Think John Kelly Chocolates but without the sugar.
September 19, 2012 12:39 PM   Subscribe

I *love* buying chocolates or candy for friends and family on special occasions. It's kind of my thing, and the fancier the better. The problem is I have a diabetic in the family, and I want to send them something to celebrate an anniversary. Is there such a thing as fancy sugar-free chocolate or candy? I need something nicer than a bag of sugar-free Lifesavers.
posted by phaedon to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Absolutely. Try a nice chocolate shop in the mall or similar. IIRC, See's usually has some sugar-free confections, too.
posted by codswallop at 12:43 PM on September 19, 2012

The word you are looking for is dietetic. If you search for dietetic chocolate, you will come across a lot of options including pre-made stuff and blocks of dietetic chocolate for making your own candies for them. (Source: I worked in the chocolatey business for a few years.)
posted by whatzit at 12:44 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


See's Candies
Anthony Thomas
posted by SMPA at 12:45 PM on September 19, 2012

Try to find out how well they tolerate sugar-free candy first. Some people get bloating and stomach upset from the sugar substitutes.
posted by Dragonness at 12:45 PM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

I would not assume that "sugar free" candy will be acceptable. Candy made with sugar alcohol (which allows them to call it sugar free) can be just as bad for some people as the real stuff. Maybe consider a high quality dark chocolate, which naturally has a low sugar content. I know some diabetics who do eat and enjoy dark chocolate as an occasional treat. If there is a significant other to check with, that would probably be best.
posted by Balonious Assault at 12:54 PM on September 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

I second dark chocolate. There are tons of fancy high end dark chocolates that are diabetic friendly. If they like chocolate, that is the way to go. Go to a fancy candy shop and the trendy ones will probably be flavored with sea salt and things like that.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:57 PM on September 19, 2012

I'm going to go against the grain here. The Americam Diabetes Association says:
Diabetic and “dietetic” foods generally offer no special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose levels, are usually more expensive, and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols.
And goes on to say that diabetics can eat sweets and chocolate as part of a balanced diet.

The diabetics in my life have expressed that gifts of 'special chocolates' suggest they can't be trusted with normal food, or the giver has no understanding of the disease.

Of course, some people do prefer dietetic flavors, but most find them...odd tasting. Call your relative, mention that you especially love to give chocolates, and do they have a favorite flavor (or concern). This allows you to avoid giving them the runs inadvertently.
posted by bilabial at 12:58 PM on September 19, 2012 [12 favorites]

My diabetic grandfather would eat dark chocolate for special occasions. He especially liked dark chocolate covered nuts. He told me once that he liked to be able to eat multiple pieces at one time. He especially loved the cocoa dusted type.
posted by Swisstine at 1:16 PM on September 19, 2012

Seconding dark chocolate, and also contacting your relative or someone who knows them well before purchasing.

If your relative's preferences and requirements allow dark chocolate: in widely-available chocolates of ~85% or more, I prefer Lindt and Dagoba. They have great smoothness (none of the chalk, wax, or grit textures you can get in cheaper varieties) and flavor.
posted by expialidocious at 1:38 PM on September 19, 2012

Type 1 or Type 2? If Type 1, they can (from my experience), eat regular chocolate and candy just fine, just not large amounts in one go. But if you're giving high quality stuff that shouldn't be a problem since it's usual to slowly savour, for example, some really nice chocolate rather than eating loads in one go.

Also apparently "diabetic" chocolate tastes like crap due to using sweeteners instead of sugar.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:46 PM on September 19, 2012

Yeah, I have Type 1 diabetes, and I have to nth everyone who says avoid "sugar-free" or "diabetic" chocolate.

It's a really sweet gesture, and you're obviously very considerate, but ultimately people with diabetes have to watch their carbs, which includes all sorts of things in addition to sugar. So often sugar free candy is actually worse because there's all sorts of junk in there to replace the sugar that can actually be worse on your blood glucose.

Plus, the sugar free chocolate often tastes disgusting and can cause major stomach issues.

Much better to just give some high quality dark chocolate and let your loved one slowly savor something delicious.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 2:01 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't go just plain dark chocolate, other ingredients can be problematic -- which is why a recommendation is a good idea in that case. Dark chocolate + nuts or bacon play less hell on my glucose than dark chocolate + pretzels or fruit, for example, but mileage and preference can vary a bit here.

And yeah, adding to the pile of "Don't even bother with dietetic anything unless you know they love it."
posted by gnomeloaf at 2:04 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to chime in to say that diabetics can eat "real" chocolate, and moreso if it's the good, dark stuff. I'm assuming you're talking about Type 2 diabetes, here. As a Type 1 diabetic, if I were to receive a box of sugar-free chocolates, I would thank you politely and then either donate it somewhere or pitch it in the garbage. Sugar-substitute chocolates have a tendency to taste terrible, cause stomach upset, and have the same number of carbohydrates as regular chocolate, which is mostly what matters when I'm calculating insulin dosage.

