This week a client sent us a picture of a box of “High Protein Bars” that said “Plant Based,” “vegan,” “gluten free,” “5g Sugar” and “naturally flavored” on the front. But the nutrition facts had “Sugar Alcohol 18g.” Our client had circled it in red and put a big question mark next to it.

What is Sugar Alcohol?

You might also see it labeled as mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol or hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH). But since consumers are starting to get smart about ingesting things they can’t say, “sugar alcohol” is the new, easy-to-say option when there is more than one sugar alcohol in a product. Sugar alcohol is found in sugar free processed food-like products. It does not raise blood sugar as much or have as many calories as sugar, but it tastes much sweeter.

Here are the down sides (there are more than one): They can cause bloating and diarrhea (fun) and because it tricks your brain into thinking you’re eating something sweet without actually getting the calories of something sweet, you are likely to eat more calories later to make up for it (the same is true of all fake sweetness).

Bottom line: Even though it is derived from a plant, it’s certainly not whole-food. Don’t be tricked by packaging that says all the right things on the front and hides the truth on the back. Run; don’t walk, to the produce section!

If you are ready to address how your food choices are negatively affecting your health, let’s set up a free get-to-know-you chat. Send me an email and let’s get you on track to taking control of your stress eating.

Email Dr Robyn @

Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at