One of the most common misconceptions that I hear from my clients and patients is that they aren’t allowed to eat sugar because they have been diagnosed with diabetes. Thank goodness, this isn’t the case! As highlighted by the American Diabetes Association, a diabetes diagnosis means that an individual should pay more attention to and focus on gaining better control of the amount of sugar eaten and how it is timed throughout the day. It isn’t a death sentence for those sugar-containing foods that you love!
To better understand, let’s talk a bit about what diabetes means. Insulin is a hormone found naturally in the human body and it is responsible for moving sugar from the blood to body tissues and muscles. When your body is unable to produce adequate amounts of insulin or it doesn’t respond to insulin normally, extra sugar is left in the blood. This leads to what we call diabetes, often diagnosed with the presence of high blood sugar following a blood test. As you probably know, this high blood sugar can lead to additional health problems, so it is best to get it under control as soon as you receive a diagnosis of diabetes. In addition, we can all strive to avoid adult-onset diabetes by living a healthy lifestyle.
The goal for treatment of diabetes is not to completely eliminate sugar from the body. The primary energy source for our bodies is actually sugar, often referred to as carbohydrates. Sugar can come in many forms including bread, pasta, rice, cereal, milk, yogurt, fruits, veggies, desserts, sweet drinks and many others. Rather than completely eliminate sugar from the diet, which would affect our energy levels, the goal is to establish an eating pattern that keeps sugar intake consistent and under control alongside balance among food groups, as described by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Often times, an individual diagnosed with diabetes has eaten really high amounts of sugars in the past and we just need to bring it down to a level that makes more sense for them. It doesn’t have to be low-carb, but rather carb-sensible. This involves strategic timing of carbohydrates throughout the day and blending of sugar-containing foods with protein. We also want to focus on high-quality foods that contain sugar naturally rather than foods with empty calories and added sugars. Let’s look at a couple potential scenarios to make this easier to conceptualize.
Breakfast: Glazed Donut, Coffee with Creamer
Snack: Low-Carb Protein Shake
Lunch: Steak Salad with Mixed Greens & Oil-Based Dressing
Snack: Mixed Nuts
Dinner: Spaghetti, Garlic Bread, Lemonade, Soda
Snack: Ice Cream with Caramel
Breakfast: Greek Yogurt, Peach
Snack: Clean Eatz Trail Mix Bar
Lunch: Clean Eatz Arnold Steak Bowl
Snack: Apple, Peanut Butter
Snack: Angel Food Cake with Strawberries & Peanuts
In Scenario #1, there are several concerns. First, there is no consistent carbohydrate intake throughout the day. Breakfast is packed with sugar, but then sugar intake is very minimal until dinner and evening snack, which are again loaded with sugar. The problem this causes is a spike in blood sugar early in the day, followed by a crash in the middle of the day and a second spike at the end of the day. This results in a rollercoaster of blood sugar levels, which could be coupled with physical symptoms like dizziness, light-headedness, nausea and fatigue—not to mention confusion about what foods are “safe” to eat. Another concern is the absence of protein intake with each meal and snack. The best way to stabilize blood sugar throughout the day is to have consistent small amounts of sugar coupled with protein every few hours. In this first scenario, the day starts out with no protein at breakfast, likely resulting in a crazy spike and drop in blood sugar from the very beginning of the day. The day just becomes more troublesome as it goes on.
In Scenario #2, we see consistent moderate amounts of carbohydrate strategically placed throughout the day and partnered with a source of protein each time. This empowers an individual with diabetes to see how their blood sugar responds to a consistent eating pattern and helps their doctor to make insulin dosage adjustments based on strategic timing of carbohydrate intake throughout the day. You can see that sugar-containing foods that are commonly enjoyed can still be included. Higher quality nutritional sources, like Greek yogurt that contains both carbohydrates and protein, are a great choice to include. You will find fruits and veggies sprinkled throughout the day in this second example in an effort to promote consistent fiber intake, which can also help to control blood sugar levels according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This scenario demonstrates how blending Clean Eatz meals and snacks with traditional home-prepared items can create an affordable meal plan that makes sense for a busy lifestyle. It is our goal at Clean Eatz to provide you with a variety of meal and snack resources to support your full day of healthy eating alongside other foods that you enjoy.
One of the great things about Clean Eatz is that we understand the importance of providing nutritional information for our meals and snacks. You will find a nutrition facts label for everything that we offer! This empowers each of our customers to made educated decisions on the meals and snacks that make the most sense for your wellness needs. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with diabetes, please consult with your healthcare provider and identify their recommendations for carbohydrate intake throughout the day that is matched with your insulin dosage. Once you have this information, you can browse our meal and snack menus and nutrition panels to find the best options to promote management of a diabetes diagnosis.
Crystal Zabka-Belsky, MS, RDN, CSSD, LMNT, LDN
Resident Dietitian, Clean Eatz Kitchen