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Managing Diabetes and Restrictive Diets During the Summer

Photo: Courtesy of Louis Hansel

Maddison Saalinger, M.S., RDN, LDN

Nutrition Educator, Diabetes Research Institute

For many people with restrictive diets, such as people with diabetes, it is especially important to have a game plan in place to manage your condition when traveling or enjoying weekend gatherings. Some things to consider include: 

  • Planning ahead: Try to find out what type of event you will be attending so you can have an idea of what types of foods they will be serving, check out menus online in advance if eating out, or prepare to bring meals or snacks from home with you. Also keep in mind that if the gathering or event is later in the day to eat before getting there so you’re not tempted to overeat. 
  • Ask the host: If you are going to a gathering of family and friends, make sure to ask the host what they will be serving. 
  • Potluck style: Bring the veggies. Offer to bring something you like or add on something you know will balance your plate a little more; fiber-rich foods are great to include. 
  • Portion sizes: Use bowls or a plate to serve yourself rather than eating directly from a bag or platter so you have a better visual of what the serving size looks like for carb counting. 
  • Drink plenty of water: It’s hot outside, so be sure to bring a bottle of water or a small canteen with you to keep hydrated. 

Managing glucose and sugar

Glucose management requires you to be mindful of portion sizes as well as types of carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are known to generally spike up sugar the most as they are absorbed quickly. 

Something to remember while eating sugar is to focus on natural sugar. Try choosing plain items and sweeten them with natural sugars like those found in fruit. Fruit has the added benefit of containing fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. However, you must make sure to include fruits in your carbohydrate count.    

Artificial sweeteners can also help satisfy that sweet craving without having to worry about blood sugars, allowing you to have more sweet options to pick from.  

Sweeteners that are “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) include acesulfame potassium, aspartame, saccharin, stevia, sucralose, and neotame. More natural forms of sweeteners, like stevia and monk fruit, are great if you are trying to keep your diet a little more natural. 

Sugar alcohols also work as another form of sweetener. These include xylitol, erythritol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, siomal, and lactitol. Be mindful that some people may be more sensitive to these forms of artificial sugars and experience GI distress. 

Always remember sweeteners are not to be had in large portions, but are rather meant to enhance the sweet flavor. Like everything, they’re best in moderation. 

To recap: The key is to plan, choose your meals, and, if you have a craving for something sweet but don’t want to go over your portion sizes, use some of the alternative options mentioned so you don’t have to worry about spiking your sugar levels while enjoying summer activities.

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