Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"You can't eat that, you have diabetes!"

It's time to address one of the most common myths about Type 1 Diabetes. People who don't know about the disease think that diabetics can't or shouldn't eat sugar. The truth is THEY CAN. They can eat anything anyone else eats. Diabetics control their blood sugars by counting carbohydrates and giving a bolus (or injection if on shots) dose of insulin based on the amount of carbohydrates they consume. A carb is a carb- any food with carbohydrates must be counted whether it's a slice of chocolate cake or a whole wheat tortilla. One of the first things we learned when Tyler was diagnosed was how to count carbs.

There is a difference between fast acting carbs and slow acting carbs and they do have different effects on blood sugars. When possible we do limit the fast acting carbs that are found in candy, juice, and regular soda. When Tyler does have an occasional soda, it is diet (0 carbs) and typically he only has juice to treat a low blood sugar. Other than that, he eats anything anyone else does. I can not imagine taking Tyler to a birthday party and telling him he can't have a piece of cake because he is diabetic! He can have that cake, but before he'll check his blood sugar and give insulin for it.

Limiting sweets can help keep blood sugars under control, but as long as we adjust his insulin he can eat them just like people without diabetes. I treat Tyler the same as my non-diabetic kid, we stick to a healthy meal plan and occasionally have a treat. I personally feel that it would be more damaging for Tyler in the long run to forbid candy and sweets. By forbidding the sweets, they would become more desirable and lead to him wanting them more than ever. This is not saying that the "Candy Holidays" are not completely frustrating. Valentines Day is one of the worst! Classroom parties in the school district we live in consist of two baked treats (usually a frosted cupcake and/or cookie) a juice box, and a goodie bag filled with candy. For Valentines Day add Valentine cards that include candy and it becomes a sticky situation. That's a lot of fast acting carbs to figure out. I tend to let the kids "junk out" on this stuff the first day or two after a holiday then end up throwing a lot of it away. Most of the time they never even notice.

One issue we have run into with Tyler is his "sneaking" food- usually candy or fruit snacks, resulting in high blood sugars. I have found candy wrappers hidden in the couch cushions, stuffed down the side of his bed between the mattress and the wall and even in vases on our fireplace mantle. We have taught him and continue to teach him that he has to have insulin for every carb he eats and are hoping that as he gets older and more independent he will make good choices and will administer insulin each time he eats carbs. We have told him that he can eat candy and snacks but needs to ask first, but of course just like with my non-type 1 kid I am not going to say yes EVERY time they ask for candy, there is a time and place for everything. The difference is that when my non-type 1 kid sneaks candy, it does not jack up his blood sugar, and he is smart enough to throw the wrappers in the trash where I would never notice them! ☺

Oh, and News Flash- Diabetic and “dietetic” foods generally offer no special benefit. Most of them still raise blood glucose levels, are usually more expensive, and can also have a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols. We tend to avoid anything with artificial ingredients and sweeteners believing that real sugar and fat in moderation is better for us in the long run.


  1. I love it when I see a blog about these myths. Even though my kids have a totally different type of diabetes (neonatal), many people (even my family) think they can't have sugar. A carb is a carb is a carb and any carb is going to raise blood sugar. I wish there was more education on this, but with the enormous population of Type 2 diabetics, I'm afraid this myth will continue for many years to come.