about 24-grams per day for women,” while the CDC advises a limit of 200-225 grams of carbs per day.)
To round up the following list of low-sugar and low-carb sweets, we asked people with diabetes on the Life As A Diabetic and Type 1 Diabetic Meals and Snacks Facebook groups which chocolates and candies can satisfy that sweet tooth without raising blood sugar.
The most chosen chocolate brand, according to diabetics
Recommend by nine different members from the Type 1 Diabetic Meals and Snacks Facebook group
, Lily's rich-tasting low-carb chocolates are naturally sweetened with stevia, a zero-calorie botanical sweetener, and are made with fair-trade cocoa. Try flavors like blood orange extra dark chocolate, coconut and dark chocolate as well as salted almond. You can also get creamy milk
or white chocolate
variations in flavors like birthday cake and cookies and creme.
A low-carb and low-sugar treat that one person said tastes exactly like Snickers
Member Francisco Melgoza said on the Life As A Diabetic Facebook group
that the Atkins Endulge snacks are his "absolute favorite!" Menlgoza said he likes this peanut, caramel and nougat bar slathered in chocolate because he can "enjoy them and my levels are perfect and they taste amazing! These taste just like Snickers."
Fan-favorite sugar free gummy bears that come in 12 different flavors
These soft-chew fruity gummy bears come in 12 different flavors like mango, cherry and pink grapefruit and came as another recommendation from Christine Isaac of the Type 1 Diabetic Meals and Snacks
group. Made without the use of any artificial sweeteners, these squishy bears pack a punch of flavor without any weird aftertaste.
A sugar-free classic for people who are fans of turtles
These chocolate-covered pecan and caramel clusters were chosen by several diabetics from our polls, including Amber Brinkley Smith and Jessica Cole from the Life As A Diabetic Facebook group
. Touted for their full sugar taste, Russell Stover's Pecan Delights are individually wrapped and made in small batches for a rich and creamy taste.
The sugar-free offerings of See’s Candies, like peanut brittle and butterscotch lollipops
Jessica Cole from the Life As A Diabetic Facebook group
enjoys the sugar-free selection from See's Candies, a quality chocolatier that's gotten a reputation for its iconic butterscotch lollipops, flavored truffles and other sweet confections. Although you might not be able to find everything See's offers in sugar-free versions, you can enjoy nut clusters covered in chocolate, milk chocolate bars and buttery-tasting peanut brittle.
Sugar-free Jolly Ranchers that actually taste like the original
Christine Isaac and Jen Mosimann from the Type 1 Diabetic Meals and Snacks Facebook
page were both surprised at how good the sugar-free version of Jolly Rancher candies are and how closely they taste like the original. These mouthwatering hard candies come in watermelon, grape, apple and blue raspberry flavors and are also made free from aspartame.
A vegan dark chocolate with a variety of flavors and plant-based protein
Colleen Robinson of Type 1 Diabetic Meals and Snacks Facebook
group said she recently discovered the protein-rich sweet treat Jojo's Chocolates, which are vegan, keto and paleo friendly. At only two grams of carbs and two grams of sugar per bite, diabetics can enjoy flavors like almond raspberry and coconut with macadamia nut, without those pesky blood sugar spikes. It is worth noting that the original and peanut butter delight flavors do have more grams of sugar than is suggested for low sugar foods.
Zero-sugar Reese’s peanut butter cups that had diabetics surprised at how tasty they were
Reese's miniature peanut butter cups with zero sugar were another pleasant surprise, according to several people in the Type 1 Diabetic Meals and Snack
group. This sugar-free version of the timeless peanut butter candy is made without aspartame and still has that salty-sweet center and creamy milk chocolate coating that we all know and love.
A low-carb and zero-sugar option for fans of chocolate
Adan Hernandez from the Life As A Diabetic Facebook group
called this keto-friendly chocolate bar his go-to because it has zero grams of sugar and only one carb per serving. Enjoy flavors like toasted hazelnuts and dark chocolate and pumpkin seeds in a dark salted chocolate, each one naturally sweetened with stevia.
A favorite replacement for lollipops that can also be better for your teeth
"Zollipops are a favorite for everyone in my family. My niece, nephews and neighbor kids always ask for them," said Lynn Montague on the Type 1 Diabetic Meals and Snacks Facebook
group. Made from xylitol and stevia, these fruity lollipops come in flavors like strawberry, grape, pineapple and cherry and also help to neutralize the acidity and raise the pH levels in the mouth, which may be able to reduce the risk of tooth decay.
A Sour Patch Kids alternative for lovers of sour candy
Cathy Sackett of the Type 1 Diabetic Meals and Snacks
group said her diabetic son really likes the entire line from Smart Sweets because they leave no lingering fake sugar tastes and don't cause blood sugar spikes after consuming. These Sour Blast Buddies have that same mouth-puckering flavor as other full-sugar sour candies and come in sour peach rings
, watermelon slices
and gummy worms