On the keto diet and therefore avoiding sugar and carbs like the plague? You may be passing on the white stuff but still crave sweetness. There are plenty of keto sweeteners on the market, but it can be tough to figure out which one will do the trick taste-wise while helping you avoid carbs… or at least eat less of them.
There are eight non-nutritive sweeteners approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The verdict is still out on whether or not they have the power to actually help with weight loss or maintenance and research has gone back and forth about whether these keto sweeteners can work to prevent diabetes and/or obesity.
Here’s a bit about each of the non-nutritive sweeteners that the FDA has approved.
FDA-approved best keto sweeteners
You’ll find this in yogurt and low-sugar jelly. Some studies have linked it to cancer and other health issues and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says to avoid it (along with aspartame, acesulfame-potassium and sucralose).
Often in diet sodas, this sweetener is in Equal and NutraSweet.
Packaged fruits that claim not to contain sugar often add this, which is also known as acesulfame K.
This is the basis for Splenda, but it’s also in diet sodas as well.
Love that sweetness in Sunny D? That’s the neotame, which is also in protein shakes and chewing gum.
This is a derivative of aspartame and is in beverages as well as cooking and baking products
Stevia made CSPI’s safe list, and the FDA listed it as “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS. You’ll find stevia as a stand-alone sweetener alongside Equal and other sugar alternatives
8. Luo Han Guo/Monk Fruit
This sweetener was also listed as GRAS by the FDA, but the CSPI says to be cautious about it due to a lack of testing.
More options for keto sweeteners
When you’re looking for a sugar alternative to help with your keto diet, keep in mind that those sweeteners aren’t the only substances that can offer sweetness. Stevia or monk fruit remain strong picks for keto gurus, but some sources say xylitol, yacon syrup, sucralose, erythritol and Swerve (a blend containing erythritol) are popular sugar substitutes if you are sticking to a keto diet.
Beware, though, because some sweeteners are higher in carbs than others—hence why it’s so important to do your homework.
Maple syrup, dates and honey are other more natural sweeteners that are higher in carbs, so you may want to pass them over as sugar substitute contenders. Other sugar alternatives that are higher in carbs than non-nutritive sweeteners include coconut palm sugar, agave syrup, brown rice syrup and molasses, says Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian from California.
Some of the sugar alternatives on the market nowadays are more natural, as in they come close to the way they were originally created. “Honey would be the most natural as this is the way the sweetener is found, complements of bees,” she explains.
But all natural sugar alternatives still require processing of some sort, Palmer reminds us. Plus, they are added sugars. Adding sugar isn't exactly the goal of the keto eating plan.
"Your body still recognizes these sources as sugars,” she says, though honey and maple syrup are antioxidant compounds that originate from the plants.
While Palmer says people should opt for more forms of natural sugars, they shouldn’t be used in free-for-all fashion. After all, ketosis—and staying in it—are the goal when it comes to this low-carb diet.
“Don’t give them a health halo,” Palmer says. “These still count as added sugars, which should be limited in your diet. "
Try these keto cheesecake recipes to get your sweet fix.