Product Review: Simply Lite Sugar Free Dark Chocolate

A sweet tooth is one of the biggest struggles I see with people who are trying to lose weight or eat healthier. Dark chocolate carries several health benefits but many of them are lost or cancelled out when lots of sugar is added to the products. Now, I typically steer well clear of anything labeled “sugar-free” because I don’t do artificial chemical sweeteners, but I picked this up and saw that it contained none so I figured I would give it a try to see if it could be an alternative for chocolate lovers.

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How is it sugar-free?

Rather than sweetening this product with sugar, Simply Natural Foods sweetens the chocolate bar with sugar alcohols, maltitol specifically. Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar because they cannot be easily absorbed by your body. Maltitol in particular contains about half the calories of sugar but has a higher glycemic index than other sugar alternatives but a lower GI than sugar.¬† Therefore, it’s important not to overeat foods containing sugar alcohols and diabetics may want to consult with their physician on such products. Another factor that may persuade you to consume sugar alcohols in moderation is that they very often can have a laxative effect due to their poor absorption rate. In fact, the label on these chocolate bars contains an advisory to that effect.

How Do Simply Lite Bars Compare to Others?

I was curious about just how much of a difference there was between this and other comparable bars. So I put together a chart of other bars with similar cacao proportions and calculated each out to a 25 gram serving.

simply lite 100 cal 15g carbs 0g sugars

As you can see, Simply Lite indeed contains fewer calories (but not a lot fewer) but slightly more carbohydrates than other bars. The product label includes a net carb calculation that subtracts both the grams of fiber (3) and the carbs from the maltitol (11) from the total carb count, leaving 1 g of net carbs. It states that they subtract maltitol’s carbs from the total because “its conversion requires little or no insulin and does not cause an appreciable increase in serum glucose levels”. As stated above, it is true that maltitol bears a significantly lower glycemic index than sugar, but it is important for diabetics to take into account their total carbohydrate consumption. However, for those watching carbs as part of their diet (keto, South Beach, what-have-you), the net carb count is helpful.

Flavor and Texture

I didn’t dislike the flavor of the Simply Lite bar but it was obviously different from a sugar-sweetened bar. Ever so slightly less sweet perhaps? Hard to put my finger on but my thought was “meh”. It doesn’t have a chemically taste though, which is nice. The texture is on the drier, more crumbly side than other bars. It reminded me a little bit of the texture of Mexican stone ground chocolate. It lacks that creamy, satisfying mouth feel that other chocolates have but part of that is due to the cacao concentration – the more cacao, the less creamy and the more bitter.

Inulin

One of the ingredients listed on this product is inulin, a vegetable fiber that is commonly added to processed foods to increase their fiber content. This may be why Simply Lite’s fiber content was slightly higher than that of other chocolate bars. This higher fiber content also lowers the net carbs and glycemic impact of the food. One thing to note about this ingredient is that overeating it can also cause some gastrointestinal upset, including gas, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.

In Conclusion

While this bar may be an alternative for those with a sweet tooth who are looking to cut down their sugar intake, there are several trade-offs made with Simply Lite’s chocolate bar. With two ingredients known to cause gastrointestinal upset when consumed too much, it’s important to limit your consumption of this product, unless you don’t mind some extra time in the bathroom. The taste and texture are definitely not the same as “the real thing” so some may not be big fans of this alternative. My final verdict on this is that I would rather buy regular dark chocolate and make sure that I’m enjoying it in small amounts.

Why #noexcuses is not healthy

Knowing that I’m opening myself up to criticism here, I’m going to share something with you. Back in August, I completely stopped working out and didn’t start back up again for about 3 months. At first, it just kind of happened, – I would skip a fitness class here or there. But then I made a conscious decision and said “I have too much going on right now. I’m going to stop working out for a bit.” At the time, to say that I had a lot going on would have been a massive understatement. I was barely keeping my head above water and I knew that what little time I had I needed for rest… at least for the time being.¬†Long story short, I only started putting together a regular workout schedule again nearly 3 months later.

I’m not perfect (far from it) and I share many of the same struggles my clients work through. That gives me a very important perspective: I get it.

I hid this fact about me and I felt embarrassed about it and even ashamed of it. Who would want to work with a health coach who wasn’t even forcing herself to work out? The more I thought about it, though, I realized I would want to work with that coach because they’re a real person, too. I’m not perfect (far from it) and I share many of the same struggles my clients work through. That gives me a very important perspective: I get it. So I’m OK with my decision and with my struggle to get back into it.

One thing I noticed while I was making that decision not to work out is that I was literally being bombarded by an Instagram feed full of gym pics and #noexcuses. And if I logged into Pinterest, it would have been the same thing. I realized that I really freakin hate that hashtag and I’ll tell you why.

To say #noexcuses implies that there is never a reason not to workout. It then follows that, if there is never a reason not to work out and you come up with one, then you are somehow failing or being lazy. How is that healthy? Spoiler: it’s not.

#noexcuses is part of that fitness extremism known as fitspo or fitspiration – pictures of thigh gaps, gym selfies, and fad diet miracle before-and-afters. In general, this trend creates a constant striving for largely unattainable physical perfection characterized by extreme behaviors and unhealthy habits. The focus is entirely on looks. It engenders self-hatred and depression because it pushes constant comparison to others. What makes #noexcuses even more destructive as part of this paradigm is that it is based on blame and inferiority. To say #noexcuses implies that there is never a reason not to workout. It then follows that, if there is never a reason not to work out and you come up with one, then you are somehow failing or being lazy. #noexcuses also implies that whatever reason you have to skip your workout is unimportant, insignificant, so just get over it. How is that healthy? Spoiler: it’s not. #noexcuses is the stuff unhealthy body image and disordered eating and exercise habits are made out of.

Life is not all black and white. Fitness doesn’t have to be either/or. It’s not that either you work out every day or you’re lazy. That’s just not how it works, regardless of what the #noexcuses crowd would have you believe.

Your body needs rest just as much as it needs movement. Obviously, there is a difference between a reason and an excuse. That I’m mentally and physically exhausted and I don’t have the time are reasons. That I can’t find a hair elastic is an excuse. But on the days when you need a rest, take a rest and don’t feel guilty about it. When you don’t have time, don’t make yourself crazy trying to find time. Sometimes, it’s just that simple – there is no time.

Here is the truth. No one is perfect and even those #noexcuses people skip their workouts. They also drink beer and eat pizza. But they don’t tell you that because they need you to believe that they are perfect. Maybe some of them are good-intentioned and hope that their perfect image will somehow motivate someone. And I’m sure there are some folks out there who do find it motivating. But, in reality, it’s likely that it’s making more people feel like garbage.

There are excuses, there are reasons, there are needs. What is more important than hitting the gym without exception is listening to your body and what it needs. What’s important is that when you get out of your workout habit, you find a way to get back into it. That right there is often the hardest part. And that’s OK and that’s normal. You are not defective if you struggle to get back to the gym. You and your body are capable of amazing things. Listen to your body. Take what you need. Do what you need. And don’t let the Internet dictate your worth.