Sugar free popsicles have become an increasingly popular alternative for people looking to enjoy frozen treats without the added sugar. But how are these popsicles made sweet without using regular table sugar? There are actually a few different sugar substitutes used to sweeten sugar free popsicles.
Common Sweeteners in Sugar Free Popsicles
The most commonly used sweeteners in sugar free and reduced sugar popsicles include:
- Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)
- Sugar alcohols like erythritol, xylitol, and sorbitol
These non-nutritive sweeteners provide a sweet taste without adding significant calories or carbohydrates like table sugar does. Using a combination of these sweeteners can help provide an optimal sweetness profile while keeping the popsicles low in sugar and calories.
Aspartame is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners used in reduced calorie and sugar free foods and beverages. It is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, so only a very small amount is needed to provide sweetness without adding calories. Aspartame is marketed under brand names like NutraSweet and Equal.
Aspartame breaks down into phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol when digested. It does contain phenylalanine, so people with the rare genetic disorder phenylketonuria need to control intake. Otherwise, decades of research have found aspartame safe for human consumption.
Acesulfame Potassium (Ace-K)
Acesulfame potassium, also known as Ace-K, is an artificial sweetener that is around 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is often combined with other sweeteners because it has a fast onset of sweetness. Brand names for acesulfame potassium include Sweet One and Sunett.
Unlike aspartame, acesulfame potassium is very stable under heat, so it can be used in baked goods. It passes through the body unabsorbed and is excreted in urine, so it does not provide any calories or affect blood sugar levels.
Sucralose is a zero calorie artificial sweetener made from sugar that is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar. The Splenda brand is the most well known sucralose sweetener. Sucralose can withstand high temperatures, so it is suitable for use in baked goods and other cooked foods.
Most of the sucralose passes through the body unabsorbed. The small amount that is absorbed is not broken down for energy, so it adds no calories. Studies indicate sucralose does not affect blood glucose or insulin levels.
Stevia is a natural, zero calorie sweetener that comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. The steviol glycosides in the leaves provide a sweet taste 200-400 times sweeter than table sugar. Stevia products like Truvia and Pure Via are commonly used in reduced sugar foods and beverages.
Stevia does not impact blood sugar or insulin response and provides no calories because the human body does not metabolize the sweet compounds. Stevia can have a bitter aftertaste at high concentrations, so it is often combined with other sweeteners.
Sugar alcohols like erythritol, xylitol, and sorbitol are commonly used as sweeteners in sugar free and light foods. Though they are derived from sugars, they are classified as sugar alcohols, not sugars. They contain fewer calories than sugar – about 0.2 to 3 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram in sugar.
Sugar alcohols are considered “tooth-friendly” and do not promote tooth decay like sugars do. They also have a lower glycemic impact than regular sugar, making them suitable for diabetics. Gastrointestinal side effects can occur in some people if large amounts are consumed.
Benefits of Using Non-Nutritive Sweeteners
There are several advantages to using non-nutritive sweeteners like the ones described above rather than regular sugar in frozen popsicles:
- Lower in calories and carbohydrates – Popsicles made with non-nutritive sweeteners can have little to no calories from carbohydrates.
- Do not affect blood sugar – The artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols used do not spike blood glucose levels like sugar does.
- Tooth-friendly – Most non-nutritive sweeteners do not contribute to tooth decay and dental cavities.
- Heat stable – Many artificial sweeteners retain sweetness when heated, allowing them to be used in frozen pops.
- Sweetnessintensity – Non-nutritive sweeteners provide an intensely sweet flavor at low volumes.
Using a blend of sweeteners can provide an optimal sweetness profile while keeping popsicles low in sugar and calories. This makes sugar free popsicles an ideal cool, refreshing treat for those limiting sugar for health, diet, or diabetes management.
Common Brands and Flavors
There are many brands offering sugar free and reduced sugar popsicles using non-nutritive sweeteners as described above. Some of the top brands include:
- Popsicle – Makes sugar free popsicles in fruit flavors like cherry, grape, and orange.
