Eating with diabetes can be overwhelming and confusing. Do you follow a low carb diet? Do you cut out all sugar? Below are some of the most common myths I have come across when I counsel people on eating with diabetes.
“I can’t eat carbohydrates.”
Carbohydrate is an umbrella term for all grains and starches, fruits, and milk products. When we eat these foods our body turns them into sugar. Carbohydrates are important because they provide us with energy, B vitamins, and fiber. When you are first diagnosed with diabetes your doctor may tell you to avoid everything ‘white’- white bread, white rice, white potatoes, etc. While your doctor might be referring to certain foods within this group, we don’t want to eliminate the entire food group. In fact, avoiding carbohydrates can result in fluctuations in blood sugars, low energy levels, and fatigue. When choosing carbohydrates focus on whole grains, whole fruit, and low fat dairy. Instead of white bread, look at the ingredients for the term ‘whole grain’. Choose brown rice, oats, barley, bulgur and quinoa. Choose whole fruit instead of fruit juice. Low fat milk (1% or 2%) also provides us with calcium, vitamin D, protein, and carbohydrates. Speak to a Registered Dietitian to find out how much carbohydrate to include in your meal plan.
“Fruit has sugar so I can’t eat it.”
Let’s be clear: when you have diabetes you don’t have to avoid all sugar. We want to limit added sugars- those found in cookies, pies, juice, sodas, etc. because they provide little nutrition. However, including carbohydrates (such as fruit) is an important part of your eating plan. Fruit has natural sugar called fructose, as well as lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. They are a powerhouse for so many of the nutrients that our body needs. The fiber in fruit slows down our digestion of foods, which helps prevent spikes in blood sugars. All fruit has the same amount of sugar per portion. Half of a banana has the same amount of sugar as one small apple or one cup of blueberries. You should aim for 3 servings of fruit throughout the day.
“I can’t go to restaurants.”
People with diabetes can still go to restaurants and gatherings with their friends and family! The most important thing is to be mindful of the foods you eat and stick to your eating plan. Make sure that you’re including vegetables, quality protein and whole grains. Most restaurant portions are large (literally for two people sometimes). Remember to share your meal with someone or pack half of your meal in a to-go box from the start. This way you’re not tempted to continue eating and finishing your plate.
“I have to eat a ‘diabetes’ diet.”
For the record there is no diabetes diet! The recommendations to follow when you have diabetes is similar to the general population. It’s called healthy eating and watching your portions. There are no ‘diabetes foods’ that you need to follow. You don’t have to cook certain foods for yourself and serve your family another dish. It’s following a healthy eating pattern that you AND your family can adapt.
“I can’t have any more dessert.”
People with diabetes can still have dessert but it becomes important to be mindful of the desserts and foods you are eating. Desserts are usually high in fat, sugar, and calories and provide very little nutrition. They can spike up your blood sugars and quickly add to weight gain. Desserts are a treat so limit the amount and frequency of desserts that you eat. Choose one dessert and enjoy it. Savor every bite and taste of your treat and then move on to something else non-food related. Choose healthier dessert options such as caramelized apples with cinnamon, Greek yogurt with berries, or a low fat pudding. Note that desserts and packages labeled ‘diabetes friendly’ or ‘sugar free’ still contain carbohydrates and can spike your blood sugars if consumed in large quantities.
For more tips and help controlling your diabetes please see a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator.
Welcome! I'm Rahaf, a Registered Dietitian with a mission to inspire you to Eat healthy, Enjoy Foods, and Empower you with practical nutrition advice for a happy nourished life.