Sugar free pudding has become a popular alternative for those looking to reduce their sugar intake. But is it really a healthier option? Here we examine the nutrition facts and potential benefits and drawbacks of sugar free pudding.
What are the ingredients in sugar free pudding?
Most sugar free pudding is made with a base of milk or milk alternatives along with thickeners like cornstarch or tapioca starch. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, or stevia are used to provide sweetness without sugar. Flavors, colors, and sometimes fats like cream may also be added.
How many calories are in sugar free pudding?
Calories in sugar free pudding can range from 60-100 calories per serving on average. This is lower than regular pudding which contains 130-170 calories per serving. Exact calorie counts depend on factors like:
- Milk fat percentage – Nonfat milk has less calories than whole milk
- Added ingredients – Things like cream or chocolate can increase calories
- Serving size – Pay attention to serving sizes which may be less than a full package
What are the benefits of sugar free pudding?
Some potential benefits of sugar free pudding include:
- Fewer calories – 25-50% less calories than regular pudding
- Less sugar – Contains 0g sugar compared to 13-26g in regular pudding
- Lower glycemic impact – Won’t spike blood sugar like regular pudding
This makes sugar free pudding a better choice for people with diabetes or those looking to manage calories and carbs. The sweet taste remains without all the sugar.
What are the drawbacks of sugar free pudding?
Some drawbacks of sugar free pudding include:
- Artificial sweeteners – Controversial aspartame and other sweeteners used
- Less satiating – Sugar contributes to satiety so cravings may persist
- Laxative effects – Sugar alcohols can cause diarrhea if over-consumed
- Less nutritious – Lacks micronutrients found in whole foods
While sugar free pudding removes sugar, it replaces it with artificial sweeteners that may come with their own concerns. It also provides less satiety and nutrition than whole food options.
Nutrition facts comparison
Here is a nutrition facts label comparison between Jell-O vanilla pudding made with 2% milk and Jell-O sugar free vanilla pudding:
|Jell-O Vanilla Pudding
|Jell-O Sugar Free Vanilla Pudding
|1/2 cup (126g)
|1/2 cup (113g)
As you can see, the sugar free version cuts calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrates and sugars significantly. But it also provides no fiber and swaps sugar for artificial sweeteners.
Sugar alcohol content
Many sugar free puddings use sugar alcohols like sorbitol, maltitol, and xylitol to provide sweetness without sugar. For example, Jell-O sugar free pudding contains:
- Sorbitol – 9g per serving
- Maltitol syrup – 2g per serving
Consuming over 50g per day of sorbitol or over 20g per day of maltitol can cause gastrointestinal upset like gas, bloating, and diarrhea in sensitive individuals. Those with IBS may need to be especially mindful of overdoing sugar alcohol intake.
Artificial sweetener content
Another key ingredient in sugar free puddings is artificial sweeteners. Popular choices include:
- Aspartame – 200 times sweeter than sugar but controversial
- Sucralose – 600 times sweeter than sugar, limits insulin response
- Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) – 200 times sweeter than sugar with a bitter aftertaste
Aspartame is one of the more controversial artificial sweeteners due to questionable health effects, however it has been approved as safe to consume in moderation by the FDA.
Aspartame content examples
- Jell-O Sugar Free Pudding – 125mg aspartame per serving
- Snack Pack Sugar Free Pudding – 131mg aspartame per serving
The acceptable daily intake (ADI) limit for aspartame is set at 50 mg per kilogram of body weight. For a 150 pound (68kg) person, this equals 3,400 mg per day as the upper limit.
Micronutrient and macronutrient content
Sugar free pudding is not a significant source of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. It also lacks fiber and protein compared to whole food options. The macronutrient breakdown per 1/2 cup serving is:
- Protein: 4g
- Carbohydrates: 16g
- Fat: 2g
While sugar free pudding cuts sugar and calories, it does not provide lasting nutrition. Pairing it with fruit, nuts, or other whole foods can help improve the nutritional profile.
How does it impact blood sugar?
Sugar free pudding has a low glycemic impact. It only provides around 16g net carbs per serving compared to 26g in regular pudding. This leads to a slower, lower rise in blood glucose levels.
However, the glycemic response can vary based on exact ingredients. Maltitol has a higher impact than aspartame or stevia. Those with diabetes should still monitor blood sugar levels when consuming sugar free pudding.
