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10/29/21blog post

busting myths about diabetes and food

Being diagnosed with diabetes and figuring out how food affects your blood sugar can be complicated. It can be even harder when you hear different myths about what is “good” or “bad.” In this post, we’re busting a few top myths when it comes to diabetes and eating. Your diabetes dietitian and care team are here to help if you have any questions for your specific needs!

myth #1: sugar-free = calorie and carbohydrate-free.

Sugar-free foods and sweets can be nice options for people with diabetes, but it is important to understand that sugar-free does not mean the food item is carbohydrate-free or calorie-free.

It is always important to check the nutrition facts labels on packages for serving sizes and total carbohydrates, even if the item is sugar-free.

For example, sugar-free cookies are not a “free” food. Carbohydrates in these foods must be counted in the total carbohydrate intake at that meal or snack.

myth #2: you shouldn’t eat fruit if you have diabetes.

Fruit does contain carbohydrates and natural sugars, but it is not bad for people with diabetes. Fruit offers fiber, vitamins, and minerals that promote good health and help prevent common complications of diabetes.

Do enjoy a variety of fruits in reasonable portions. Again, accurately count carbohydrates and count them in your total allotment for your meal or snack.

myth #3: skipping meals or snacks to prevent the need for insulin is helpful for good blood glucose control.

We encourage a 3 meal per day and 2-3 snack per day meal pattern. If blood glucose levels are running high, carbohydrate-free snacks may appropriate choices. Generally, eating breakfast within 90 minutes of waking is a good rule of thumb, then eating at least every 4-5 hours during the day after your first meal.  Skipping meals is generally discouraged as it can increase risks for low blood sugar levels, cause lack of energy, fatigue, and nutritional deficiencies.

Bedtime snacks containing about 15 grams of carbohydrates, combined with a low-fat protein may be helpful in diabetes management. Bedtime snacks may prevent the liver from releasing extra, stored glucose into the blood stream and help with managing fasting blood sugars.

Bedtime snack ideas:

  • Nuts and fried fruit
  • Hardboiled egg and whole grain toast
  • Low-fat cheese and whole wheat crackers
  • Celery sticks and hummus
  • Sliced apple and peanut butter
  • Light Greek yogurt

myth #4: following very low carbohydrate diets to prevent the need for insulin is encouraged.

Healthy carbohydrates are important parts of a well-balanced diet. They provide important nutrients for our bodies such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins, potassium, zinc and many more. Carbohydrates are important for growth, brain development and energy.

Choose healthy carbohydrates such as:

  • Whole grain bread products containing at least 3-5 grams of fiber per serving
    • Whole grain white bread if you don’t like regular wheat bread is another option
  • Whole grain lower sugar cereals such as: Cheerios®, shredded wheat, Kix®, Raisin Bran®, Total®
  • Whole grain pasta containing at least 3-5 grams fiber per serving
  • Brown rice
  • Whole grain granola bars containing at least 3-5 grams fiber per serving such as Kashi®, Fiber one®
  • Fresh or frozen fruit or fruit canned in their own juices
  • Starchy vegetables such as corn, potatoes, peas (portion the size of your fist)
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Low-fat white milk