Consider sugar substitutes

Sugar substitutes can provide the sweetness of sugar without the unwanted calories. Using them in place of sugar can help you cut calories and stick to a healthy meal plan.

Artificial sweeteners

Examples of artificial sweeteners include:

  1. Acesulfame potassium (Sunett, Sweet One)
  2. Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
  3. Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low)
  4. Sucralose (Splenda)

Be aware, however, that you need to consider the calories and carbohydrates, which can affect your blood-sugar level, in baked goods and other products made with artificial sweeteners.

Sugar alcohols

Another type of reduced-calorie sweetener is sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols are often used in sugar-free candies, chewing gum and desserts. Check product labels for words such as "isomalt," "maltitol," "mannitol," "sorbitol" and "xylitol."

Foods with sugar alcohols have no or fewer calories and have less of an effect on blood sugar than other carbohydrates do. However, foods with sugar alcohols, like foods with other artificial sweeteners, can contain large amounts of calories, carbohydrates and fats, so read labels carefully. Also, sugar alcohols can cause diarrhea in some people.

Naturally derived sweeteners

Naturally derived sweeteners, stevia (Truvia, PureVia) and agave nectar, offer other sweetening options. Keep in mind that the sugar-to-sweetener ratio is different for each product, so you might need to experiment until you find the taste you like.

Also, agave nectar contains calories and carbohydrates, so don't use it to help you lose weight. But because it has a lower glycemic index than sugar, it won't affect your glucose level as much as sugar does.

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 in your meal plan. A dietitian can also help you reduce the amount of sugar and fat in your favorite recipes. Moderation is key.

Don't be surprised if your tastes change as you adopt healthier eating habits. Food that you once loved might seem too sweet — and healthy substitutes, such as baked apples and grilled pineapple, might become your new favorites.

Oct. 14, 2016