Sugar free jello is a popular low calorie treat, but many people wonder if it has any real nutritional value. In this comprehensive article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the ingredients, calories, and nutrients found in sugar free jello to determine if it offers any health benefits.
What is in sugar free jello?
The main ingredients in conventional sugar free jello are:
- Gelatin – Typically derived from collagen in cow or pig bones and skin. It acts as the gelling agent that gives jello its wobbly texture.
- Artificial sweeteners – Aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, or stevia are commonly used to sweeten sugar free jello without adding calories.
- Artificial flavors – Chemical mixtures that mimic natural flavors like cherry, orange, lemon, etc.
- Artificial colors – FD&C Red 40, Blue 1, and Yellow 5 provide vibrant colors.
Sugar free jello is free of sugar and fat. It’s very low in calories, with about 10 calories per serving. However, it provides virtually no other nutrients.
Calories in sugar free jello
A typical 1/2 cup serving of sugar free jello contains:
- 10 calories
- 0 g fat
- 0 g protein
- 0 g sugar
- 2 g carbohydrates
The calories in sugar free jello come solely from the gelatin and trace nutrients. Other sweeteners like aspartame have virtually no calories. This makes sugar free jello a smart low calorie treat.
Vitamins and minerals
Sugar free jello is not a significant source of vitamins and minerals. However, here is the minimal nutritional breakdown for a 1/2 cup serving:
- 1% DV calcium
- 0% DV iron
- 0% DV potassium
- 1% DV magnesium
- 1% DV phosphorus
While not rich in vitamins and minerals, sugar free jello does provide a small amount of nutrients from its gelatin. But you’d have to eat a lot of jello to fulfill your daily needs.
There is a tiny amount of protein in sugar free jello. A 1/2 cup serving contains approximately 1 gram of protein or 2% of the Daily Value. This protein comes from gelatin.
While not a significant source, this protein can be beneficial for occasionally boosting intake if you don’t eat much meat or dairy. However, there are far better sources of protein like lean meats, eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Sugar and carbohydrates
One of the main benefits of sugar free jello is that it’s low in sugar and carbs. A 1/2 cup serving contains:
- 0 g sugar
- 2 g net carbs
This makes it keto and diabetic friendly. You don’t have to worry about it spiking your blood sugar. The 2 grams of carbs come mostly from gelatin, as the artificial sweeteners contain almost no carbs.
There is no fiber in conventional sugar free jello. The gelatin it’s made from contains no fiber. And artificial sweeteners and flavors also have zero fiber.
However, there are some sugar free jello products made with citrus pectin fiber. This type of soluble fiber provides gut health benefits. But plain sugar free jello lacks both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Sugar free jello is completely fat free (0 grams of fat per serving). It contains no saturated, trans, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated fats. Nor does it contain cholesterol.
This lack of fat makes it unlikely to help with fat soluble vitamin absorption. And it doesn’t provide essential fatty acids that are vital for health.
The gelatin in sugar free jello may offer some benefits including:
- Joint support – Gelatin contains amino acids like glycine that may help with joint and bone health.
- Skin health – It provides amino acids like proline and hydroxyproline that play a role in collagen formation for skin, hair, and nails.
- Digestive aid – Gelatin can act as a soothing gut lubricant to improve digestion.
- Sleep promoter – Glycine in gelatin may improve sleep quality.
However, the amounts of gelatin in sugar free jello are likely too low to provide significant benefits. You’d need to consume much larger amounts.
Drawbacks of ingredients
Sugar free jello is made with several controversial additive ingredients including:
- Artificial sweeteners – Linked to health concerns like weight gain and blood sugar spikes in some studies.
- Artificial colors – Associated with hyperactivity in children and allergy symptoms in studies.
- Artificial flavors – Often made from chemical compounds and may cause headaches or other adverse effects in sensitive individuals.
While these additives allow jello to be sugar free, they may negate some of the benefits for health conscious consumers. There are brands that use natural sweeteners and flavors though.
Special types of jello
There are other interesting varieties of jello besides conventional sugar free types:
- Collagen protein jello – With added protein like collagen peptides for extra nutrition.
- Probiotic jello – Contains added probiotics to support digestive health.
- Konjac jello – Uses glucomannan fiber from konjac root to create a low calorie jello.
- Organic jello – Sweetened with organic stevia without artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors.
- Vegetable jello – Made with fruit and vegetable juices for vitamins.
These specialty jellos boost the potential benefits by improving the nutrition profile. But plain sugar free jello lacks these enhancements.
Can kids eat sugar free jello?
Sugar free jello is considered safe for kids to eat, but there are some caveats. Potential issues include:
- Artificial colors may contribute to hyperactivity and behavior issues in sensitive children.
- Artificial sweeteners are controversial and associated with health problems in some studies.
- Lack of nutrition compared to whole foods. Sugar free jello has no fiber, protein, healthy fats, or micronutrients.
- Choking hazard from the jelly-like texture for very young toddlers.
In moderation, sugar free jello isn’t harmful for most healthy children. But parents may want to limit intake of artificial additives and serve more nutritious foods and snacks.
Pregnancy and sugar free jello
Sugar free jello is generally considered safe to eat in moderation during pregnancy. Benefits include:
- Low calorie treat for limiting excess weight gain.
- Low glycemic index food that won’t spike blood sugar levels.
- Free of caffeine.
Potential downsides include the artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors. As with kids, some moms may choose to avoid these additives during pregnancy.
On keto and low carb diets
Sugar free jello can be included in low carb and ketogenic diets. A 1/2 cup serving contains minimal carbs:
- Total carbs: 2g
- Fiber: 0g
- Net carbs: 2g
This fits into a keto diet (<30g daily net carbs) and is unlikely to impact ketosis. It's also safe for low carb diets like paleo or Atkins.
However, too much sugar free jello may stall weight loss on keto due to the artificial sweeteners. Moderation is key.
For diabetes and blood sugar
Sugar free jello is low in carbs and sugar, making it diabetic friendly. The American Diabetes Association considers artificial sweeteners like aspartame safe for diabetics.
A 1/2 cup serving shouldn’t raise blood glucose levels significantly. But diabetics should still pay attention to portion sizes and limit intake of artificial sweeteners.
Is sugar free jello kosher?
Most conventional sugar free jello is not considered kosher, though some brands are certified kosher. Reasons sugar free jello may not meet kosher dietary standards include:
- Contains gelatin made from non-kosher animals like pigs.
- Manufactured on equipment shared with non-kosher foods.
- Not properly certified to comply with kosher laws.
However, there are a few brands that make kosher certified sugar free jello. This jello is either dairy or fish based to comply with kosher restrictions.
Here is an overview of the nutrition facts in sugar free jello:
- 10 calories per serving
- 0 g fat
- 2 g net carbs
- 0 g fiber
- 1 g protein
- Contains 1% DV for calcium and magnesium
- Naturally fat, cholesterol, and sodium free
- Sweetened with non-nutritive artificial sweeteners
- Provides glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline from gelatin
- No vitamins or other macronutrients
The bottom line
Sugar free jello is highly processed and contains artificial ingredients. So while very low in calories and carbs, it lacks natural nutrition.
The small amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals it provides are negligible. Eating sugar free jello alone doesn’t qualify as a healthy meal or snack.
However, in moderation it can be included as part of an overall nutritious diet. Just don’t rely on it as a source of essential nutrition. Focus on more wholesome, minimally processed foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and healthy fats.