Chocolate has a way of making all our troubles melt away.
Cacao, when cultivated, is deliciously soothing and its bold taste contains antioxidants and the ability to boost serotonin and release endorphins - lifting moods and relieving stress and anxiety.
A sweet bite of milk chocolate or a rich dark chocolate bar always delivers.
BUT so many brands add sugar in mass quantities as their first ingredient in their chocolate to deliver on taste. Sugar is cheap, tastes delicious and satisfies the massive sweet tooth that we have become accustomed to appeasing.
‘Added Sugars’ are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. And due to their impact on our health, as of July 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires companies to list added sugars separately on nutrition labels!
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests an added-sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (~6 teaspoons/24 grams) for most adult women and no more than 150 calories per day (~9 teaspoons/36 grams) for most men.
Unfortunately, children in the US currently consume on average 81g and adults consume 77g of sugar daily!
So for all you chocolate lovers out there that are looking for healthy chocolate to meet your sweet-tooth cravings that have no added sugar - we’re sharing the top brands and options out there.
First - We make and sell zero sugar chocolate here at Nebula Snacks, so you may ask “Why should I trust you with a sugar free chocolate ranking?”
The answer is BECAUSE we make sugar free chocolate.
The reason we launched this uphill battle to take on BIG SUGAR in Mars, Hershey’s and Nestle is because of the ingredients they use and the continued use of excessive added sugars in their candy bars.
Additionally, we found that many of the sugar free chocolates available in groceries today still add sugars or artificial sweeteners as the source of their sweetness, which we believe isn’t the answer to better snacking!
Before we get to the list, let’s cover the importance of the sweet ingredients being used today to replace sugar.
Source of Sweetness
The cacao bean has a strong, rich flavor but today is associated with sweetness as it has been married with sugar since, what many agree, 1847 by British chocolatiers, J.S Fry & Sons. And arguably the amount of sugar has only increased in the recipes prominently included on shelves today.
With that being said, the sugar free chocolate resistance has been steadily growing for the last decade, but the battle is far from complete as replacing sugar has been no easy feat.
There are five categories that we can group sugar substitutes into today:
Majority of sugars found in snacks today use refined sugars, which have undergone processing and strips sugars of the molasses and any nutrients it may have contained, albeit not many. When having processed sugars, it would be preferred to have unrefined sugars.
Unrefined sweeteners include molasses, coconut sugar, agave and maple syrup, honey and date sugar. These are still considered to be added sugars and are included during the production process of many snacks today. Some of these unrefined sugars and sweeteners have a lower glycemic response than refined sugar, but ultimately are still added to products and do not provide much nutritional value.
Sugar Alcohols are a type of carbohydrate called “polyols” and are neither sugar nor alcohol. While they are sweet, they do not impact blood sugar like table sugar. Sugar alcohols have become incredibly popular as low-carb, reduced sugar and keto friendly diets have been adopted more and more.
Some sugar alcohols occur naturally in plants, including berries and other fruits, however, most sugar alcohols are manufactured from sugars and starches through a chemical process.
Many sugar alcohols are great for balancing blood sugar levels, reducing calories, and healthier teeth. You may see the generic term "sugar alcohols" listed in the ingredients list on your nutrition labels, but most should include the specific sugar alcohol that was used.
Primary sugar alcohols that you may find listed may include:
Maltitol has ~75% of the blood sugar impact, ~75% of the sweetness and ~70% the net carbs of regular table sugar. (However, maltitol has been noted to still cause blood sugar spikes within the diabetic community)
Erythritol generally does not raise blood sugars, with ~70% the sweetness and ~0-5% the net carbs or table sugar.
Xylitol is the sweetest of all sugar alcohols, with close to 1:1 that of regular table sugar, with ~60% of the calories.
Sorbitol has ~60% the sweetness and about 60% of the calories or regular table sugar.
Isomalt is a sugar substitute created from combining two sugar alcohols or mannitol and sorbitol, derived from beets. Providing only 50% the calories of regular sugar, it is not absorbed by the body
That being said, sugar alcohols are still carbohydrates and many are still absorbed by digestive system and few can still spike blood sugar levels. Additionally, due to the difference in digestion that occurs with sugar alcohols, when consuming large quantities, it’s been noted to cause gas, bloating and abdominal pain.
