November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. According the the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is a serious disease that effects nearly 26 million children and adults in the US with 79 more million having prediabetes. It is estimated diabetes costs the US $245 billion a year. Diabetes occurs when your body can’t properly process blood glucose (or blood sugar) causing hyperglycemia (aka high blood sugar) due the pancreas’ inability to produce insulin (Type I Diabetes) or produces very little insulin (Type II). Type I may occur during childhood and is treated with insulin throughout your life. Type II can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, eating well, and exercising. Gestational Diabetes can occur during pregnancy as well. Signs and symptoms of diabetes include:
- Frequent urination
- Extreme fatigue
- Tingling or numbness in hands/feet
- Weight loss
- Blurry vision
- Excessive thirst
- Poor wound healing
I can’t tell you the number of customers I saw in my time at Kroger who hadn’t been told what diabetes actually is and how to eat, other than “don’t eat bread and sugar.” They would aimlessly wander the aisles, trying to figure out what they could eat. Getting diagnosed with diabetes can be very overwhelming and can take time to adjust to this new way of life, taking new medications and changing lifelong eating patterns. It’s important for patients to get referrals to dietitians who can help them make individualized meal plans focused on carbohydrate counting that can make life a lot easier especially with grocery shopping. Many supermarkets now employ in-store dietitians that can take you on a personal shopping tour to help you find the right foods. If you are on your own, don’t make these common mistakes when shopping for diabetes.
1. Don’t look at the % Daily Values on a food label.
This was one of the most confusing things for my consumers. %DV is like a point of reference, not a guide for diabetics.
2. Don’t just look at the sugar content on a food label.
Carbohydrates = sugar. Your body identifies it the same way. Find a dietitian to teach you carbohydrate counting. I promise your life will be a lot easier. You can still have some of your favorite foods when you know how to properly include them.
3. Don’t be fooled by the “SUGAR FREE” label.
Sugar free does not mean carbohydrate free and your blood sugar can still spike if you eat too many sugar free foods, like cake, cookies, and breads. Sugar free products can also be filled full of sugar alcohols that can cause GI distress.
4. Forego the FAT FREE products.
Many times fat free products have to replace the fat with more sodium and sugar, raising the carbohydrate content and sodium levels of the product. Compare your labels with the original or lower fat versions of the same products to see the difference. You will see the most difference in salad dressing and peanut butters.
5. Watch out for “Made with whole grains”.
Fiber and whole grains are important for proper blood sugar control. However, some companies label their products with “made with whole grains”, meaning they could have as little as a teaspoon of whole grains in the entire product. The term is not regulated. Look for the Whole Grain Stamp by the Whole Grain Council on products for recommended amounts. Total fiber content is very important for a diabetic so make sure you are still looking at that on a food label as well.
Need more information on shopping for diabetes? Check out the American Diabetes Association website or contact your local retailer to see if they have Registered Dietitians on staff to help you shop.