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Diabetes Diet: The Sweet Truth About Sugar

A spoon in a sugar bowl.

Should a person watching their blood sugar actually eat sugar as part of their diabetes diet? It’s a good question. And, diabetics need to know that their sweet-eating days don’t have to be behind them, if they are willing to practice moderation. A diabetes diet doesn’t have to be sugar-free.

Research studies have shown that meals which contain sugar do not make the blood sugar rise any higher than other meals with equal carbohydrates, such as rice and pasta. However, if the sugar-containing meal contains more carbohydrates (carbs), the blood sugar level will go up.

It’s normal for the blood sugar to rise after you eat. For an average person, it may rise between 135 and 140 mg after food is consumed. But for a diabetic person, numbers that escalate above 180 mg are considered high. On the other hand, blood sugar that drops below 65 is too low, and you’ll need to munch on something to help bring it back up.

Ultimately, as a diabetic person, you have to be strategic about how you balance your meals for the day. You could eat a big slice of cheese cake, but how will it fit in with the rest of your calories and carbs? Managing your diabetes means eating the right portions of protein, carbohydrates, fruit and veggies. The more consistent your diet is, the steadier your blood sugar, and the healthier you’ll be. And eating high-sugar foods on a regular basis is just not part of the plan.

Things you can do to keep your sweet tooth happy:

  • If you must eat sugar, choose low-fat frozen yogurt, gingersnap cookies, fig bars or graham crackers and substitute it for other carbs in your meal plan.
  • Eat a very small portion of your favorite sweet dessert.
  • Substitute sugar-free alternatives, from sugar-free hot cocoa to unsweetened, fruit popsicles.
  • Split sweets with a friend when you go out to restaurants.
  • Observe the effect of different sugars and sweets on your blood glucose levels. Let this information help you decide what sweets to eat in moderation.
  • Note the amount of sugar and carbs in your favorite dessert, and decide with help from your dietician when and how often you can indulge.

Discuss sugar doses with your dietician to help maintain normal range blood sugar levels.

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