For people following a low carb or keto diet, candy can seem off limits. Most traditional candies are loaded with sugar and carbs. However, there are some great options for low carb candy that can satisfy your sweet tooth while keeping your carb count low.
The lowest carb candies are those made with alternative sweeteners like erythritol or stevia instead of sugar. Some examples of popular low carb candy options include:
- Sugar free chocolate
- Jelly beans made with sugar alcohols
- Hard candies sweetened with stevia or erythritol
- Gummy bears made with xylitol
- Lily’s brand chocolate bars sweetened with stevia
These all typically have 1-3 net carbs per serving.
Evaluating Candy Carb Counts
When evaluating the carb count of candy, you need to look at the net carbs rather than just total carbs.
Net carbs are calculated by subtracting the grams of fiber and sugar alcohols from the total carbs. Sugar alcohols like erythritol and xylitol are not fully digested and absorbed by the body, so they don’t impact blood sugar as much as regular sugar.
For example, a candy might have 15 grams of total carbs, 5 grams of fiber, and 5 grams of sugar alcohols like erythritol. So the net carbs would be 15 – 5 – 5 = 5 grams.
Sugar Alcohols to Subtract
The main sugar alcohols to subtract are:
- Hydrogenated starch hydrolysates
Just be aware that some people can be sensitive to large amounts of sugar alcohols and experience digestive side effects. Maltitol also has a higher glycemic impact than options like erythritol.
Popular Low Carb Candies
Here is an overview of some of the most popular and lowest carb candy options:
1. Sugar Free Chocolate
Chocolate is a favorite candy for many people. Fortunately, there are many low carb chocolate options made with alternative sweeteners instead of sugar.
Brands like Lily’s, Choc Zero, Sugar Free Chocolate, and Hi-Linda make chocolate sweetened with stevia and sugar alcohols like erythritol. A 1 ounce serving may have around:
- 2-8 grams of net carbs
- 170-220 calories
The lowest carb options will be the darker chocolates with higher cacao content. Milk chocolates tend to be slightly higher in carbs. But even milk chocolate can fit into a low carb diet in moderation.
2. Jelly Beans
Traditional jelly beans are sugar bombs, with around 80% of their weight coming from sugar. But some companies make low carb jelly beans using sugar alcohols instead.
For example, one brand makes jelly beans sweetened with xylitol. A 1/4 cup serving (around 30 jelly beans) has:
- 8 grams net carbs
- 100 calories
This allows you to enjoy a sweet jelly bean treat while keeping net carbs minimal. Just be cautious with portion sizes, as sugar alcohols can cause gastrointestinal upset if over-consumed.
3. Hard Candies
Many classic hard candy flavors like butterscotch, lemon drops, and peppermints can be found in low carb versions sweetened with sugar alcohols.
Brands like SmartSweets, Xyla, and YumEarth make pops and drops using erythritol and stevia. A serving of around 8 hard candies may have:
- 3 grams of net carbs
- 25 calories
This allows you to enjoy a nostalgic treat without the blood sugar spike of regular candy. The portion controlled servings help keep carb counts and calories low.
4. Gummy Bears
For those who love gummy candy, some brands make low carb gummy bears using sugar alcohols instead of regular sugar.
Brands like SmartSweets, Hungry Buddha, and Dr. John’s Candies make gummy bears with xylitol or erythritol. A 1/4 cup serving may contain:
- 5 grams of net carbs
- 60 calories
This allows you to get your gummy bear fix while keeping net carbs low. As with all sugar alcohol candies, moderation is key.
5. Chocolate Covered Nuts
For a more satisfying candy option, chocolate covered nuts can make a great low carb choice.
Brands like Southern Recipe make miniature chocolate covered peanuts using sugar free chocolate. A 1/4 cup serving may have:
- 4 grams net carbs
- 180 calories
The healthy fats in nuts help keep you full, while the chocolate coating provides sweetness. Always watch your portions, as the calories can add up fast.
6. Chocolate Bars
In addition to sugar free chocolate chips, many companies also make low carb chocolate bars using alternatives like stevia and erythritol.
Popular brands include Lily’s, Choc Zero, Coco Polo, and YoLo. Depending on the brand and type of chocolate, a half bar may contain:
- 10-15 grams net carbs
- 180-220 calories
This allows you to enjoy a chocolate treat made with quality ingredients tailored to a low carb lifestyle. Just watch your servings to keep calories in check.
