I’ll be honest – I like desserts, candy and other sweets. But I want to be able to enjoy them while still keeping good control of my levels and meeting my A1C goal. We all know the saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” For those of us with diabetes, it’s true that you can’t eat that cake without taking into account how it fits into your diabetes management plan.
For me, the key to success is portion control. I use an insulin pump and have the ability to deliver enough insulin to cover whatever I eat. But the more calories a portion of candy or dessert contains, the harder it is to correctly figure the amount of carbohydrates–and sweet foods tend to have plenty. If my guess is far off, I know I risk either a high or low blood glucose reading later on.
When I am enjoying dessert or candy, I try to eat it slowly so I can enjoy the flavor and make it last. That makes it easier to settle for a smaller slice of cake or piece of candy. It can be hard to settle for less when you see others having more. But you’re still enjoying your dessert and often you’ll feel better later if you have a little less.
I won’t deny that it’s tempting to eat more sweets than I should. So I try to avoid having large portions readily available. I find it’s easier to eat a “fun size” candy than to unwrap a full-sized bar and limit myself to a smaller amount. If you struggle with temptation, you might want to consider getting rid of the larger-sized candies.
It’s also a good idea to plan some physical activity after you eat dessert. Going outside to walk or run around after eating will help you burn the calories you’ve just eaten. Since I enjoy biking, I’ll often bring some candy on my bike and eat a small amount in the middle of my ride. That’s a nice way to enjoy sweets and also keep my blood glucose level where it should be.
While I like traditional desserts, I’m also very enthusiastic about fresh fruit, including melon, strawberries, cherries and figs. These can be wonderfully sweet but increase my levels at a slower rate than desserts that have a lot of added sugar. It also helps me reach my recommended daily amounts for fruits and vegetables. And if you still want some candy or dessert, having a little fruit first will make you feel fuller, so you can keep the portion size down.
When I found out I had diabetes, I hated the idea that I would no longer be able to enjoy the sweet foods I used to love. So I’m happy to have found ways to have them and still reach my diabetes management goals.
Rodney Paul has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1993 and is a Software Engineer in the San Francisco Bay area. He has been involved in the Napa Tour de Cure for more than 20 years, and is also a member of the Association’s San Francisco Leadership Board and serves on the National Youth Strategies Committee.