Post Contributor: Qiana Drew
As someone who has lived with diabetes for over 20 years, I would love to shed light on a significant misconception about what someone with diabetes can and cannot eat.
I’m going to address the big question. “Can people with diabetes have sugar?” I’m happy to share that the answer is YES; we can.
I eat cake, cookies, pumpkin pie, candy, ice cream, and not the Keto or no sugar added kind, but I didn’t always believe I could. Like most people with diabetes, I knew nothing similar to John Snow on Game of Thrones. I was under the impression that because I had a condition of hyperglycemia, I could not eat foods that contained sugar. This misinformation caused me to avoid sweets at all costs… and what usually happens when you avoid something that you enjoy; you want it even MORE! It doesn’t help that your family and friends also know nothing about diabetes and continue to ask you questions like, “is it okay to eat that? Can you have cake? Or the “I won’t give you any dessert because you can’t have any” line. Let me decide, please!
I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard those questions and comments. It annoyed me, but I learned to understand that it was coming from a good place. My parents and friends wanted to protect me, and it was their way of doing so. They weren’t too off in their approach. Let me explain.
Though I can eat cake, cookies, ice cream, and candy, I have to think about it before I do so. Once you have diabetes, you realize the privilege it is for people just to choose what they want to eat and enjoy it. There is no thinking about how the food will impact your blood sugar, your current mood, your plans for the day, and the quality of health you may have in your future.
Through massive trial and error, I learned how to eat all foods, with and without sugar. If I choose to eat dessert, I pre-bolus (take insulin 15 minutes before eating), and I may choose a smaller portion size to minimize the impact a sugar-filled food will have on my target glucose levels. I don’t believe in food restriction but in making choices that will support your health goals.
If you have diabetes, it’s okay to reach for sweets, but first, get into the habit of thinking about keeping to a portion size that is least likely to spike you. The truth about the portion size that makes sense for you is that it may feel too small of a bite. At first, It may feel like it’s not worth it, but I encourage you to reframe your thinking. Instead of thinking about the quantity or size of the snack being insufficient, think about the quality. A couple of bites of a molten chocolate cake is better than none.