Low Carb Candy Guidelines
Here are some tips for picking and eating low carb candy:
- Read nutrition labels and look at net carbs, not just total carbs.
- Aim for 10 grams of net carbs or less per serving.
- Watch out for maltitol – it has a higher glycemic impact than options like erythritol.
- Be cautious with portion sizes of sugar free candy to avoid digestive upset.
- Dark chocolate tends to be lower in carbs than milk chocolate.
- Pair candy with protein like nuts to help manage blood sugar response.
- Don’t make candy a free for all – even low carb candy should be eaten in moderation.
Downsides of Low Carb Candy
While low carb candies are a better option than their full sugar counterparts, they are still considered a treat and not a health food. Some downsides to keep in mind:
- May trigger cravings or overeating for some people.
- Often more expensive than regular candy.
- Sugar alcohols can cause digestive issues in sensitive people.
- Often contain artificial sweeteners – good to minimize intake.
- May be high in calories, so portion control is key.
- Not as nutritious as eating whole fruits and vegetables.
So while an occasional low carb candy can fit into a healthy lifestyle, it shouldn’t become a daily indulgence. Focus on getting nutrition from whole, minimally processed foods as much as possible.
Healthier Candy Alternatives
Here are some healthier candy alternatives to try:
Fruits like berries, cherries, apples, and citrus provide natural sweetness with fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, and water. Just watch your portions and stick to lower sugar fruits.
Frozen Banana “Ice Cream”
Blend frozen bananas into a creamy, frozen treat. You can add cocoa powder or nut butter for flavor.
Dark Chocolate with Fruit
A small square of dark chocolate with strawberries or raspberries can satisfy a sweet craving.
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
Chocolate avocado pudding provides creamy chocolate flavor with healthy fats.
Make portable snacks with dates, nuts, seeds, and nut butter.
Greek Yogurt with Berries
Top Greek yogurt with fresh berries and chopped dark chocolate or nuts.
The Best and Worst Low Carb Candies
If you do indulge in low carb candy, some options are better than others:
- Dark chocolate with 70% cocoa or higher
- Gummy bears or jelly beans made with erythritol
- Hard candies made with stevia or erythritol
- Chocolate covered nuts with sugar free chocolate
OK in Moderation
- Milk chocolate with sugar alcohols
- Maltitol based candy (has more carbs than erythritol)
- Candy with maltodextrin or corn syrup
- Candy with hydrogenated oils
- Candy with artificial dyes
Check the ingredients list and aim for candy without additives and low net carb counts. And always practice portion control.
Make Your Own Low Carb Candy
For the healthiest options, try making your own low carb candy at home. Then you can control the quality of ingredients.
Here are some recipes to try:
Low Carb Gummy Bears
- 1 cup 100% grassfed gelatin
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup erythritol sweetener
- 1/2 tsp stevia extract powder
- 1/2 cup juice of your choice (like raspberry or orange juice)
- Combine gelatin, juice and water in a pot over medium heat. Mix well until combined.
- Remove from heat and mix in erythritol and stevia.
- Pour into a gummy bear mold.
- Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before removing from molds.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Low Carb Chocolate Clusters
- 1 lb unsweetened chocolate
- 1 cup cocoa butter
- 1/2 cup powdered erythritol or monk fruit sweetener
- Pinch of sea salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup nuts of choice (pecans, almonds, etc)
- Gently melt chocolate and cocoa butter over low heat. Remove from heat.
- Mix in sweetener, salt, vanilla and nuts.
- Drop spoonfuls onto wax paper and refrigerate until set.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
When craving something sweet on a low carb diet, there are many candy options made with sugar alcohol sweeteners that can allow you to indulge while keeping net carbs low. Some of the best choices include sugar free chocolate, jelly beans, gummy bears, and chocolate covered nuts. Just be mindful of portions and ingredients. For the healthiest treats, create your own homemade low carb candy to control exactly what goes in them.
Overall, an occasional low carb candy can fit into a healthy lifestyle when paired with a balanced diet focused on whole foods. But candy shouldn’t become an everyday habit, even if it’s low in carbs.