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Artificial Sweetener 101: what you NEED to know

We’ve all been there, looking to shed a few pounds before "bikini season" or before a big event just around the corner. This then leaves us vulnerable to the marketing traps: “sugar free” or “fat free” labels stamped all over the 100 calorie snack packs that we don’t hesitate to throw in our cart. However, can these calorie cutters be causing our bodies more harm than good?

With all the contradicting information out there, it may be difficult to understand the benefits or danger of these sugar free alternatives. It is overwhelming even for a nutrition expert AKA a dietitian. Let’s break it down:

The research:

While you may be cutting excess calories and reducing your overall sugar consumption, there is a tradeoff of putting potentially harmful ingredients into your body. Some early studies done in humans and animals found that artificial sweeteners had adverse effects, actually resulting in excess weight gain. Contradicting that statement, were 2 studies done studying aspartame (a specific artificial sweetener). One at Duke University and the other and The University of Illinois, found in a double-blind controlled study that the adverse effects claimed by the groups were not scientifically proven. The placebo group had more “side effects’ which therefore proved these effects could not have come from aspartame alone. But that only studied one type of artificial sweeteener. There are hundreds that are snuck into products on our shelves that we deem as "healthy".

My recommendation:

Because there is not enough research out there yet to suggest avoiding artificial sweeteners it is not harmful to consume in moderation. From a dietitian’s perspective it may be easier to go back to the basics… eating a diet full of nutritious and whole foods while still enjoying your favorite treats (no restricting)! 80/20 wins again! So, while sugar free alternatives may not be my number one recommendation for your health and wellness goals, they can be implemented every so often with the 80/20 rule. If you want a spoonful of sugar in your morning coffee, go for it! Life is too short! Just strive for balance throughout your day of eating, sugar is not the enemy!


One form of sugar is NOT healthier than the other! Sugar is not evil in small doses and the source of sugar is not as important as the amount you eat :)

- Authentic maple syrup

- Coconut sugar

- Dates (great for smoothies & desserts!)

- Banana

- Local honey ( also great for immunity)

- Date syrup

Written By: Gabrielle Romero

Also, if you want to find clarity regarding what your body needs nutritionally to feel your best, I’m here for you. As a dietitian and health coach, I help people figure out a way of eating that helps them optimize their health in the long term, without a dieting or weight focus. I am currently offering free initial nutrition sessions for new clients, so to learn more about me or to schedule your free session, click here.


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