Artificial Sweeteners (aka: synthetic sweeteners)
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes. In some instances they they may be derived from naturally occurring substances, like sugar itself. Artificial sweeteners are also known as intense sweeteners because they are many times sweeter than sugar. Commonly known artificial sweeteners are Aspartame (brand names: Equal® and NutraSweet Natural™) as well as Sucralose (brand Splenda™)
Artificial sweeteners are an attractive alternative to sugar because they add very little calories to your diet. Also, due to its sweetness level exceeding that of sugar, you only need a fraction of artificial sweeteners compared with the amount of sugar you would normally use for sweetness.
Natural Sugar Substitutes
Natural Sweeteners are derived from natural sources and include honey, agave nectar, maple syrup and yacon syrup which are often favored for being more natural or less processed than table sugar.
Other than honey, due to it being made by bees regurgitating flower nectar, the above are all vegan sweetener options.
However, all of the above are currently required by the FDA to be listed as Added Sugars on the nutrition label to ensure consumers are aware of the addition of sugar from these products and their contribution to their total daily diet.
There are additional natural sweeteners, however that are neither a sugar alcohol nor do they count as added sugars, due to they way your body processes them.
Monk Fruit, also known as Lo Han Guo, is a small green melon native to Southern China and is named after the monks who first cultivated it centuries ago. This sweetener is now often used in food and beverages because it is 150-250x sweeter than table sugar, has zero calories and carbs, and does not impact blood sugar/glucose levels. You can read more here.
Allulose, also known as d-psicose, is a low-calorie epimer of the monosaccharide sugar fructose - and is considered a “rare sugar”. It can be found naturally in small quantities in fruits like figs and raisins. It is about ~70% the sweetness of regular table sugar, only 1/10th the calories, and has little to no increase to blood sugar levels . You can read more here.
Chicory: Chicory is a root plant that contains a natural vegetable fiber, called Inulin in its roots. It’s a prebiotic fiber, meaning it feeds the good bacteria in your gut, which aids in lowering inflammation and strengthening the immune system.
Cassava: Cassava is a root vegetable that should not be eaten raw as it contains high levels of cyanide, but when cooked it can be a great source of complex carbohydrates and vitamins. At four grams of fiber per cup of cassava in its whole form, cassava can be a great source of fiber.
Jerusalem Artichoke: The Jerusalem Artichoke, also known as the sunchoke, belongs to the sunflower family. They are known to be very high in vitamins, potassium, iron, and fiber!
Note: Fibers, when consumed in excess can cause gas and bloating and abdominal pain.
When it comes to snacking, we all have our own systems in place. Whatever approach you decide to take is your call to make, but with popular diets - many snacks and ingredients get cut from consideration quickly.
We should all be aware of what we put into our body - however, many are required to monitor everything they eat! Sweets and snacks are no exception to those who strictly follow a diet to protect their health.
Let’s consider some of the major diets and conditions that require restricted diets.
Keto: “Ketogenic” is a term for a low-carb diet. The idea is for you to get more calories from protein and fat and less from carbohydrates. You cut back most on the carbs that are easy to digest, like sugar, soda, pastries, and white bread.
Vegan and/or Vegetarian: A vegan diet excludes all meat and animal products (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy and eggs), whereas a vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, ﬁsh and seafood.
Flexitarian: Flexitarians predominantly eat a vegetarian diet, but occasionally will eat meat or fish. The general split is roughly 80/20.
Paleo: Paleo is a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.
Whole30: Whole30 is a 30-day elimination diet that involves avoiding certain foods that, according to the founders, can cause inflammation and cravings, and negatively affect hormones and gut health
OU Kosher: An OU symbol on a product indicates that the product contains neither dairy nor meat, nor any dairy or meat derivatives. Additionally it was not made on any dairy or meat equipment as well that is not certified as kosher.
