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Best Healthy Sugar Substitutes

By Jenny Craig

When one is striving for weight loss, one's meal pattern may be focusing on eating more lean proteins, vegetables and fruits. However, there's the lingering question of how to manage low calorie or diet items, like stevia-sweetened cookies or sugar-free candies made with sugar alternatives (loosely, any substitute for sugar is any sweetener that can replace sugar aka sucrose).

There are two major categories, nutritive/non-nutritive, plus subcategories beneath.


  • Nutritive sweeteners


Nutritive sweeteners, also called caloric sweeteners can be found naturally in foods or can be added in food processing. Sugars that are naturally occurring appear in foods like fresh fruits, dairy or honey. In contrast, added sugars are in many of the foods we consume and contain sugars that are added to food during the preparation or processing. Many manufacturers use these sugars to increase the shelf life and enhance the flavor of the food.1


Some examples of nutritive sweeteners include:


  • Honey, agave nectar, agave syrup, pure maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, coconut sugar etc. which contain fructose. These contain the same 4 calories per gram carbohydrate.
  • Sugar alcohols: sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol, lactilol or isomalt (2-3 calories per gram)



  • Non-nutritive sweeteners


Nonnutritive sweeteners are low to zero calorie sugar substitutes. Usually added to a beverage or used for baking, these sweeteners tastes sweeter than traditional sugar. Because non-nutritive sweeteners are not completely absorbed by the body's digestive system, they provide less calories per gram.2 Non-nutritive sweeteners include both natural and artificial sweeteners.3


Examples of non-nutritive sweeteners include:


  • ACE-K, aspartame/Equal, sucralose/Splenda, stevia and monk fruit. The latter two are regarded to be "natural sweeteners" as they are food-based.


Many of these substitutes for sugar add sweetness, of course, and some do not have any calories. While some artificial sugars are derived from sugar (such as sucralose), they can be used to substitute sugar at a fraction of the amount of table sugar the recipe calls for due to being sweeter.


So, are sugar substitutes safe? The answer is yes-but in moderation. Sweeteners like stevia, sucralose, ACE-K and aspartame are mentioned in the US Dietary Guidelines as GRAS, or "generally recognized as safe," in moderate amounts. Consuming sugars in moderation is important as a higher intake of added sugars has shown to be associated with a lower quality diet and higher energy intake. This can lead to an increase in the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. 4


Jenny Craig's approach is to take advantage of both healthy ingredients and portion control to minimize the need for added sugars and nonnutritive sweeteners. The menus meet expert guidelines to limit added sugars to less than 10 percent of total calories and currently a few Jenny Craig products include sucralose and ACE-K to provide sweetness without extra calories.


If you would like to be proactive about your sugar consumption, look at how much sugar you consume during the week, and find ways to modify it. For example, if you used to take sugar in your cup of coffee, try a sweet-flavored roast like French vanilla, raspberry, coconut or cinnamon. You can discuss other ways to moderate your sugar intake by meeting with one of our consultants at a local neighborhood Jenny Craig center near you.



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I was surprised & disappointed to see that Jenny is using Stevia- it has the same effect on my digestive tract that aspartame has! As a result I can no longer eat the nutritional bars and some of the desserts because of the severe stomach cramps etc caused by stevia.

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On 9/10/2020 at 7:31 PM, Guest Stevia said:

I was surprised & disappointed to see that Jenny is using Stevia- it has the same effect on my digestive tract that aspartame has! As a result I can no longer eat the nutritional bars and some of the desserts because of the severe stomach cramps etc caused by stevia.



Thank you for your comment. We use GRAS (generally recognized as safe) ingredients in all of our products. If Stevia causes you stomach issues, we recommend speaking with your coach to determine a healthy swap you can make for the bar. Our Registered Dietitian recommends focusing on whole foods and trying to keep your snack to approximately 150 calories if your goals include weight loss. For example, a small handful of almonds (approximately 15), a hard-boiled egg with hot sauce or ½ cup of cottage cheese with baby carrots. Let us know if you have any other questions!


The Jenny Craig Team

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