Written by Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND
November is National Diabetes Month, so now is a perfect time to set the record straight about some common diabetes myths. As a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator, I’ve heard dozens of diabetes myths. This post addresses just three.
Myth: People with diabetes must eat special diabetic food.
Truth: A healthful diet for a person with diabetes is nearly the same as a healthful diet for a person without diabetes. There is usually no need to prepare special meals or buy special “diabetic” foods. The biggest difference if you have diabetes is that you will need to carefully monitor the amount of carbohydrate that you eat at each meal and snack. There are many types of healthful meal plans. A person with diabetes can control blood sugar with a vegan diet, a vegetarian diet, or a diet containing meat.
Myth: People with diabetes must eat a low carb diet.
Truth: If you have diabetes, your blood sugar is determined by the amount of carbohydrates you eat and your medications. This doesn’t mean, however, that carbs are the enemy. Quite the contrary. Unfortunately, diabetes is associated with increased risk of heart disease and some cancers. Carbohydrates in the form of fruits, whole grains, beans, lowfat dairy, and vegetables provide health-boosting nutrients and phytochemicals needed to help prevent heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. Plus, don’t people with diabetes deserve to eat healthfully and deliciously? Here’s a recipe for Strawberry Farro Salad with Goat Cheese from the California Strawberry Commission that combines nutritious and delicious beautifully whether you have diabetes or not. The carbohydrates come from nutrient dense whole grains and strawberries, of course. Serve yourself a half portion as a side to salmon for a small steak.
Myth: If it’s sugar-free, it’s okay.
Truth: Sugar-free pies and cakes are popular, but they aren’t necessarily low calorie or even low carbohydrate. The only way to know how much carbohydrate is in your dessert is to scrutinize the Nutrition Facts panel on the package. True, sugar raises blood glucose, but so do other types of carbohydrate such as the flour in the piecrust or cake. Whether you choose regular desserts or sugar-free varieties, know the amount of carbohydrate in your portion and work it into your meal plan. Yes, it’s okay to eat sweets. Just keep the portion small, and substitute your dessert for other carbohydrate-containing foods.
For more sound advice about managing diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association website. Call me for an appointment if you’re looking for personalized advice.