What you see above are four bottles of “Sugar Free Syrup” from my local supermarket. But as the labels show, all sugar-free syrups are not created equal. It’s no wonder we have such a hard time deciding, and I can’t blame Katy for going with the real stuff — at least then she knows what she’s getting. (Yes, as I went through this exercise, I thought of a Bigfoot blog from over four months ago…).
You can click on the image for a closer look, but here are the key take-aways, as I see them:
- Cary’s Sugar Free Syrup: 12 carbs, 0 sugars, 11 sugar alcohols. Net carbs: 12 – 11 = 1
- Log Cabin Sugar Free : 8 carbs, 0 sugars, 7 sugar alcohols. Net carbs: 8 – 7 = 1
- Shop-Rite (store brand) Sugar Free Syrup: 11 carbs, 10 sugar alcohols. Net carbs: 11 – 10 = 1
- Vermont Sugar Free: 5 carbs, 4 sugar alcohols. Net carbs: 5 – 4 = 1
(Someone, somewhere, spread the word that carbs from sugar alcohols, and sometimes from fiber, don’t count.)
Now, let me say first off that I believe the whole sugar alcohol/net carb thing is a crock of shit. Seriously. A bag of sugar-alcohol-sweetened candies once led me to an uncomfortably intimate encounter with a public restroom (see also: laxative effect).
Cary’s is the veteran of the pack. They were probably the first to make sugar-free syrup, way back in the 80s, and are generally the sugar-free syrup of choice at places like Denny’s, IHOP, and most diners. Its age in the business is shown by the label which fits it to an exchange diet. But the top-line carb count of this brand is the worst. I’m sure it used to be lower, back when they sweetened with aspartame, but there’s something weird about the labeling of sucralose-sweetened products, and I can’t quite figure how to work it. It was also the highest price.
Next highest on the price-chart was the Vermont brand. I could probably live with a measly 5 carbs, even without subtracting anything from it. I’ve had it before; it flows like water and is hardly the syrup-y consistency people have grown to expect. But I don’t like sticky lips and sticky utensils, so that doesn’t quite bother me.
The Log Cabin was on sale, which pushed the iconic brand below Vermont. The marketing side of my brain (the lowest grade of all that I got in any college class was in Marketing, by the way) tells me that they’ve got a reputation to protect and they wouldn’t put their name on a jar of maple-flavored juice. With more than 50% more top-line carbs, though, there could be consequences.
As expected, the store brand was the cheapest, but also nearly tied for the highest on the carb-scale.
Unless you think they’re all tied on that scale — at one.
After pondering these bottles for nearly an eternity (while I took pictures and other shoppers grew suspicious), I elected to take the Log Cabin. My rationalization: it’s mostly for my non-D son who can afford the carbs, and if I use it, I don’t come close to the 1/4 cup serving-size anyway. Plus, I was curious, and it was relatively cheap.
With all the varieties available (there were one or two more), how am I supposed to choose? Is there something else on the label I shoud look at?
By taste? I haven’t made a shopping decision based on taste in years. Sad but true.
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PS: Katy, I now understand the dilemma of pancake syrup-buying, and fully support your decision to choose whatever your palette desires and whatever your mind can comprehend.
PPS: If you’re reading this out loud (or aloud in your mind), it’s pronounced SEER-up. Remember, I’m from New Jersey. Saying “SIR-rup” is just weird.
PPPS: When I think of syrup, I think of waffles. When I think of waffles, I think of that place on the boardwalk at Seaside Heights that I used to always pass with the sign boasting “AFFLES / ICE CREAM / UNCH”. (Not a typo, the W and L had fallen off). Now I’m sad, because of what Hurricane Sandy did there last year, and what a raging fire is doing to my teenage stomping grounds right now.