The Basics of a Healthy Diabetes Diet
Sugar and Diabetes
You might have heard that people with diabetes shouldn't have any table sugar. While some health care professionals say that, others take a more forgiving view.
Most experts now say that small amounts of sugar are fine, as long as they are part of an overall healthy meal plan. Table sugar does not raise your blood sugar any more than starches do, which are found in many foods.
Remember that sugar is a carb. Substitute, don't add. When you eat a sugary food, such as cookies, cakes, or candy, substitute them for another carbohydrate or starch (for example, potatoes) that you would have eaten that day.
Make sure that you account for this in your carbohydrate budget for the day. Readjust your medications if you do add sugars to your meals. If you take insulin, adjust your insulin dose for the added carbohydrates so you can maintain blood sugar control as much as possible. Check your blood sugar after eating sugary foods.
Read food labels so you know how much sugar or carbohydrates are in the foods that you eat. Also check on how many calories and how much fat are in a serving.
Ultimately, the total grams of carbohydrates matters more than the source of the sugar.
Artificial Sweeteners and Diabetes
You can add artificial sweeteners to your food and to drinks without adding more carbs. Using non-caloric artificial sweeteners instead of sugar also greatly reduces calories in your favorite foods.
Keep in mind that foods with artificial sweeteners are not necessarily zero-carbohydrate foods. Many have carbohydrates, so read the food labels to check on that.
As long as you are aware of the carbohydrates, you can adjust your meal or medication to maintain blood sugar control.
"Sugar free" means no sugar has been added, but you must remember these foods still contain carbohydrates, which do affect your blood sugar.
Some artificial sweeteners -- such as xylitol, mannitol, and sorbitol -- have some calories and do slightly increase blood sugar levels.
The American Diabetes Association cautions that eating too much of any artificial sweetener can cause gas and diarrhea.
Stevia is another option. It's not an artificial sweetener, and it has no calories.
Alcohol and Diabetes
If you drink alcohol, only drink it occasionally and when your blood sugar level is well-controlled. Remember, most wine and mixed drinks contain sugar, and alcohol has almost as many calories as fat. It's a good idea to check with your doctor to ask if drinking alcohol is acceptable.