5 diabetic foods to enjoy

As a diabetic, are you doomed to a diet of broccoli and grilled fish? Is there no way to enjoy food without sending your sugar level skyrocketing?

One of the goals of diabetes treatment is to keep blood sugar levels within reasonable limits. But both patients and doctors forget that it’s not just about numbers. The goal is to live a longer and more fulfilling life.

As a diabetic, you need a healthy diet, but like everyone else, you want to enjoy your meals. Can you eat a gallon of ice cream and maintain healthy blood sugar levels? Probably not. But then, a non-diabetic also has consequences to consider: weight gain, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol.

In recent years, many foods have been developed for people who want to reduce their sugar intake, both diabetics and non-diabetics.

Here are 5 diabetic-friendly foods to enjoy that won’t smell your sugar through the roof.

1. Ice cream without added sugar. Alcohol sugars have been around for decades and were previously used primarily in sugarless chewing gum. Sorbitol, for example, does not cause cavities like regular sugar. In recent years, the use of these alcohol sugars has been extended to other foods as well, because they don’t spike blood glucose the way table sugar does. Half a cup of sugar-free ice cream has only about 100 calories, little more than a piece of wheat bread. Skip the mashed potatoes or the biscuit and enjoy some berries with a scoop of no sugar added ice cream. Keep in mind that overdoing it can exceed your daily calorie requirement and can also cause diarrhea.

2. Caramel without added sugar. The big candy manufacturers (Whitman’s, Russell Stover, London’s, Werther’s and others) have jumped on the diabetic candy bandwagon. Also sweetened with sugar alcohols, these tasty candies have about the same number of calories as regular candies, but they don’t raise your blood glucose as quickly. If you have a chocolate craving you can’t deny, skip the baked beans and have one or two after dinner.

3. Cake without added sugar. Both restaurants and frozen food manufacturers have begun to cater to diabetics by offering desserts sweetened with sugar alcohols. A standard serving of cake at a restaurant (1/6 of a cake) contains about 500 calories, whether sweetened with regular sugar or sugar spirits. The difference is that the sugar in the alcohol will not raise your blood glucose as fast. But 500 calories is more than most diabetics should have for dessert. Cut your calories in half by eating just the filling (nobody said you have to eat the crust) or eating just half a full-size piece; if you skip the baked potato, it will come out even.

4. Sugar-free gelatin. Everyone has room for jelly, or so the saying goes. Sugar-free gelatin, even in large servings, adds very few calories to the diet, but feels like a true dessert. Topped with some whipped cream, a large bowl has about the same calories as a slice of bread. Skip the bread or cornbread and enjoy a light but satisfying dessert.

5. Unsweetened yogurt. A cup of regular sweetened yogurt has about 250 calories, while unsweetened yogurt has 80 to 120 calories per serving. Although it can be enjoyed on its own, why not top it off with some granola or a few slices of fresh, ripe peach? Many varieties of yogurt and frozen yogurt are sweetened with artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols, or a combination of both. Whether enjoyed for breakfast or dessert, unsweetened yogurt can satisfy your sweet tooth and provide a serving of calcium and a bit of protein, too.

If your doctor doesn’t like sweets, they may not think to tell you about the many dessert options you can still enjoy.. But because I have a sweet tooth and knowing how many others share this trait, I think it’s important to educate the diabetic population about the foods they can eat without risking hyperglycemia. Of course, serving size is still important and it is not wise to spend all of your daily calories on sweets. But everyone needs a treat once in a while, and a few hundred calories of sugar-free dessert, when substituted for another carbohydrate, will do little harm to your blood sugar levels and a lot of good to your spirits.

Copyright 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

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