I find being given "diabetic" chocolate to actually be a very "othering" action; on one hand, it's nice that the person remembered and was thinking about me, but on the other hand it shows a limited knowledge of my condition and is pointing out in some way that I am not "normal" or that they think they know what I should be eating. I absolutely think it's lovely that you want to include your diabetic relative in your chocolate-buying, but I think pieces of the same thing others get, especially dark chocolate, is best. If Type 1, don't worry about pieces being small or dark, either.

Something that might be neat (though perhaps not what you want to do) is giving an excellent-quality cocoa that doesn't have much sweetness to it, or a Splenda-based, ritzy hot chocolate mix. I'm much more likely to use artificial sweeteners for baking or drinks.
posted by ilana at 2:08 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Vosges has a couple sugar free bars that look tasty.
posted by quiteliterally at 2:39 PM on September 19, 2012

Nut gift baskets?
posted by mail at 3:18 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dad is diabetic, and he loves sugar free chocolate. He has a huge sweet tooth, so it was a bummer for him to cut out sugar. I asked him about it recently, having read that diabetics can have some sugar in their diet, but he said that real sugar made him "feel like shit"

so, maybe get them some nice sugar free chockies, and then ask afterwards if they liked it, because some do
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:28 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I guess it depends on the person. My mom is Type II and loves sugar-free chocolate—keeps little Hershey's bags from the drugstore around for snacking, and has appreciated the fancy boxes on several occasions. I'm pretty sure Bissinger's is a fancy brand she has enjoyed, although I actually don't see any sugar-free offerings on their site right now.

She also drinks diet sodas and puts sweetener in her tea now, whereas before she was diagnosed she wasn't into soda at all and took her tea black. I asked her about this once, and she said, "I guess being diabetic changes your relationship to sweets."
posted by zadermatermorts at 3:46 PM on September 19, 2012

I'm a type 1 and stand with the "real chocolate" constituency.
posted by kestrel251 at 4:09 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

May I recommend ChocoPerfection? I've tried it -- it's delicious, low-carb AND sugar-free AND doesn't have the maltitol that's in most sugar-free chocolates and that acts as a laxative. It's actually downright healthy and tasty (not as tasty as normal chocolate, but still quite good).
posted by shivohum at 4:49 PM on September 19, 2012

My diabetic, chocolate-loving relative doesn't (can't?) eat "sugar free" chocolate. Instead he goes for tiny amounts of very dark, very good chocolate.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:40 PM on September 19, 2012

Blood sugar control is pretty individual. You run the risk of sending your relative something you've specially purchased that they can't eat but that can't easily be given away if it's not regular candy. Consider sending a non-food gift if you can't find out what your relative can eat/drink without problems.
posted by hat at 7:01 PM on September 19, 2012

I'm type 1 and agreeing with other type 1s about preferring real food. It would help to know more about your relative's particular situation since it kind of makes a big difference.
posted by chinston at 7:16 PM on September 19, 2012

Can I chime in here and suggest flowers? People can and do send other people flowers for their anniversaries. It's not weird. (full disclosure, I work for a florist.) Also, a lot of florists, mine included, have fancy chocolates for sale-sometimes in small boxes that would be a nice touch with a small bouquet.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:16 PM on September 19, 2012

It's a really kind idea, but you have to be careful with the "diabetic" chocolates. As others have mentioned, anything made with sugar alcohols can mess with blood sugar in weird ways. If you're not sure if something contains sugar alcohols, look for ingredients that end in -ol (malitol, erythritol, xylitol, etc.) If it has an -ol in it, I would avoid it. I would go with your normal choices and let the person regulate how much or if they choose to eat them on their own. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics can have some sugar in their diets - how much and when is set individually by the person and their doctor. What you'll often see is that the diabetic will make a conscious decision to not eat X so they can have Y - for instance, skipping a small orange juice at breakfast so they can have toast with jelly instead.

My husband has Type 1 (and I have several relatives with Type 2) and I know they are all uniformly appreciative of sweet gifts from folks. They just often have to eat them a bit more slowly over time than someone without diabetes. I know my husband would rather have "normal" sweets than the diabetic ones - it's so much easier to calculate his insulin dosage with normal sugars than sugar alcohols!
posted by RogueTech at 7:39 PM on September 19, 2012

Yeah I think your gifts sound amazing and personally would like to receive them, but this is one of those situations where your preference as a gift-giver have to take a backseat to the preferences of the gift-receiver, which -- let's face it -- is usually sort of the point of giving gifts in the first place.

So, everyone else gets wonderful gifts of amazing candy (yet again, I'd like to remind people of my interest in being included on this list), and this friend gets... something else entirely, that won't risk making them sick or reminding them of what they can't have.
posted by hermitosis at 8:08 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sees has terrific sugar-free chocolate. I buy it for my husband for Valentine's Day. The sugar-free peanut brittle is great. My husband is diabetic and can eat sugar-free candy in moderation.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 10:26 PM on September 19, 2012

I like the idea of chocolate-covered nuts, as something with protein in it (as well as sugar) might be better tolerated than something that's just loaded with sugar. The RD we saw when my partner was diagnosed with Type 2 told us that snacks should include some protein along with the carbs. Unless you know a lot about the person's condition and how stable it is, though, I think I'd probably give a different kind of gift, just to avoid the possibility that you give this lovely thing that the recipient can't have.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:38 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

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