- Outshine – Produces no sugar added fruit bars with sweeteners like stevia and fruit juices.
- Jolly Llama – Uses allulose and monk fruit to sweeten dairy-free, gluten-free popsicles.
- SmartyPants – Makes low sugar vitamin-fortified popsicles for kids using stevia.
- Skinny Freezer Pops – Offers 0g sugar, fat, and gluten popsicles in fruity flavors.
The most popular sugar free popsicle flavors mimic classic frozen pop flavors like:
- Blue raspberry
- Mixed fruit
More unique flavors are also being created, like chocolate, coconut, mango, and banana. The sweeteners provide the sweet taste people expect from popsicles while keeping added sugars low.
Nutrition Profile of Sugar Free Popsicles
The nutrition profile of sugar free popsicles can vary somewhat depending on the specific sweeteners and other ingredients used, but they are generally low in calories, carbohydrates, and sugar compared to regular popsicles.
Here is a sample nutrition facts label for a sugar free fruit flavored popsicle:
|1 popsicle (45g)
As you can see, a typical sugar free popsicle contains minimal calories, fat, carbs, sugar, and sodium compared to a regular popsicle which could have 70-80 calories and 16-20g of sugar.
Common ingredients in sugar free popsicles include:
- Fruit juice concentrates
- Natural and artificial flavors
- Food coloring
- Non-nutritive sweeteners like sucralose, stevia, Ace-K, etc.
- Citric acid
- Fruit pulp or purees
- Vitamins and minerals
Reading the ingredient list can give you an idea of what sweeteners are used in a particular brand or flavor of popsicles.
Portion Control Recommendations
One regular size sugar free popsicle typically provides 15-25 calories. While sugar free popsicles are low in calories and carbohydrates, portion control is still recommended when consuming them:
- Children 4-8 years old should limit consumption to 1 popsicle daily.
- Older children, teens, and adults should consume no more than 2 popsicles per day.
- Be sure to account for the calories from popsicles within your daily calorie needs.
Moderating portions allows you to enjoy these sweet cool treats while still managing your overall sugar and calorie intake.
Potential Drawbacks to Consider
While sugar free popsicles provide a low calorie alternative to regular popsicles, there are a few potential drawbacks to consider:
- Gastrointestinal issues – Sugar alcohols and some artificial sweeteners may cause bloating, gas, or diarrhea in sensitive individuals if large amounts are eaten.
- May stimulate appetite/craving for sweets – The sweet taste of non-nutritive sweeteners may increase desire for other high-calorie snacks and sweets.
- Doesn’t satisfy sweet tooth – For some, sugar free popsicles may not provide the same satisfaction as the real thing.
- Not a nutritional substitute for real fruit – Sugar free pops don’t provide the same nutrients, like fiber.
- Contains synthetic additives – Those wishing to avoid artificial colors, flavors, and sweeteners should be aware.
Overall, sugar free popsicles can be an enjoyable lower calorie treat when consumed in moderation. Just be mindful of any potential gastrointestinal effects and keep portions in check.
Sugar free popsicles provide people a way to enjoy refreshingly icy pops without added sugars. These frozen treats are made sweet using non-nutritive sweeteners like aspartame, Ace-K, stevia, sugar alcohols, and others instead of sugar.
Using these sweeteners allows the popsicles to be very low in calories, carbs, and sugars. Some of the most popular brands of sugar free popsicles include Popsicle, Outshine, Jolly Llama, and Skinny Freezer Pops. They come in a wide range of fruity flavors.
Consuming sugar free popsicles in moderation can be an ideal way to satisfy sweet cravings and stay cool. However, they may not be nutritionally equivalent to whole fruits and consuming excessive amounts could lead to gastrointestinal distress. Overall, sugar free popsicles can be an enjoyable low-calorie frozen treat when portions are kept in check.