Required (Body Intolerance)
Diabetic Diet: It’s recommended for diabetics to eat lots of veggies, with whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, fruit, and healthy fats. They should also cut back on fried foods, sweets, sugary drinks, and salty or extra fatty foods - with the likely need to eat every few hours to keep their blood sugar levels steady
Lactose Intolerance: Caused by an enzyme deficiency, lactose intolerance is a partial or total inability to digest lactose, which may result in abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea after consuming milk and other dairy products.
Celiac (Gluten Free): Those with Celiac disease are unable to eat gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, as it will trigger an immune response in their small intestine. As such, their diet consists of eating only whole foods that don't contain gluten, such as fruits, vegetables, meat and eggs, as well as processed gluten-free foods like gluten-free bread or pasta.
Chocolate Flavor & Taste
Last, and certainly not least - taste is crucial to be included in a ranking of sweets and snacks. I’m shocked how many lists are out there, authored by individuals who have yet to try the product they are ranking.
Yes, I have tried every single one of the below brands and will share my favorite bar from each brand!
Nebula Snacks is the n00b startup on the block and after taking a hard look at what was available decided to make the changes necessary for truly out of this world delicious zero sugar chocolate bars.
A tagline of “Chocolate that Won’t Weigh You Down” - they removed all the sugar and instead opted to use natural sugar substitutes allulose and monk fruit - making their chocolate bars keto & diabetic friendly as both sweeteners have none or a negligible increase to blood sugar. The recipe additionally has no artificial ingredients or sugar alcohols!
Nebula launched with a zero sugar bold cocoa oat milk chocolate and a rich sugar free dark chocolate and are working on new flavors now!
Furthermore, these bars are dairy free and would make a perfect treat for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan/vegetarian!NEBULA ZERO SUGAR OAT MILK & DARK CHOCOLATE
ChocZero, launched in 2016, was the first sugar free chocolate candy bar company, I noticed that did not use sugar alcohols. Their goal is to promote a low sugar lifestyle with high quality ingredients - not a diet as eating chocolate shouldn’t taste like a punishment, but like a reward.
Sugar Free keto-friendly surrounds their logo as they boast a variety of different chocolate squares and barks; including dark, milk and white chocolates - as well as limited edition seasonal flavors, like Pumpkin.
Using monk fruit as their only sweetener, ChocZero squares and bark are not only a keto chocolate, but are diabetic friendly as well, as they should have a negligible impact to your blood sugar levels.
While they use dairy in some of their sugar free milk chocolates, they also offer vegan options on their site to those looking to be dairy free!My Recommendation: ChocZero’s Dark Chocolate Bark with Hazelnuts and Sea Salt on Amazon
Reigning from Quebec, Theobrama Chocolat has put together delicious organic zero sugar treats, with their chocolate mini batons, that don’t use any artificial ingredients or sugar alcohols. With the philosophy "Make good chocolate, the good way”, Theobrama balances high quality organic ingredients keeping in mind fair sourcing practices.
With GMO-free and gluten-free chocolates as their main focus, they also use the cassava root to sweeten their snacks. Cassava is an allergen friendly natural sweetener that is high in dietary fiber.
Their dark chocolate mini batons come packed with 14g of fiber pr 30g of chocolate! The only con would be to avoid eating too many pieces as too much fiber may not sit kindly.My Recommendation: Join the Waitlist for Their Mini Batons Here
Lily’s is probably the most well known sugar-free chocolate bar maker, present on the shelves today - recently acquired by Hershey’s in 2021. Started with the idea to kick sugar to the curb, Lily’s promotes the idea of “Less Sugar, Sweet Life” to their customers. The team at Lily’s, believes that regardless of your diet or cravings, sweets need no added sugar.
However, while Lily’s emphasizes that their chocolate is “Stevia Sweetened”, on their website and packaging, the majority of their sweetener blend is comprised of chicory root fiber (inulin) and the sugar alcohol, erythritol.
With a large serving of soluble inulin fiber as well as erythritol, you may experience bloating, gas and potentially abdominal pain.
My Recommendation: Lily’s 55% Chocolate Variety Pack on Amazon
Evolved Chocolate is out to prove that chocolate is food, not candy. Using no dairy, soy or cane sugar, Evolved doesn’t want to drag you down with poor ingredients.