Is sugar free pudding Keto friendly?
Most sugar free puddings are considered Keto friendly and fit into a Ketogenic diet plan. To stay in ketosis, carb intake should be limited to around 50g net carbs per day. With 16g net carbs per serving, sugar free pudding leaves room for other low carb foods.
One exception is puddings made with maltitol syrup, which has a higher glycemic impact and should be limited on a strict Keto diet.
Is it safe for children?
In moderation, sugar free pudding is likely safe for children. However, some pediatricians recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners for kids under 3-4 years old when possible. The acceptance daily intake levels are set lower for young children.
Sugar free pudding should be an occasional treat, not a daily habit for kids. Focus on providing plenty of whole fruits and other less processed snacks.
Should you avoid if pregnant?
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame have been deemed safe for pregnant women by regulatory agencies in the quantities found in foods. That said, avoiding consumption in the 1st trimester and minimizing intake in later pregnancy is often recommended out of an abundance of caution.
Pregnant women already consume extra calories for fetal needs and have less room for empty calorie foods. Sugar free pudding provides minimal nutrition for mom and baby.
Is it filling?
Sugar free pudding is not as filling or satiating as the regular sugar-sweetened version. Studies show that sugar contributes significantly to satiety, likely due to effects on appetite hormones and brain pathways involved in hunger and cravings.
Removing the sugar reduces the satiating impact of pudding. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame do not increase satiety. Fat and protein are more filling than carbs, so opting for full fat pudding can help.
Can it cause diarrhea or laxative effects?
Sugar free pudding contains sugar alcohols like sorbitol and maltitol that can have a laxative effect in large amounts. Consequences like gas, bloating, and diarrhea may occur with over-consumption.
Those with IBS or other digestive issues may experience problems at lower thresholds, around 10-15g of sorbitol per sitting. Limit portion sizes and monitor individual tolerance.
Does it impact gut bacteria?
The artificial sweeteners in sugar free pudding do appear to influence gut bacteria populations. Studies show decreases in beneficial Bifidobacteria and increases in pathogenic bacteria in mice fed artificial sweeteners.
More research is still needed on the implications of these microbiome shifts in the long term. Limiting intake to occasional moderate portions is prudent until more evidence emerges.
Is it bad for your teeth?
Sugar free pudding should not cause cavities or tooth decay like regular pudding with added sugars that can erode enamel. However, its stickier consistency and lack of chewing could still promote bacteria growth.
Practice good dental hygiene by brushing after eating pudding. Also rinse with water to help clear away sticking residue. Moderation is still advised.
Can it spike insulin?
Sugar free pudding should not spike insulin and blood sugar levels like real sugar. However, maltitol can elicit an insulin response closer to regular sugar. The glycemic index of maltitol is about 35 compared to 60-65 for sucrose.
Aspartame and stevia sweetened puddings have less impact on insulin. Diabetics should choose these options and monitor blood glucose when consuming.
Does it cause cancer?
Despite lingering controversy, there is no good evidence that aspartame or other sugar substitutes in pudding cause cancer. Animal studies showing increased rates used extremely high doses not found in actual foods.
Long term human studies on artificial sweeteners have not demonstrated clear links to cancer. While more research is still underway, cancer risk seems low at typical intake levels.
Is it bad for PCOS or fertility?
Sugar free pudding should be safe for those with PCOS or trying to conceive. By limitingspike in blood glucose and insulin, it prevents exacerbating hormonal imbalance issues tied to ovulation and fertility.
Focus on options made with stevia or aspartame rather than maltitol to minimize glycemic impact. Do so in moderation as part of a healthy preconception diet.
Does it have protein?
Sugar free pudding provides a small amount of protein from the milk ingredients, with around 4g per serving. This is less than the 6-8g in regular pudding since protein mainly comes from milk proteins like casein.
To up the protein content, choose options made with Greek yogurt or add in nuts, seeds, or a scoop of protein powder. This helps provide a more balanced snack.
Sugar free pudding can be a better occasional treat than the full sugar version, providing fewer calories and carbs. However, it is still high in processed ingredients and lacks nutrition. Moderation is key, especially for children and pregnant women.
Be mindful of portion sizes due to sugar alcohols. Balance out the nutritional profile by pairing with protein, fiber, and beneficial fats. Overall, sugar free pudding should not replace whole food choices but can be worked into an healthy diet in small amounts.