How Much Sugar Can You Have on the Keto Diet?

How Much Sugar is Allowed on the Keto Diet?

How Much Sugar on Keto

Sugar and the keto diet don't get along, and that's not good news for fans of ice cream, black forest cake, and Swiss chocolate.

But just because sugar and keto are at odds with each other, it doesn't mean you need to send your sweet tooth off to the retirement home and resign yourself to a life of walnuts and coconut oil.

Finding a way to accommodate the sweeter side of life is one of the significant challenges facing anyone on the keto diet, but it's not an impossible dream. All it takes is a bit of persistence, a bit of imagination and some of today's fantastic sugar substitutes.

If you want to stay in ketosis you will do well to make sure you eliminate the following foods from your diet:

  • ​Wheat, rice, corn or cereals
  • Potatoes, yams and the like
  • ​Excessive amounts of fresh fruit such as apples and oranges
  • ​Sugar and common sugar substitutes like honey and maple syrup
no sugar sign on a spoon full of sugar

When it comes to the keto diet, the problem with sugar is easy to define: if you ingest sugar in sufficient quantities, your body will decide it has enough glucose to fuel it and will exit ketosis in a hurry to resume its default power producing mechanism.

That's it. 

So if you want to enjoy the many benefits of ketosis, then the question, "How much sugar per day on keto?" has a simple answer: "Zero."

That's the bad news.

The good news is, it doesn't necessarily mean you have to say goodbye to sweets. Just a particular kind of desserts.

And of course, you'll want to take up exercise as well.

Importance of Exercise for Depleting Glycogen Stores

gym work out

Since the answer to the question “How much sugar is allowed on keto?" is "zero," one of the first things you'll want to do when embarking on the keto diet and keto lifestyle is to start exercising.

Regular exercise at the beginning of the process will help you deplete legacy glycogen reserves [1], and this will help kickstart your body's transition to ketosis. 

You don't have to become a full-time gym rat, but you should engage in at least an hour of high-intensity exercise each day (if you are physically able of course).

The type of exercise will depend on your age and overall condition, and may include weight lifting, CrossFit, aerobics and more.

Following your workout keeps the focus on mineral supplementation and rehydration, and not in giving into your body's cravings for carbs.

Keep in mind too that while some high-intensity exercise is essential, too much can have a negative effect.

Too much exercise usually enters the picture when folks adopt a "more is better" attitude, e.g., "If I'm losing weight and getting into shape with one hour of exercise, imagine what would happen if I exercised for four hours a day!" 

What happens is physical and mental exhaustion and stalled weight loss.

In most cases, over-exercising also leads to binge eating as the person can no longer fight the body's cravings for nourishment and sugar binging as it's often the most comfortable, most emotionally satisfying way to satisfy carb cravings.

So to stay on the right course: Get in your hour of exercise, then head for the shower.

Exactly How Much Sugar on the Keto Diet?

The recommended daily sugar intake to stay on the keto diet is 0g.

This is because sugar will rapidly fill up your entire carbohydrate allowance for the day and can potentially kick you out of ketosis. 

We’ll explain: To stay keto compliant you want to limit carbs to about 20 grams per day. But just one tablespoon of sugar is 12.5 grams of total carbs already.

apple and donut on both hands

If you think you'll get around that with honey, think again. A tablespoon of honey is even worse at 17 grams of total carbs. By consuming only a bit of sugar or honey you have nearly used up your entire allotment of carbs for the day — just like that. 

You'll then be forced to watch your carb intake from other sources like a hawk or you'll be bumped out of ketosis.

So how much sugar can you have on keto? You should aim for zero.

But, as we said, that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge your sweet tooth.

The secret to enjoying sweets on the keto diet is to be smart about it — to acknowledge the reality rather than deny it and to keep the bigger picture in mind at all times.

So just what is the reality when it comes to sugar and keto?

Is it Possible to Have Sugar Cravings on Keto?

sugar

Sugar cravings on keto are not only possible — they’re likely. Especially if you have always had a bit of a sweet tooth.

As such, it's crucial to the long term success of your keto diet efforts that you find low-carb ways to satisfy your cravings for sweets.

That might sound like an impossible dream, but it's not really.

All it takes is an open mind and a little patience. Because patient repetition is the key to establishing new habits.

How Do I Stop Sugar Cravings on Keto?

Sugar cravings on keto can be stopped, but it might take a bit of time.

For some folks, substituting any of the below-listed alternatives for sugar does little but make them pine for the real thing. 

For these people, nothing short of eliminating sweets altogether from their diet will do.

The good news is that if you want to go the no-sweets route, it is possible, but it's going to take commitment and time.

blood sugar tester

What you'll need to do is find acceptable substitutes to reach for during the time when the cravings are at their most intense.

Some people lean on flavored teas or waters. Other people swear by pickles. A kosher dill, for instance, has about 3 grams of carbs and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Just be sure to choose pickles that don't have sugar added.

Remember, if you are still open to indulging your sweet tooth but just want to eliminate sugar, try any of the sugar alternatives we detailed in the section below. They’ll more than satisfy your cravings while keeping you keto compliant.

What Can You Eat on a Keto Diet When Craving Sweets?

no sugar

As we’ve seen already, the keto diet and sugar have something of an adversarial relationship. That’s because just a single teaspoon of sugar can max out your carb intake for an entire day.

