“On the Go with Sugar Free Kool-Aid”


Despite what the label clearly says, "Sugar Free," Kool-Aid is not sugar free. Its second most abundant ingredient is maltodextrin which is a sugar. Like the labels that hide small amounts of trans fat, the amount of sugar contained in the minuscule 1 gram serving size must be small enough to be rounded down to zero. In addition, it’s unlikely for most kids to be satisfied by the 8 ounces of Kool-Aid that this small serving size produces.

This product is supposedly a “sensible solution” because it only contains 5 calories per serving and contains synthetic vitamin C. However, the aspartame, preservatives, artificial flavors, and artificial coloring that it contains aren’t sensible at all. Aspartame in particular is especially not sensible and is a highly controversial artificial sweetener that’s often associated with a number of serious health problems including cancer and neurological disorders. As such, it should be regarded as a legitimate concern.

The word “sugar” is defined as: 1) sucrose which is a white crystalline sweet carbohydrate normally extracted from sugar cane and sugar beet, or 2) a generic term that includes any of a class of water-soluble carbohydrates with various degrees of sweetness. Using the first definition, manufacturers can claim that a product is “sugar free” if it contains less than 0.5 grams of sugar (sucrose) per serving. However, it can still contain other sweet carbohydrate mixtures such as molasses, dried cane juice, cane concentrate, high fructose corn syrup, or a variety of sugar alcohols like erythrol, mannitol, xylitol, etc. Sugar alcohols occur naturally or may be produced by hydrogenation of monosaccharides and disaccharides. Sugar alcohols usually provide only two calories per gram, rather than four calories per gram like other carbohydrates. If you are not familiar with chemical nomenclature, the total carbohydrate and sugars in the Nutrition Facts label gives you a good idea of the actual amount of sugars in a product. The example above shows a “sugar free” gum that says in small letters “not a low calorie food” and lists 2 grams of “sugar alcohols” which are listed as sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol in the ingredients. On a weight basis, 74% of this product is carbohydrate (2 grams out of 2.7 grams serving size).