Out of their Long Island facility in New York, they source high quality organic ingredients and opt to use unrefined coconut sugar when adding sweetness to their chocolate bars.
Amongst their variety of bars, Evolved offers a few keto options with no added sugar where they sweeten with Monk Fruit extract and Jerusalem artichoke fibers, also known as a sunchoke, which are high in inulin.
They have additionally offer additional snacking options such as keto peanut butter cups.
My Recommendation: Evolved Keto White Chocolate Dairy Free Chocolate Bar on Amazon
Chocolove, based out of the Rocky Mountains, only sources non-GMO verified ingredients. Going above and beyond, to deliver consistent great taste so their customers can feel great about eating Chocolove.
Known for their line of heart stamped chocolate bars, they released a no added sugar line of chocolates, using inulin from Chicory Root and Isomalt, a combination of two sugar alcohols, derived from beets to sweeten their bars.
There are a few grams of natural sugars in their bars, but include no added sugars from granulated sources or syrups.
The primary note of concern is the volume of fiber and isomalt included in their no added sugar bars, which ranges between ~26-45g of non-digestible sweeteners. This can cause an upset stomach, so would generally avoid eating an entire bar in once sitting.
My Recommendation: Chocolove XO Almonds & Sea Salt in 60% Dark Chocolate on Amazon
Lakanto Chocolate Bars
Lakanto, known for their sugar free sweeteners strives to bring chi to life by creating innovative, delicious, sugar-free products. The also offer sugar free chocolate bars, sweetened with their own proprietary monk fruit sweetener blend.
However, labeled as a monk fruit sweetener, the blend itself is primarily comprised of the sugar alcohol, erythritol.
To keep the sugar alcohol levels low with their non-gmo chocolate, Lakanto also uses tapioca fiber in their recipe to help bring the net carbs down.
My Recommendation: Lakanto Sugar Free Dark Chocolate w/ Crispy Cacao Nibs on Amazon
HU Kitchen Chocolate
Hu Kitchen is dedicated to the HUman, who eats it. Focused on health, welfare, and happiness of their customers - HU sources high quality non-gmo organic ingredients for their chocolate and snacks. As HU gained large scale popularity for their brown wrapped bars; Mondelez International acquired them in 2021.
HU only uses ingredients that are certified organic and for their milk chocolate, uses milk from grass-fed cows.
However, the sweetener of choice for HU is an unrefined coconut sugar, which is added to the chocolate in their formulation process. Generally, unrefined sugars have a lower glycemic response than refined sugar, but ultimately does not provide much nutritional value.
Per 42g of chocolate, the ‘Simple Milk Chocolate’ includes 12.6g of sugar, 8.4g of which is added!
However the HU Dark Chocolate is Vegan, and only uses 3 ingredients; Organic Cacao, Unrefined Coconut Sugar and Cocoa Butter.
Sugar Free Chocolate To Avoid
Hershey’s Zero Sugar Chocolate
In an effort to expand into ‘Better-for-You’ chocolate Hershey’s launched sugar free options in 2021. However, while advertised as Aspartame Free - Hershey’s opted to use the sugar alcohol, Maltitol, as their sweetener of choice.
However, despite it being a sugar alcohol, maltitol has been noted to still spike blood sugar levels and in the effort to compensate for no sugar it comprises 50% of their chocolate recipe — 42g of Hershey’s Zero Sugar Chocolate has 21g of Maltitol.
Russel Stover Sugar Free Chocolate
Owned by chocolate giant Lindt, Russel Stover released their sugar free chocolates a few years ago. Offering their dark chocolate mint patties, pecan delights and chocolate peanut butter cups in a sugar free capacity - they aim to be a better option for the low sugar community.
Similar to Hershey’s, Russel Stover advertises that their chocolate is Stevia sweetened, their first ingredient is also the sugar alcohol, Maltitol. They additionally compensate overtly for the lack of sugar with 15g of maltitol for 31g of sugar.
Other articles I have read had simp!y lite (I believe that’s the name) sweetened by Stevia, and rated higher than lily’s. Best price? Trader Joes. Half the price of whole foods.