What Sweeteners are Acceptable on a Ketogenic Diet?

This is beyond a shadow of a doubt the most common question I get asked whenever I tell someone about how I eat.  Oddly enough, it is not the most common search term that Google uses to send to my site, that would be “What is Sugar Free at Starbucks?”  So it just goes to show you, even when people are cutting out sugar, they still want their hit of sweet.

So first let me tell you the right answer.  The best sweetener you can use is none at all.  I know that sounds like madness but if you are addicted to the taste of sweet, the best way to get over that addiction is to stop cold turkey.  I know that sounds impossible but once you make the switch your taste buds begin to change and you can taste the sweet inherent in foods you never thought of as sweet.  For instance, I was one of those people who had to have sweetener in my coffee and Diet Cokes throughout the day.  It took some time but now I rarely drink any soft drinks and I take my coffee strong and black.  I do like to experiment with the coffee now because a friend of mine from work started selling their own specialty coffee blends and everything I’ve tried so far has been pretty good.

So that’s the actual answer, now let me walk you through the answer you came here for.  I think the best sweetener you can use is a liquid stevia/erythritol blend that is available at almost any grocery store across the country or at Amazon here.  It is very sweet and seems to go well with bitter things like coffee because some people think it has a slightly bitter aftertaste.  I’ve never noticed that but then I use very little when I use it.

The second best is probably Saccharin or Sweet ‘n Low.  The pink stuff was our first attempt at an artificial sweetener so it has been on the market so long that if there were any side-effects, we would have heard about by now.  (For contrast, just look at the Aspartame horror stories on the web.)  It doesn’t cause a rise in insulin levels that we know of and doesn’t cause intestinal distress in large amounts which are the 2 main drawbacks of most sugar substitutes.


Those are my 2 main go-to’s when I use sweeteners and it should also be mentioned that my wife prefers Xylitol for her morning coffee and occasional dessert and she hasn’t reported any side-effects.  Having tasted Xylitol (Actually XyloSweet) I can tell you that is tastes almost exactly like sugar right out of the bowl so it’s what I offer people who come over that still use sugar.

So what about all those other sweeteners available.  Here’s a quick description of each one.  The description subheadings are linked to Amazon if you would like to actually see the sweeteners in question and order them if you want.

Natural Sweeteners



Stevia is an herb, which is commonly known as “sugar leaf” and has only been approved for use in the last few years.  From all reports there are few side effects and as a personal note, has become my sweetener of choice.  Watch out for the powdered varieties though as they are typically mixed with maltodextrin which can cause an insulin reaction.



Derived from chicory root, it has a natural taste very close to sugar.  It can caramelize like sugar and has very little aftertaste.  Some will mix it with a sugar alcohol to make it a little sweeter so less is needed.  Some studies suggest we can absorb a small amount so it may cause a small insulin reaction but nothing is conclusive.


Monk Fruit


Also called Luo Han Guo, is native to China and has been used as an herbal remedy for obesity.  The biggest drawback is it is very expensive compared to other sweeteners.


Sugar Alcohols




Great sweetener.  Can be used as a 1 to 1 replacement for sugar.  Can cause intestinal distress when consumed in large amounts but your body doesn’t absorb it.  It is secreted in the urine so most of it never even makes it to the intestines.  An excellent alternative to sugar



Causes a small insulin reaction and intestinal distress when consumed in large amounts but many people prefer it because the taste is so close to sugar.  (This is my wife’s sweetener of choice for her morning coffee and she is VERY picky)



Most commonly used sugar alcohol because it is similar in taste to sugar and very cheap.  Will cause more of an insulin reaction than the other alcohols so it’s better to avoid it.  Will cause EXTREME intestinal distress in all but the smallest amounts.  It can be found in most cheap sugar free candies so be careful when you eat more than one Russell Stover candy or Sugar Free Gummi Bears at a time.


Synthetic Sweeteners


Sucralose (Splenda)

Recent studies suggest than when used in powdered form, it may cause a larger insulin reaction than sugar which means definitely avoid it.  If you can find it in liquid form, it is 600x sweeter than sugar and does not appear to cause an insulin reaction at all.


Aspertame (Equal)

The most controversial sugar substitute as it has been linked to a whole host of neurological problems.  If even 10% of what has been said about it is true, I would avoid it like the plague.


Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low)

The first synthetic sweetener and has been in use for about 150 years.  Appears to be relatively safe and doesn’t cause an insulin reaction.


Acesulfame Potassium (Ace K)

While you will probably never buy Ace K for home use, it is widely used in diet soft drinks.  It causes a small insulin reaction and may be the reason why it is so difficult to lose weight while drinking diet soft drinks.

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