This Week’s Bag: Sugar-Free Chocolate vs. Regular

April 16, 2012By 1 Comment

I love my family dearly, and they have been with me and my diabetes since day one.  My parents and my sisters were the first ones who had to make all the sacrifices on my behalf during meal and snack times.  I remember the many Halloween’s and Valentine’s days where my mother would serve me a platter of sugar-free confections and give my sisters just a few sweet treats.  While at other times I would find bags of Chips Ahoy hidden in my mother’s underwear drawer and the gig was up.  They all had to tip toe around my eating restrictions and enjoy their Captain Crunch or brownies in the dark of night while I was asleep.  What kind of life was this for them?  Thanks to the Pump God’s as well as rapid acting insulin, there are no more restrictions for people with diabetes (there is eating in moderation though).  However, there still lingers that misunderstanding and that look of disappointment from those close to me as if to say “Regina, should you really be eating that?”  I feel guilty enough sometimes when I want to treat myself, I don’t need everyone pointing that out to me.  When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, I have it down to a science, most long-time diabetics do.   I don’t think most people without diabetes would like it if you shook your head and pierced your lips together every time they picked up a salt shaker.

No, I shouldn’t be eating 2 cookies, or a chocolate bar, or a cupcake… and neither should you, they’re full of fat and empty calories.  However, if I want to eat them, I sure can, I just have to do some math before I treat myself.  Ever since I became an adult and took my diabetes control right out from under my mother’s nose, I have been choosing when and how to eat the things that I love, in moderation of course.  Over time, my mother obviously hasn’t had the need to keep up to par with the ever-changing advancements in diabetes technology and tricks of the trade.  So, when she goes out of her way to search high and low for the tastiest looking sugar-free chocolate bar, I can’t help but feel so guilty that I end up eating it and dealing with the digestive consequences later (i.e. gas… that’s right, I said it, it’s the lovely side effect of eating a boat load of sugar-alcohols all at once).

I thought that this week I would share with everyone why a sugar-free candy bar is NOT at all necessarily any better than its counterpart, a regular milk-chocolate bar.

Here is a comparison, with my explanation following…

Nutrition Facts

Sugar-Free Chocolate Bar

Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar

Calories 210 210
Fat 16g 13g
Sat. Fat 10g 8g
Carbs

-sugar alcohols

-sugars

34g

26g

0g

26g

0g

24g

The calories are exactly equal in this example.  The fat, in general, is awful in both.  Anytime saturated fat is more than 50% of the total grams of fat, it’s just bad for you, period.  Fat, no matter what the food source, is going to make the sugar and total carbohydrates slow and lazy as they bully your blood sugar up to soaring heights.  Many sugar-free products add extra fat to heighten the flavor profile, since they’ve taken the sweet stuff out.  Total carbohydrates are always the number I focus on, not necessarily the sugars.  It’s the total carbs that are going to affect the blood sugar the most, and that’s how most diabetics calculate their insulin needs.  The sugar-free bar does have much of its carbs from sugar alcohols, which burn off in the digestive tract and are supposed to have no effect on blood sugar levels.  However, I personally have found that I still need to take at least a portion of my normal bolus dose even when eating a sugar-free product, but that’s just me.  While the regular chocolate bar may have more actual sugar, they both still have carbohydrates and those are the little buggers that we diabetics have a constant love-hate relationship with.

Moral of this story, a sugar-free bar still requires some insulin, whether you are on injections or on a pump.  So if I still need to take insulin, and I’ve made peace with the calories and the fat, then I want the rush of real milk chocolate on the roof of my mouth!  I’m not saying you should always go with the regular option, especially when it comes to extremely sweetened products like breakfast syrups, ice cream syrups or jams, as those items which have a lower fat to sugar ratio, are often better for the blood sugars if they are in fact sugar-free.  Do what works for you.  I just wanted to save my poor mom the wild goose chase of getting me sugar-free candy.  I appreciate the effort mom, but so much has changed in 22 years and my husband doesn’t appreciate the side effects 🙂

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  1. Beth says:

    Never would have guessed a sugar free bar and the “real deal” we’re so close in nutritional value/stats. Definitely won’t be going on a goose chase for those for Auntie Regina! And I agree, I’d rather a small amount of the real thing, too! 😉

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