Snacks and comfort foods for diabetics

Diabetics may need to think twice before they pop something into their mouths, but that doesn’t mean that all snacks and treats are off limits.

02 May 2014
by Annie Brookstone

Diabetes is a metabolic disease characterised by high blood sugar levels. In the case of type-2 diabetes, blood sugar levels are high because the pancreas does not produce enough of the metabolism-regulating hormone insulin, and because cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. In the case of type-1 diabetes, the pancreas produces no insulin. Type-1 diabetics are totally dependent on providing their bodies with insulin via injection.

You can enjoy an exciting, healthy diet!

Given the nature of the disease, it’s logical that one of primary battlegrounds in the fight against diabetes is food, but this does not mean that those with diabetes can’t enjoy a varied and exciting diet. Here’s how:

1. Everything counts. According to Ria Catsicas, a registered dietician at Nutritional Solutions, the frequency with which a diabetic person should snack between meals depends on their medication. “Fruit is a good choice between meals,” she says. “No one is worse or better than the other, but what’s important is quantity. Stick to small portions, especially so if you’re snacking on dried fruit – you need to practice discipline with quantities.” She recommends snacks that are high in fibre and low in fat.

2. Pass over processed foods. Catsicas explains that while many people with diabetes know to avoid foods with a high sugar content (for example, all soft drinks, as a can of Coca-Cola alone has in excess of seven teaspoons of sugar), they don’t necessarily realise they should also be avoiding products made with white flour. “In products made from white flour, all the fibre has been removed from the grain,” she says, “but foods need that fibre in order to have a low glycaemic index (GI), which means that the energy from the food is released slowly and won’t play havoc with blood sugar levels.”

3. Food is more than just fuel, so make it count. “The food we eat often has emotional or social value,” says Catsicas, “so have your treats when the occasion calls for a celebration, for example, a birthday party.” Catsicas says that with properly managed diabetes, “cheating” for a special occasion shouldn’t be a problem – just a sliver of birthday cake, mind you.

4. Even ‘diabetic-friendly’ treats are still treats. Just because a product is touted as suitable for diabetics, it doesn’t mean it can be eaten in limitless quantities, explains Catsicas. As always, portion control should be exercised.

Comfort foods for colder months

Take comfort! The following meal options, as suggested by Catsicas, will help keep your blood sugar steady and your tummy full.

Breakfast: Rolled oats with stewed fruit and yoghurt, cinnamon and nutmeg, or flaked almonds. Use xylitol as a sweetener, if needed (available at Clicks).

Lunch: Health bread toast with boiled or scrambled eggs, vegetable soup with lentils, beans or chickpeas. “I always tell patients to just add a can of beans, whether it’s to a soup, stew or salad. They’re low in fat, high in protein and a fantastic source of fibre,” says Catsicas.

Dinner: Hake, tuna or salmon, served with mixed vegetables and quinoa, brown rice or pearl barley. “It’s not just those with diabetes who should be eating like this,” says Catsicas, “Everyone should!”

How Clicks can help you

Clicks stocks a range of creamy Canderel chocolates that are suitable for diabetics. Clicks also carries a range of supplements to help manage your blood glucose levels. Ask your Clicks pharmacist for advice about a suitable product.

Read More: Diabetes Super Section