Diabetes Q+A: Fruit

Question: I have pre-diabetes and am trying to learn about carbohydrate and sugar.  Does the sugar in fruit count as sugar?

Answer: When dealing with diabetes all carbohydrates should be considered; including sugar. Fruit contains naturally occurring sugar that counts toward your total carbohydrate intake. Therefore it is important to pay attention to  portion sizes. Choose small apples and oranges, and eat 1/2 cup of cut fruit at a time.

Fruit has many nutritional benefits and includes important vitamins and minerals as well as fiber.  Include fruit in your diet daily.


Diabetes Q+A: Food Bars + Shakes

Question: I was diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago.  I’m wondering about those bars and shakes I see advertised for people with diabetes.  Are they good to use?  Sometimes I’m out and need a snack or quick lunch.

Answer: Bars and shakes can be used  for convenience if chosen appropriately. They can be a helpful way to make sure you are eating all your meals and snacks.  Eating regularly is  important to maintain a stable blood sugar level. However, be sure to read the nutrition facts label. Any bar, whether it be formulated for a person with diabetes or not, may be high in calories and/or fat. Keep this in mind when choosing one of these products for a snack. Choose a product with the same amount of calories that you would normally have eaten. Along with checking the calorie content also check for a protein. Using a product that has a good amount of protein will help to keep you full longer. Lastly, choose a product moderate in carbohydrates.

One downside to using diabetic products is the cost. Some of these items can get pricey. With a little planning ahead you can bring snacks from home such as a yogurt or a piece of fruit and some cottage cheese.

Always read food labels and use your judgment when choosing any food or product. Also, checking your blood sugars regularly will help you to learn what foods are tolerated best.

Diabetes Q+A: Gluten Free Carbohydrates

Question: I have type 2 diabetes and just found out I have gluten intolerance. I haven’t been able to figure out what I can eat. I have been leaving grains out of my diet.  What should I do?

Answer: Grains are an important part of your diet and do not need to be avoided completely. For gluten intolerance or Celiac disease avoid gluten containing grains.

Gluten is found in some carbohydrate foods but not all of them. Examples of gluten containing foods include: wheat, barley, rye, bulgar, couscous, farina, duram, spelt, semolina.

Non-gluten containing grains and other foods to include in your diet are rice, corn, potatoes, beans, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, lentils, soy, nuts.

When choosing non-gluten containing carbohydrate foods continue to watch your portion sizes as you normally would to help manage your Diabetes.

Diabetes Q+A: Starchy Veggies

Question: Is it ok to eat peas & carrots if you have diabetes?  I heard to avoid those two veggies.

Answer: There are two types of vegetables; starchy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables are higher in carbohydrates than non-starchy vegetables and should be considered when counting carbohydrates. Non-starchy vegetables do not have a significant amount of carbohydrates in them. Therefore, they do not need to be considered in your carbohydrate allowance.

When choosing either peas or carrots consider the following. Peas are a starchy vegetable. One serving of peas equals half a cup. Consider this when counting your carbohydrate servings.  Carrots are a non-starchy vegetable. Filling your plate with non-starchy vegetables such as carrots can help to fill you up by adding nutrients and fiber to your meal which may aid in weight loss.

All vegetables contain important nutrients. Both peas and carrots as well as a variety of vegetables should be included in your diet.

Diabetes Q+A: Frozen Dinners vs. Eating Out

Question:  Since I live alone, I rarely cook (if ever).  I have type 2 diabetes and I’m wondering which is better… eating frozen dinners or restaurant food?

Answer:  Anytime you are not preparing your own meals you have to be watchful of what is in them. The advantage to frozen dinners is they are portion controlled and have the nutrition facts listed on them. However, they can be high in sodium and may need added vegetables. Choose meals that are low in fat and sodium. And, of course, check the carbohydrate servings.

Unfortunately, restaurant food does not come with a food label. Some restaurants  list nutrition facts on the menu but many do not have this information. Ask your server how the food is prepared. Pay attention to portion sizes and estimate carbohydrate servings. Stop Eating when you are full. Be mindful of side dishes and include plenty of vegetables. Avoid fried foods. Order dressings, sauces, and gravy on the side.  When possible ask for your food not to be cooked with added butter or salt.

Diabetes Q+A: Is Diabetes Reversible?

Question: My 45 year-old husband with type 2 diabetes a few months ago. Is it true that you can reverse diabetes?

Answer:  Once you are diagnosed with diabetes it cannot be reversed. However, diabetes can be controlled.  Making lifestyle changes, such as diet, can help to keep blood sugar within normal ranges. Speaking with a Registered Dietitian can help you to learn what diet changes can be made.

If  blood sugar is maintained within normal range through lifestyle changes this does not mean you have reversed your diabetes. It means you have done an excellent job at managing your diabetes. Blood sugar can still rise out of normal range if healthy lifestyle changes are not maintained. Following a carbohydrate controlled diet, exercising, monitoring your blood sugar, taking prescribed medications, and following up with your doctor are the best ways to work toward controlling your diabetes.

Diabetes Q+A: Sugarless Candy

Question: My doctor recently diagnosed me with type 2 diabetes. I know it is important to watch my sugar intake. Is sugarless candy really sugarless?

Answer: Sugar-free candy and other products that are labeled as sugar free, sugarless, or no added sugar may contain sugar alcohols.

A sugar alcohol is a type of carbohydrate that occurs naturally in certain plant based foods. It is converted to glucose more slowly than sugar but may still have an effect on blood glucose. The important thing is to pay attention to the total carbohydrate listed on the nutrition facts label.

If the term sugar free is used the manufacturer is required to list the grams of sugar alcohols on the nutrition facts label. If you are considering a sugar free product check the nutrition facts label for grams of sugar alcohols. The American Diabetes Association suggests subtracting half the grams of sugar alcohols from the total grams of carbohydrate to determine the servings of carbohydrate in that food.

Checking the ingredients list can also be beneficial. Examples of sugar alcohols or polyols include mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, erythritol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysate. If you see any of these names in the ingredients the food contains sugar alcohols and the grams of sugar alcohols should be listed on the nutrition facts label.

Sugar alcohols should not be confused with artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are not carbohydrates and are not required to be counted toward the total carbohydrates. Examples of artificial sweeteners include saccharin, ascelfume potassium, aspartame, and sucralose. If you see these names in the ingredient list it means artificial sweeteners were used to sweeten this food.

Sugar free foods can fit into your diet. The American Diabetes Association suggests using foods containing sugar alcohols moderately and not excessively. Aim to include whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as the main source of carbohydrate in your diet.