Canada's food guide

Sugar substitutes and healthy eating

Sugar substitutes are not needed to help you decrease the amount of sugars you eat or drink.

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Sugar substitutes in Canada

In Canada, sugar substitutes are regulated by Health Canada as food additives and are referred to as “sweeteners.” Sweeteners must meet strict controls to ensure their safety.

Sugar substitutes are allowed in foods such as:

  • candy
  • yogurts
  • soft drinks
  • fruit drinks
  • canned fruit
  • frozen desserts
  • bakery products
  • breakfast cereals
  • fruit spreads like jam

You can find out if a food or drink contains sugar substitutes by reading the ingredient list. Look for words such as:

  • xylitol
  • lactitol
  • isomalt
  • mannitol
  • erythritol
  • saccharin
  • aspartame
  • sorbitol and sorbitol syrup
  • maltitol and maltitol syrup
  • stevia extract and steviol glycosides

Sugar substitutes are not needed for healthy eating

People may rely on sugar substitutes to decrease the amount of sugars they eat or drink but they are not needed to make healthy eating choices.

Eating foods sweetened with sugar substitutes can make healthy eating more difficult, because foods and drinks with sugar substitutes:

  • may replace healthier foods
  • still taste sweet. Regularly eating foods that taste sweet can lead to a preference for sweet foods.

How to decrease your intake of sugars without sugar substitutes

Choose unsweetened foods and drinks.

Consuming unsweetened foods and drinks is especially important for children. Foods consumed at an early age can influence their taste preferences and lifelong eating habits.

Get used to having less sweetness in your food and drinks by:

  • choosing water instead of sugary drinks
  • reducing the amount of sugars you add to your coffee and tea
  • reading the ingredient list to find sources of sugars and choose foods with little to no sugars added
  • sweetening foods naturally by using fruits. Try this with:
    • yogurt
    • oatmeal
    • baked goods
  • adding flavour by using ingredients such as:
    • nutmeg
    • cinnamon
    • vanilla extract

Further reading

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