It is commonly thought that people with diabetes should avoid all forms of sugar. Most people with diabetes can eat foods containing sugar as long as the total amount of carbohydrate for that meal or snack is consistent and sugar foods are added within the context of healthy eating. Many research studies have shown that meals which contain sugar do not make the blood sugar rise higher than meals of equal carbohydrate levels which do not contain sugar. However, if the sugar-containing meal contains more carbohydrates, the blood sugar levels will go up.
Which will have the greater effect on blood sugar?
____ 1 tsp sugar or ____ 1/2 cup potatoes
The potatoes will contribute about 15 grams of carbohydrates, while a level teaspoon of sugar will only give 4 grams of carbohydrates. Therefore, the potatoes will have about three times the effect on blood sugar as compared to the table sugar.
Using the following foods, plan two breakfast meals containing approximately 45 grams of carbohydrate. Notice that there are some foods on this list you might think would not be "allowed" on your meal plan. But again, any of these foods can be used as long as you limit the amount of carbohydrates you eat at a given meal to what is indicated on your individualized meal plan. (In the example below, this means you can choose whatever foods you want as long as the total carbohydrate equals no more than 45 grams).
1% fat milk
sugar. white table
pancakes - 4 inches
yogurt, fruit with
NutraSweet fruit juice
sugar free syrup
Fruit yogurt (with NutraSweet)
Cinnamon-sugar toast - 1 slice with 1 teaspoon sugar and one teaspoon margarine
Milk, 1/2 cup
Carbohydrate total =
1 1/4 cup
In addition, many sugar-containing foods also contain a lot of fat. Foods such as cookies, pastries, ice cream and cakes should be avoided largely because of the fat content and because they don't contribute much nutritional value. If you do want a "sweet" - make a low-fat choice, such as low-fat frozen yogurt, gingersnaps, fig bars or graham crackers and substitute it for another carbohydrate on your meal plan.
Talk with your diabetes dietitian educator to select the best "sweet" choices for your meal plan. If you have not met with a dietitian in the past year or if you do not have a personal meal plan, scheduling an appointment with a dietitian would help you to incorporate these guidelines in the best way for you and your diabetes control.
Page last updated: May 20, 2013