Diet and exercise are important lines of defense when it comes to maintaining good health with diabetes. Making the needed changes to your diet can feel overwhelming when you first receive your diagnosis of diabetes or pre-diabetes, and many people mistakenly believe they have to give up their favorite foods to maintain good blood sugar control. That is not necessarily the case—many can still eat the foods you love by following a balanced, carbohydrate-controlled diet.
“I have to avoid sugar to control my diabetes” is a common misunderstanding for many who live with the condition when they begin making necessary changes in their diets. But controlling the total amount of carbohydrates is the truth of the matter. Sugar is just one source of carbohydrates, which are also in starchy foods, dairy, and even fruits. It is actually very important for people with diabetes to consume carbohydrates with every meal, but they need to be cognizant of the amount and control their portions. The doctor or registered dietitian working with a diabetes patient can help create a meal plan to map out the appropriate carbohydrate levels for that specific patient.
“How can I eat the foods I love if I can’t have sweets?” is another common question. Luckily there are alternatives to sugar that offer the desired sweetness of certain foods without the excess sugar and calories—one of these being stevia. Stevia is a zero-calorie sweetener that is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar, which means you have to use very little of the sweetener to create the same level of sweetness.
Also, since stevia does not contain carbohydrates, it does not affect blood sugar or insulin levels, making it a great option for people with diabetes. There are many products available that contain stevia, including soft drinks, teas, yogurts, baked goods, cereals, and many more. You can also buy stevia individually in bags, packets and other forms in your local grocery store.
Want some ideas on how you can use stevia in your diet? Here are some recipes to appease your sweet tooth while taking charge of your health!
Carolyn Reynaud, MS, RD, LD is a licensed registered dietitian and a paid contributor to SteviaBenefits.org. She received her BS in nutrition from Michigan State University and her Masters and Certificate in Public Health from Georgia State University. She has experience working in several avenues of health care including corporate wellness, clinical disease management, research, and health promotion. She has been working as a health coach specialist for close to 6 years, where she counsels patients on preventative healthcare and helps them meet their health goals. Follow her on Twitter @ReynaudCari.