A cup of black coffee.

What to Know About Sugar Free Foods and Diabetes

Best Sugar Free Foods for Diabetics

If you have diabetes, do you need to consume sugar free foods? Definitely not. You can eat a perfectly healthy diet without consuming sugar free foods.

However, most experts agree that you probably need to pay attention to your carbohydrate intake; many people with diabetes – especially type 2 diabetes – choose to consume sugar free foods because it helps them lower the amount of carbohydrates they are consuming. You should always talk to your doctor if you're worried about the different effects regarding foods for diabetics.

Misconceptions About Sugar Free Foods

There are several common misconceptions about sugar free foods. For example, many people perceive that foods that are sugar free mean “unlimited”. This is not the case. Foods that are sugar free may still contain carbohydrates. When they are eaten in excess, they will still have an effect on blood sugar levels due to their carbohydrate levels.

Others may assume that if a food is sugar free, it is “healthy”. However, if you pull up to McDonald’s and order a Diet Coke, do you think that it is healthy when comparing it to a glass of ice water? What about a bag of sugar free chocolate when comparing it to an apple?

There is also the notion that sugar free is only for people with diabetes. However, there are plenty of people who may benefit from sugar free foods, such as those who are trying to lose weight.

Best Sugar Substitutes

According to Healthline, research indicates that certain sugar substitutes may increase the risk of diabetes and obesity. Choosing substitutes that are less conventional, but still sugar free or very low sugar, may be a better bet.


Stevia is from a plant; the sweetener is created from the leaves of the plant. This substitute actually may help glucose levels by doing the following:

  • Increasing insulin production
  • Stabilizing blood sugar levels
  • Increasing insulin’s effects on cell membranes

Examples of stevia include PureVia, Sun Crystals, SweetLeaf, and Truvia.


Another sweetener that is being studied is tagatose.Tagatose is still in preliminary research, but experts are finding the following:

  • Interferes with absorption of carbohydrates
  • Lowers blood sugar levels and insulin response
  • May become antidiabetic and antiobesity medication

Further research still needs to be concluded.

Other sweeteners that experts believe are less harmful to the body are monk fruit extract, coconut palm sugar, and date sugar.

Best Sugar Free Beverages

It should go without saying that water is king. Water contains no artificial sweeteners. It can be flavored with small amounts of fresh fruit. But what if you do not love water?

Unsweetened tea is also a great option. Research indicates that tea has heart healthy benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels. Some research even indicates that drinking up to six cups per day may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If unsweetened is not your thing, it can be flavored with lemons or one of the aforementioned artificial sweeteners.

Black coffee may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes; this risk fell even more in those who drank two to three cups per day. The benefit was noticed in those who drank caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. Again, it is best to drink it black. If needing to punch it up, choose a light splash of milk or cream and an artificial sweetener.

Best Sugar Free Snacks

You can head to the store and search for foods that are sugar free – there will be plenty in the snack food aisle. They will be processed, and the serving size will not be that large. However, to get the most bang for your buck for a snack, your best bet is to choose foods that are one carb serving or less.

Examples that are less than 5 grams of carbohydrates:

  • 1 cup of sugar free gelatin
  • 1 hardboiled egg
  • 1 sugar free popsicle
  • 10 goldfish crackers
  • 1 string cheese
  • 1 cup cucumber slices with 1 tablespoon ranch

Examples that are approximately one carb serving, or about 15 grams:

  • 1 small apple and 1 slice cheese
  • Half of a peanut butter sandwich
  • 1/3 cup hummus and 1 cup of raw fresh vegetables
  • 3 cups of light popcorn
  • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt and 1/2 cup of canned fruit
  • Half a turkey sandwich (one slice whole wheat bread and two slices of turkey with mustard)

The Bottom Line

Sugar free? Sure – depending on your goals! Feel free to consume sugar free foods, but just remember that sugar free does not mean the food is healthy and it does not mean that the food should be eaten in excess.

Article Resources