NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Last week we shared three chocolate finds that won’t spike your blood sugar. These sweet treats are deliciously indulgent – they look and taste close to the real thing – yet they’re surprisingly low in net carbs.

But what exactly does ‘net’ carbs mean?  Also referred to as impact carbs, net carbs will often be listed on the labels of foods made with plant-based zero-calorie sweeteners and fiber-rich ingredients.

But it can be confusing, so we’re taking this opportunity for a little education on how to calculate net carbs, and just how this fits in with your daily allotment of carbohydrates.


Most carbs have four calories per gram. But sugar alcohols in food changes the ‘rules’ about counting carbs.

Sugar alcohols are used as reduced-calorie sweeteners; examples include erythritol, maltitol, xylitol, sorbitol

On average, sugar alcohols provide about half the carbs and calories of regular sugar. But sugar alcohols like erythritol have less than 0.0002 calories per gram.

Step-by-Step Guide to Carb Counting:

  • Subtract fiber from total carbohydrates
  • Then – if a food has 5 or more grams of sugar alcohols per serving, subtract HALF the grams of sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrates.
  • Example: If a food has 25 grams of carbs and 18 grams of sugar alcohol, subtract 9 grams from the total, yielding 16 grams of ‘impact’ or ‘net’ carbs. See for more examples.

EXCEPTION: For erythritol (e.g. Swerve or Truvia), subtract ALL of the sugar alcohol from the total carbohydrates.

EXAMPLE | Lily’s Chocolate

45 grams total carbohydrate – minus 25 grams fiber – minus 13 grams erythritol plant-based sweetener  => 7 net carbs per chocolate bar


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Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD is a registered dietitian + nutrition journalist in New Orleans, and founder of Ochsner Eat Fit nonprofit restaurant initiative. Tune in to her podcast, FUELED | Wellness + Nutrition and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @MollyKimballRD. See more of Molly’s articles + TV segments at, and sign up for Eat Fit Wellness Bites weekly newsletter, here.