How to control sugar and sweet intake

On World Diabetes Day, we ask an expert about how to tackle a diabetic person’s sugar cravings! Curious to know about it, aren’t you? Read on then!

“Avoid sugar!” Those are the words every person dreads to hear from a doctor, but isn’t it especially true when the person has diabetes? It’s like the forbidden fruit effect – the more you are told to stay away from something, the more you are attracted to it. Sweets are like that too! But what if we tell you that there are ways to tame those sweet and sugar cravings when you have diabetes?

My grandfather, who was battling diabetes for years altogether, could never keep his distance from cakes, chocolates, gulab jamuns, ice creams and kulfis! “Ek life hai, khaane do,” would be his excuse. And we are sure there are many others who share his sentiment. But what we can tell you based on some expert advice, is that sweets can be consumed in a smarter way when it comes to patients with diabetes.

First, let’s understand what diabetes really is.

diabetes and sweets
Does diabetes mean no sugar at all? Image courtesy: Shutterstock
What is diabetes?

Diabetes, clinically known as diabetes mellitus, is a chronic condition that spikes a person’s blood glucose levels. Without careful consideration and changes in your daily diet, if left unhindered, diabetes will lead to a build-up of glucose and other sugars in the blood, which can cause health risks such as strokes, heart attacks and other diseases.

This condition doesn’t necessarily affect only those that are overweight or have an inactive lifestyle. Some struggle with the disease since childhood. Irrespective of the cause and type of diabetes, each leads to excess sugar in your blood.

Type 2 diabetes, the most popular kind according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, hampers the way the body makes use of insulin. Though the body continues to produce insulin, the cells do not respond to it as effectively as they did once.

Lifestyle changes in diabetes

Once diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, people are usually advised by their medical professionals to make certain lifestyle changes that will encourage weight loss. Many even approach professional nutritionists to seek help necessary to lead an active and well balanced lifestyle.

Dr. Sajal Kamat, Consultant, Endocrinology, Diabetology and Obesity, Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital, tells HealthShots, “Strictly avoiding high sugar foods is an instruction every doctor gives to those ending type 2 diabetes. We have all encountered relatives forbidden from the consumption of sugar due to diabetes. But contrary to popular belief, having type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you give up sweets altogether.”

Isn’t it a relief to read that? After all, we are all guilty of possessing a sweet tooth. On bad days, all we crave are sweets. And on festivals and auspicious occasions, we cannot possibly let go of the mithais.

Based on nutrition expert suggestions, Dr Kamat says that with a bit of strategizing and research you can indulge your cravings from time to time despite being diabetic. “The American Diabetes Association suggests that you can incorporate sweets into your diet, given they are part of a healthy balanced diet and are not overdone,” says Dr Kamat.

diabetes and sweets
Exercise is important whether or not you have diabetes. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

To make room for sweets in your daily meal if you have diabetes, you may do either of the following:

  • To balance the amount of carbohydrates, replace some carbs with a sweet
  • Exchange a high calorie item with something that has lower calories and fulfill the remainder calorie intake by adding a sweet

But remember to keep a check on your carbohydrate intake. How, you may ask!

How to keep sugar and carbohydrate intake in control if you have diabetes
1. Read labels

Put an effort into reading the labels of the food you consume. This will help you ascertain your calorie intake and will encourage healthy eating.

2. Low Calorie Sweeteners:

You may also make use of low calorie sweeteners to enjoy the sweet flavor while ensuring lower calories and carbohydrates. Check your labels for sugar alcohols, a major group of reduced calorie sweeteners like sucralose, acesulfame, saccharine and neotame. Isomalt, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol are a few examples of sugar alcohols. Stevia, a naturally derived sweetener, is also a healthy and low calorie sweetening option.

3. Watch out for sugar-free foods

Be mindful of sugar-free foods as they too contain high calorie flavoring alternatives, flour and other carbohydrate containing ingredients. Remember just because something is labeled ‘sugar free’ does not necessarily mean it’s healthy.

diabetes and sweets
Don’t beat yourself up for having sugar cravings. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
4. Plan your sweet treat

Designate for yourself a sweet treat or meal to indulge in. This will help fight off temptation, sustain your diet and satiate your sweet tooth. You may also dabble in fruit-based sweets or consume fruits itself to satisfy your craving. There are several fruit-based drinks, sweets and candies available in the market. They are preferred, as fruit contains fiber which prolongs it’s digestion making it less likely to cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. In spite of fruit being a healthier option it is essential for one to portion control and not overindulge.

5. Do not be too hard on yourself

Weaning yourself off a certain food group or putting off temptation takes time. Allow yourself the occasional indulgence.

All in all, consult a dietitian to procure information regarding healthier, more sustainable alternatives. Do not be surprised if your palette and preferences change as you adopt healthier eating habits. And our dear ladies, don’t forget that moderation is key!

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