A single copy of this article may be reprinted for personal, noncommercial use only.
Diabetes nutrition: Including sweets in your meal planBy Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes-nutrition/DA00130
- Bone and joint problems associated with diabetes
- Diabetic retinopathy
- see all in Complications
Lifestyle and home remedies (20)
- Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar
- Reading food labels: Tips if you have diabetes
- Insulin and weight gain: Keep the pounds off
- see all in Lifestyle and home remedies
- Couponing and other frugal food shopping tips
- Diabetes prevention: 5 tips for taking control
Treatments and drugs (8)
- Insulin and weight gain: Keep the pounds off
- Erectile dysfunction and diabetes: Take control today
- Blood glucose meter: How to choose
- see all in Treatments and drugs
Diabetes nutrition: Including sweets in your meal plan
Diabetes nutrition focuses on healthy foods, but sweets aren't necessarily off-limits. Here's how to include sweets in your meal plan.By Mayo Clinic staff
Diabetes nutrition focuses on healthy foods. But you can eat sweets once in a while without feeling guilty or interfering with your blood sugar control. The key to diabetes nutrition is moderation.
The scoop on sugar
For years, people with diabetes were warned to avoid sweets. But what researchers understand about diabetes nutrition has changed.
- Total carbohydrate is what counts. It was once assumed that honey, candy and other sweets would raise your blood sugar level faster and higher than would fruits, vegetables or "starchy" foods, such as potatoes, pasta or whole-grain bread. But this isn't true, as long as the sweets are eaten with a meal and balanced with other foods in your meal plan. Although different types of carbohydrates can affect your blood sugar level differently, it's the total amount of carbohydrate that counts the most.
- But don't overdo empty calories. Of course, it's still best to consider sweets as only a small part of your overall plan for diabetes nutrition. Candy, cookies and other sweets have few vitamins and minerals and are often high in fat and calories. You'll get more empty calories — calories without the essential nutrients found in healthier foods.
Have your cake and eat it, too
Sweets count as carbohydrates in your meal plan. The trick is substituting small portions of sweets for other carbohydrates — such as bread, tortillas, rice, crackers, cereal, fruit, juice, milk, yogurt or potatoes — in your meals. To allow room for sweets as part of a meal, you have two options:
- Replace some of the carbohydrates in your meal with a sweet.
- Swap a high carb-containing food in your meal for something with fewer carbohydrates and eat the remaining carbohydrates as a sweet.
Let's say your typical dinner is a grilled chicken breast, a medium potato, a slice of whole-grain bread, a vegetable salad and fresh fruit. If you'd like a frosted cupcake after your meal, look for ways to keep the total carbohydrate count in the meal the same. Trade your slice of bread and the fresh fruit for the cupcake. Or replace the potato with a low-carbohydrate vegetable such as broccoli. Adding the cupcake after this meal keeps the total carbohydrate count the same.
To make sure you're making even trades, read food labels carefully. Look for the total carbohydrate in each food, which tells you how much carbohydrate is in one serving of the food.
Consider sugar substitutes
As part of diabetes nutrition, artificial sweeteners can offer the sweetness of sugar without the calories. Artificial sweeteners may help you reduce calories and stick to a healthy meal plan — especially when used instead of sugar in coffee and tea, on cereal or in baked goods. In fact, artificial sweeteners are considered free foods because they contain very few calories and don't count as a carbohydrate, a fat or any other food in your meal plan.
Examples of artificial sweeteners include:
- Acesulfame potassium (Sweet One, Sunett)
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- Saccharin (SugarTwin, Sweet'N Low)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
Artificial sweeteners don't necessarily offer a free pass for sweets.
- Keep an eye out for calories and carbs. Many products made with artificial sweeteners, such as baked goods and artificially sweetened yogurt or pudding, still contain calories and carbohydrates that can affect your blood sugar level.
- Sugar alcohols are not calorie-free. Sugar alcohols, another type of reduced-calorie sweetener, are often used in sugar-free candies, chewing gum and desserts. Check product labels for words such as "isomalt," "maltitol," "mannitol," "sorbitol" and "xylitol." Sugar-free foods containing sugar alcohols still have calories. And in some people, sugar alcohols can cause diarrhea.
Two naturally derived sweeteners, stevia (Truvia, Pure Via) and agave nectar (Wholesome Sweeteners, Madhava) offer another option when it comes to sweetening your food. Keep in mind that the sugar-to-sweetener ratio is different for each product, so you may need to experiment until you find the taste you like. Also, agave nectar isn't calorie- or carbohydrate-free, so it shouldn't be considered for weight loss; but it has a lower glycemic index than does sugar, so it won't affect your glucose level as much.
Reconsider your definition of sweet
Diabetes nutrition doesn't have to mean no sweets. If you're craving them, ask a registered dietitian to help you include your favorite treats into your meal plan. A dietitian can also help you reduce the amount of sugar and fat in your favorite recipes. And don't be surprised if your tastes change as you adopt healthier eating habits. Food that you once loved may seem too sweet — and healthy substitutes may become your new idea of delicious.
- Sweeteners & desserts. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/sweeteners-and-desserts.html. Accessed Sept. 14, 2010.
- McCarren M. The sweet stuff. Diabetes Forecast. 2008;61. http://forecast.diabetes.org/magazine/features/sweet-stuff. Accessed Sept. 14, 2010.
- Sugar alcohols. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/sugar-alcohols.html. Accessed Sept. 13, 2010.
- Size up your sweetener options. Diabetes Forecast. 2009;62. http://forecast.diabetes.org/magazine/food-thought/size-your-sweetener-options. Accessed Sept. 14, 2010.