Healthy Eating

Food and blood glucose levels are intimately linked. Knowing what’s in the food you eat - the calories, carbohydrates, protein, and fatwill make it easier for you to manage your blood glucose levels.

For many people with diabetes, food is the biggest struggle.

The millions of us who have ever tried a “diet” know how hard it is to change how we eat. Diabetes is filled with food myths, starting with what causes diabetes. Have you ever been told that eating too much sugar gives you diabetes?

Sharon was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she
was 4 1/2 years old. Managing her diabetes at that
age was a real challenge! After a few months, her par-
ents had worked out a manageable blood testing and
injection schedule, and Sharon didn’t seem to mind too
much. The bigger problem was with food. Getting any
4-year-old to eat healthy foods is hard enough. How
would they ever manage a diabetes diet? And soon her
5th birthday would be coming up. Sharon’s parents
were concerned that she would forever be missing out
on many of the joys of childhood - birthday parties,
holiday dinners, and baking cookies - which all
seemed to work against her meal plan.

Adam had always had a problem keeping his
weight where he wanted it. And since he retired last
year, he’d gained a few more pounds. Now he and
Sarah were about to celebrate their 40th wedding
anniversary with a Caribbean cruise. But last month
he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. His diabetes
care provider thought he could manage it through
diet. But how could he ever stick to a diet while on a
cruise? Should he call it off?

Nancy was thoroughly enjoying her second preg-
nancy. She exercised every day - walking or swim-
ming - and ate a fairly balanced diet. She did give in
to temptation and had some ice cream every after-
noon, but it didn’t seem to cause any problems. The
baby was active and gaining weight at a steady pace,
and she was right on target in her weight gain. But a
routine glucose test during her 24th week showed that
she had gestational diabetes. Would the baby be all
right? She had already given up coffee and alcohol.

Now she would have to give up the ice cream. Could
she stand 3 months without any sort of special treat?

And the good-hearted people in your life may often remind you that you’re not supposed to eat sugar (also untrue; see the Diabetes: Myth or Fact). Most people need help knowing what’s true and what’s not about diabetes and food. Your time and money will be well spent if you decide to get some education from a registered dietitian or a certified diabetes educator.

“When I found out I had type 2 diabetes, I said ‘no’ to sugar. No more sugar in my tea; no more cakes, cookies, or pies; and no more jelly on my toast. I even switched from my favorite brand of peanut butter because it had sugar in it.”

These efforts have most likely made for a healthier meal plan. But you probably didn’t have to go to such extreme measures.

Sugar has long had a bad reputation, especially among people with diabetes. People used to think that eating sugar would cause blood glucose levels to rise much more rapidly than eating other types of carbohydrates, such as bread or potatoes. So although bread and potatoes were okay to eat, pure sugar or sugar-laden treats were considered taboo.

It turns out that sugar’s bad rap is not entirely deserved. Researchers are now finding that the extent to which blood glucose rises after eating carbohydrates is due to both the total amount of carbohydrate (all sources) and the type of carbohydrate. What also seems to matter in how quickly your blood glucose levels rise is the other foods you eat in combination with carbohydrates and how the food is cooked. Foods that include fat are digested much more slowly.

Foods that contain sugar can be part of your diabetes meal plan.

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