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The Diabetes Diet: Living Well With Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Your diagnosis of diabetes may have been a surprise, and you may have more questions than answers at this point. You're not alone! Millions of Americans have diabetes and much research has been done on the subject. Answers exist for many of your questions, and those who've been there are often willing to share what works for them. Here are some frequently asked questions related to diabetes and diet.

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Will I always have to watch what I eat?
The degree to which you will have to watch your diet varies from person to person and depends somewhat on whether you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. The diet for someone with type 2 diabetes may focus on weight loss to reduce insulin resistance. As weight is lost, blood glucose control may improve as a result of being able to more efficiently utilize insulin, thereby reducing the need for extreme dietary restrictions. People with type 1 diabetes are finding more options for insulin delivery (insulin pen, insulin pump) very helpful in removing diabetes-related roadblocks to their diets.

Can I splurge occasionally?
Chances are the rare treat won't hurt you, especially if you are careful to fit it into an otherwise healthy eating plan. Be sure to check your blood glucose several hours after eating to see if you need to take steps to bring down high blood sugar.

My child craves sugar. Does he have diabetes?
Many children crave sweets, and this alone is not an indicator of developing diabetes. Look for warning signs that include increased thirst, frequent urination, and decreased energy levels. However, it's a good idea to limit sweets to a reasonable level for everyone's overall good health.

How can I tell just how much sugar is in a specific food?
Packaged items are now required by law to include nutrition information on the label. Read the label and look for carbohydrate information. Whether you need to know total carbohydrate content or specific sugar quantity, the information should be on the label. If you're eating out, many restaurants have posters or pamphlets listing nutritional information for items they serve. Don't be afraid to ask questions about how an item is prepared or what ingredients are used.

Does my entire family have to change eating habits?
Generally speaking, a diabetic diet is a healthy way to eat for all members of the family. The weight loss goal for people with type 2 diabetes, for example, may actually help prevent the onset of type 1 diabetes in other family members.

You may wish to support the person with diabetes by preparing healthy meals for the entire family, although some people feel this unfairly "punishes" those without special dietary needs. Preparing separate dishes for individuals can create additional work so the decision to do so will need to be made by your family.

My elderly aunt says a little bit of sweet stuff won't do that much harm. How bad is a slice of pie or cake?"
Unless your aunt's condition has progressed to type 1 diabetes, an occasional sweet bite is unlikely to do much harm. Of course, this depends on the size of the "little bite" and how often she indulges.

Although some foods are simply "empty calories" with no nutritional value, research has shown that carbohydrate from flaked corn cereal actually raises blood sugar more than an equal amount from table sugar. So, though it isn't wise to always eat foods with concentrated carbohydrates, an occasional small serving worked into a meal plan may be okay.

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Last modified 18 September 2006
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