Though some sugar can be part of a healthful diabetes meal plan, you should be aware that the total amount of carbohydrate you eat most affects blood glucose, not the type or source of carbohydrate.
On some occasions, you can enjoy having sweets while using these guidelines: Substitute sugary foods or sweets for other carbohydrates in your meal plan. In other words, if you eat a sweet, lighten up on other carbohydrates in the meal (have less bread, potato or fruit). Counterbalance the calories from sweets by burning more calories with extra activity.
Keep in mind, you should limit or avoid sugary and sweet foods if your blood sugar is not in good control. Also, if your goal is to lose some weight, then limit sweets to a once-in-a-while frequency. Too many sweets means too many calories.
Sugar by Any Other Name…Is Just Sweet!
Sugar is found naturally in grains, legumes, milk, vegetables and fruits, but it is best known for the pleasing sweetness it provides to goodies such as cakes, cookies and candy.
Surprise! Sugar also is added to such savory foods as salad dressings and tomato products. In fact, bread just isn't the same without the addition of some sugar.
The ingredients listed on food packages are shown in descending order by weight, from the highest to the lowest amount. The names below are all types of sugar. A food may be high in sugar if one of these names is the first or second ingredient or if several types appear on the list.
Types of Sugar: High-Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Sweetener, Corn Syrup, Fructose, Fruit Juice Concentrate, Honey, Brown Sugar, Syrup, Glucose (Dextrose), Invert Sugar, Lactose, Maltose, Sugar (Sucrose), Molasses, Raw Sugar
What about Sugar Substitutes?
Sugar substitutes can add flexibility to your meal plan because they sweeten foods without adding calories and don't affect your blood glucose level. Sugar substitutes are "free" foods, so they don't use up any of your daily carbohydrate allotment, making more room for other carbohydrate-containing foods.
Fitting in Low-Calorie Sweeteners
When you try to fit products sweetened with low-calorie sweeteners into your meal plan, divide them into three categories as follows:
- The tabletop reduced-calorie sweeteners usually have about 2 calories for the equivalent of the sweetness of 2 teaspoons of sugar. These are negligible calories and are considered free unless huge amounts are consumed. They will not likely contribute to raising blood glucose levels either.
- Foods with reduced-calorie sweeteners may contain next-to-no calories. Examples are diet soda, diet gelatin, chewing gum, fruit drinks and powdered drink mix. As long as the Nutrition Facts tell you that a serving has fewer than 20 calories and less than 5 grams of carbohydrate per serving, consider it a free food.
- Some foods sweetened with reduced-calorie sweeteners contain ingredients other than the sweetener that may contribute carbohydrate, other nutrients and calories. Examples are hot cocoa mix, fruited yogurt, maple syrup, baked goods, frozen desserts, canned fruit and fruit drink juice combinations. To fit these foods into your meal plan, read the Nutrition Facts to determine the nutrients in a serving.
What about "Sugar Free" and "No Sugar Added?"
The nutrient content claim "sugar free" on a food label means that the serving of food contains an insignificant amount of sugar (less than 0.5 grams) per serving.
The claim "no added sugars" or "no sugar added" means that no sugar or sugar-containing ingredient (such as jam, jellies or concentrated fruit juice) is added during processing. This claim is only to be used on foods that substitute for foods that normally contain sugars (for example, a hot cocoa mix).
Unless the food meets the criteria for a "low calorie" (40 calories or less per serving) or "calorie reduced" (25% reduction in calories) claim, it must say it is "not a low-calorie food" or "not a reduced-calorie food."
While this may help you to better understand labeling, always take the time to read the label. Identify the serving size and amount of carbohydrate and/or calories in each serving size. Then decide whether you can include that food at all or how you can work it into your meal plan.
Be creative in selecting your sweets.