The problem is that many of us in the West are raised on sweets, so eliminating them entirely from our diet in order to maintain ketosis and enjoy its benefits seems like asking a lot.

And in a way, it is. But it doesn’t have to be an endless walk across burning coals. It can be fun and tasty and extremely satisfying.

In this section, we're going to delve a bit deeper into non-sugar options that will enable you to indulge your cravings (within reason) while staying keto compliant.

Let's start with 3 incredibly simple low carb desserts that will rock your keto world.

1. Keto Chocolate Fat Bombs

Let's go straight for the sweet tooth jugular with our first option.

Keto chocolate fat bombs have a microscopic 1 gram of carbs and use Stevia to create a taste sensation that will satisfy even the most voracious sweet tooth.

They're also chock-full of beneficial fats and are gluten-free.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 oz dark chocolate cacao
  • 1/4 cup of coconut oil
  • 8 drops of all-natural Stevia

Directions:

  • Over low heat melt the chocolate in with the coconut oil.
  • Once fully blended, add the Stevia.
  • Pour the mix into your chosen mold and put them in the freezer for 20 minutes.

2. Keto-Friendly Peanut Butter Cups

If you love peanut butter and love rich, satisfying snacks then you're going to love these keto compliant peanut butter cups.

Besides being sugar-free, they're also dairy, gluten and vegan-free.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup organic peanut butter (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
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    2 drops of Stevia or equivalent non-sugar sweetener

Directions:

  • Over low heat melt the peanut butter in with the coconut oil.
  • Remove 1/4 of this mixture and set it aside.
  • Add the cacao powder and 2 drops of sweetener to the remaining mixture in the pan and blend.
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    Using half the mixture from the pan, drop a small amount into each mold.
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    Take the peanut/coconut oil mixture you set aside and divide it equally into the molds.
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    Take the rest of the mixture from the pan and top off the molds.
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    Pop them in the freezer until firm.

3. Strawberry Chocolate Cubes

This one is really easy to make and will provide the sweet fix you want along with the beneficial fats you need.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup sugar-free dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tbsp of coconut oil
  • 10 strawberries
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    1 ice cube tray
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    Dash of sea salt

Directions:

  • Melt the chocolate chips in a pan over low heat.
  • Stir in coconut oil and the sea salt.
  • Place a dab of the chocolate mixture into each cube of the tray.
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    Place 1 strawberry into each cube.
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    Pour the remainder of the chocolate mix into the cubes around the strawberry.
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    Place in freezer until frozen solid.

There are scores of keto friendly dessert and snack recipes on the web that will enable you to indulge your sweet tooth without bouncing out of ketosis. The above is just to get you started. Now let’s take a look at the sweeteners that will make your keto sweet dreams come true.

6 Viable Keto Friendly Sweeteners

Good sugar replacement to avoid diabetes

The glycemic index was designed to provide a way to measure the potential impact a particular food can have on blood sugar levels.

In the case of the keto diet, it can be extremely helpful in determining which sweeteners are keto friendly and which are not.

The following sweeteners each score zero on the glycemic index, making them perfectly acceptable alternatives to sugar.

  • Stevia - Stevia will not affect the glycemic index [2], meaning it won't contribute any carbs or calories to your diet. Stevia is most commonly used in liquid form, and recent advancements have removed what used to be a bitter aftertaste. As such, Stevia can be used in myriad ways to create keto friendly desserts and snacks that will send your sweet tooth to its happy place.
  • Swerve - Swerve is the keto friendly sweetener for those who love their baked goods. It can be caramelized and browned, and it has a GI impact of zero, meaning no carbs or calories. If you are looking for the ideal sweetener for your keto brownies then Swerve is the way to go.
  • Erythritol - Erythritol has a GI impact of zero although it will account for a tiny amount of calories; typically only about 6% of what you’d get from sugar. It’s not as sweet as some other sweeteners though so you need to be careful not to try and overcompensate by adding vast amounts to your recipes. If total sweetness is what you're after, use Stevia instead. Or else, use...
  • Monk fruit - Monk fruit is approximately 300 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a very long way. It has a GI impact of zero and will soon have you forgetting questions like "How much sugar can I have on keto?” [3]
  • Sucralose - Speaking of sweeter than sugar… Sucralose in its pure state is 600 times sweeter than sugar. So needless to say it doesn’t take much to transport you to sweet tooth nirvana. Sucralose will not leave a bitter aftertaste and, best of all for keto-ites, it is not metabolized by the body, so the glycemic index impact is zero.
  • Xylitol - Xylitol has been around for a while, and with the recent advent of the keto diet, it has enjoyed something of a market renaissance. It does pack a bit of a caloric/carb punch and so if you decide to use it do so with caution. A typical teaspoon contains 4 grams of carbs and 3 calories. Xylitol is probably best utilized in small doses to sweeten coffee or tea.

Our Final Thoughts:

The bottom line when it comes to how much sugar on keto is acceptable is zero. Especially since there are several high-quality sweeteners available today that will act as more than adequate stand-ins for sugar without bumping you out of ketosis in the process. 

Hopefully this article brings you the guidance you need in order to make your keto lifestyle successful as well as help you understand that it is not the end of your love for desserts and all good things in life.

About the Author

Ryan is a personal trainer, athlete, health enthusiast, and entrepreneur. He is researching and expanding his knowledge about the ketogenic diet. He spends most of his time writing content about his new learnings of the ketogenic diet and shares it on Ketogenic Supplement Reviews. You can find me on: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.