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Are You Too Sweet on Sweeteners? 

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Are You Too Sweet on Sweeteners? 

With one in three Americans having pre-diabetes and a third being overweight, more adults are looking for ways to cut calories without sacrificing taste. 

Enter sugar alternatives or alternative sweeteners. While they may be saving you calories, how healthy are they really? Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services serves up the truth on these sweetened alternatives.

What are alternative sweeteners?

Alternative sweeteners can be nutritive (contain calories) or non-nutritive (contain no calories) and can be artificial or natural. 

Alternative sweeteners are often found in beverages, energy bars, desserts, candy, jellies, sauces and packaged snacks. People seeking to lose weight or reduce their blood sugar levels will often replace sugar-containing foods in their diet with those sweetened with alternative sweeteners. 

Are alternative sweeteners healthy?

The big question dietitians often receive is, “are alternative sweeteners a healthy option?” That answer is complicated.  

According to American Heart Association, although substituting low-calorie sweetened beverages for sugar-sweetened beverages is an effective strategy for managing calories, prolonged use of low-calorie beverages in children should be cautioned. 

The verdict is still out on the effects of frequent consumption of alternative sweeteners and an adult’s craving for sweet foods or the impact on a person’s gut microbiome (responsible for 70 percent of the immune system). 

Alternative sweeteners for weight loss 

Replacing sugar with alternative sweeteners may be an effective strategy for weight loss, especially if you are trying to reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes or have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes.

Sugar contains approximately 20 calories/teaspoon. According to USDA census data, the average American consumes 17.5 teaspoons of sugar daily. For weight loss, if a person replaces the 17.5 teaspoons of sugar daily with a non-caloric sweetener, he or she can lose nearly 1 pound in the course of a week. 

Sounds like the perfect plan, right? Not so fast! The World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugars in your diet to less than 10 percent of total daily calories for optimal health. 

For a man weighing 200 pounds and requiring 2,000 calories, that’s no more than 200 calories/day, which is about 12 teaspoons of sugar (the equivalent of one 3 Muskateers® candy bar). In summary, sugar sweetened or not, empty calories should be minimized as part of a healthy eating plan. 

Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for alternative sweeteners

Aside from meeting with a registered dietitian nutritionist to assess your current eating patterns and individualized health goals, what can you do to become more aware of the sugar you eat?  

  • Familiarize yourself with the ingredients list on a food label. Look for words that mean sugar such as “honey,” “sucrose,” “high fructose corn syrup” or “molasses.” Choose foods with less of these ingredients. 
  • Look for words that indicate alternative sweeteners are present in the food.  Names such as “sucralose,” “aspartame” or “saccharin,” are a few examples. 
  • Use the chart below to assess the amount of these substances you are currently eating. Aim to consume no more than the acceptable daily intake of the sweetener as recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


Retail/Trade Name

Sweetness compared to sugar

Acceptable  Daily Intake (ADI)

Number of sweetener packets equivalent to ADI*

Acesulfame K

Sunett®, Sweet One®

200 times sweeter

15 mg/kg



Nutrasweet®, Equal®, Sugar Twin®

200 times sweeter

50 mg/kg



Sweet Twin®, Sweet ’N Low®, Necta Sweet®

200-700 times sweeter

15 mg/kg




600 times sweeter

5 mg/kg


Monk fruit (Luo Han Guo)

Nectresse®, Monk Fruit in the Raw®, PureLo®

100-250 times sweeter

Not specified

Not specified


Truvia®, PureVia®, Enliten®

200-400 times sweeter

4 mg/kg


*Number of sweetener packets a 132-pound person would need to consume to reach the acceptable daily intake. 

The FDA is striving to make it easier for consumers to identify sugary foods and beverages by mandating companies list “added sugars” on food labels by Jan. 1, 2020.

Should you stop consuming alternative sweeteners? The answer is, “it depends” and you should probably discuss a personalized nutrition plan with a registered dietitian nutritionist. To schedule a one-on-one consultation or for more information on Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services, visit or call 972.560.2655.



Article provided by Katherine Tom, MS, RDN, LD, CDE, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.