Consider sugar substitutes

As part of diabetes nutrition, artificial sweeteners can offer the sweetness of sugar without the calories. Artificial sweeteners may help you reduce calories and stick to a healthy meal plan — especially when used instead of sugar in coffee and tea, on cereal, or in baked goods. In fact, artificial sweeteners are considered free foods because they contain very few calories and don't count as a carbohydrate, a fat or any other food in your meal plan.

Examples of artificial sweeteners include:

  • Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
  • Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
  • Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low)
  • Sucralose (Splenda)

Artificial sweeteners don't necessarily offer a free pass for sweets.

  • Keep an eye out for calories and carbs. Many products made with artificial sweeteners, such as baked goods and artificially sweetened yogurt or pudding, still contain calories and carbohydrates that can affect your blood sugar level.
  • Sugar alcohols are not calorie-free. Sugar alcohols, another type of reduced-calorie sweetener, are often used in sugar-free candies, chewing gum and desserts. Check product labels for words such as "isomalt," "maltitol," "mannitol," "sorbitol" and "xylitol." Sugar-free foods containing sugar alcohols still have calories. And in some people, sugar alcohols can cause diarrhea.

Two naturally derived sweeteners, stevia (Truvia, Pure Via) and agave nectar, offer another option when it comes to sweetening your food. Keep in mind that the sugar-to-sweetener ratio is different for each product, so you may need to experiment until you find the taste you like. Also, agave nectar isn't calorie- or carbohydrate-free, so it shouldn't be considered for weight loss; but it has a lower glycemic index than does sugar, so it won't affect your glucose level as much.

Reconsider your definition of sweet

Diabetes nutrition doesn't have to mean no sweets. If you're craving them, ask a registered dietitian to help you include your favorite treats into your meal plan. A dietitian can also help you reduce the amount of sugar and fat in your favorite recipes. And don't be surprised if your tastes change as you adopt healthier eating habits. Food that you once loved may seem too sweet — and healthy substitutes may become your new idea of delicious.

Jul. 10, 2013 See more In-depth