Say you’re diabetic but have a sweet tooth. Are you doomed to a lifetime of deprivation, watching others enjoy but never partaking yourself? The surprising answer is no – at least for many Type II diabetics.
The reality is that most diabetics do eat sugar – and then feel guilty about it. Although as a physician I encourage my patients to avoid sweets and refined carbohydrates, I’m well aware that many do not. Complete abstinence is difficult, especially for premenopausal women, who often crave carbs on a cyclic basis.
Of course you hope to control your blood sugar, but everyone wants a piece of birthday cake now and then. What’s a person to do?
Here are 5 tips to eat sugar wisely.
1. Enjoy a little sugar in place of a different carb. Do you feel guilty about eating sugar but not mashed potatoes? Both raise your blood sugar about as quickly and about as much. If you are dying for dessert, skip the dinner rolls, the rice, the potatoes, the lemonade, the corn. After your healthy meal of lean meat and high-fiber vegetables, enjoy a 300-calorie dessert. If you keep your total calorie intake within a reasonable limit (1500 to 2000 calories for most people), eating sugar will affect your sugar little differently than other carbohydrates.
2. Enjoy an alcohol sugar. Although foods sweetened with alcohol sugars are not low in calories, they raise your blood sugar less quickly than those sweetened with regular sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. They also cause less tooth decay and less rebound craving for more sugar. Most foods labeled “no sugar added” contain alcohol sugars. Many varieties of no-sugar-added, reduced fat ice cream are available. Be careful not to eat too much, however, as this may cause diarrhea and may raise your blood sugar due to excess calories.
3. Enjoy a mix of sugar and an artificial sweetener. Much of the sugar we consume isn’t even tasted. There is a threshold for appreciating sweetness – for many people a little can go a long way. For instance, some people who claim they can’t abide a diet soda find that mixing in only a little regular soda with a diet soda makes the taste acceptable. Likewise, if you enjoy your coffee sweetened, try 1 teaspoon of sugar instead of 3, and substitute 2 teaspoons of an artificial sweetener – you may not be able to tell the difference.
4. Enjoy a little sugar with a meal instead of alone. One problem with eating sweets is that people often consume them alone, which causes an abrupt rise in blood sugar levels. If eaten along with a healthy meal of lean protein and low-calorie, high-fiber vegetables, the sugar will mix in with the other food, slowing the absorption and avoiding the immediate spike in blood glucose.
5. Enjoy a little sugar on instead of in a dessert. A lot of sugar within a dessert goes to waste, that is, it isn’t even tasted. Unless you take tiny bites, savoring each one as it melts on your tongue, it’s likely that over half the sweetness slips down your throat without encountering your taste buds. A piece of cake is high in calories, not only from sugar, but from flour (which turns to glucose in your body as quickly as sugar) and from fat (primarily in the icing). Rather than imbibe in a 400 calorie pastry, enjoy a heaping bowl of berries topped with a few spoonfuls of sugar. It’s unlikely you’ll use as much as a quarter cup of sugar, which contains under 200 calories.
Copyright ©2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, M.D.