3 Ways for People with Diabetes to Trim Carbohydrate Intake

Who doesn’t love a sugary beverage or sweetened oatmeal now and then! Unfortunately, for someone with diabetes, the extra carbohydrates from the sugar may be the difference between a healthy blood sugar level and a sugar spike. But there’s good news: “Swapping full sugar for low calorie sweeteners can reduce carbs and calories without sacrificing taste,” says Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN, author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes.

If you have diabetes, the amount of carbohydrate you eat directly affects your blood sugar level. So if you eat a little carbohydrate at one meal or snack, your blood sugar should rise just a little. But if you eat excessive amounts of carbohydrate at one time, it will go up a lot. Here are a few ways to rein in extra carbs.

Ditch Sugary Drinks

There’s plenty of carbohydrate (calories too) in soda, sweet tea or fruit punch. And all of it is in the form of sugar.

Beverage (12 fluid ounces)

Carbohydrate (g)

Cola 39 152
Sweet tea 32 128
Fruit punch 44 175

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database

Better choices are water, flavored waters, diet sodas and teas sweetened with sucralose or other non-nutritive sweeteners. If water bores you, attaching a filter to your faucet may be all you need to brighten the taste. If that’s not enough, flavor your water with some of your favorite fruits, vegetables and herbs. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Orange slices or orange and lemon slices
  • Lemon slices and grated gingerroot
  • Blackberries, lime slices and mint
  • Cucumber slices and mint or lavender
  • Peach slices and basil
  • Artificially sweetened water enhancers

Tips: Before adding herbs, gently crush them in your hands to release their flavors. Refrigerate your flavored water. Some combinations may take several hours to reach their best flavor.

Omit or Replace Sugar

Simply do without sugar or syrups in oatmeal, yogurt and other foods or replace them with non-nutritive sweeteners like sucralose. Look at the saving you ring up when you omit a single tablespoon of full sugar.

Sweetener (1 TBSP)

Carbohydrate (g)

Table sugar 13 49
Honey 17 64
Molasses 15 58
Pancake syrup 12 48

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database

Trim Your Portions and Balance Your Diet

Even wholesome, nutrient-dense foods like oatmeal, brown rice and fruit will raise blood sugar too high if your portions are too large. It’s smart to visit a registered dietitian nutritionist who is also a certified diabetes educator to create an individualized meal plan that works with your diabetes, lifestyle and food preferences.

Along with other techniques, sucralose and other non-nutritive sweeteners can make managing blood sugar just as tasty and much less of a struggle. They’re a useful and safe tool, adds Brown-Riggs.


Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is a registered dietitian nutritionist and diabetes educator in SE Virginia and a paid contributor to Sucralose.org. Through speaking, writing and coaching individuals, she helps empower people to live healthier, happier lives. Jill is the author of three books including Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart (http://www.jillweisenberger.com/books/).


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April 2, 2015 Lifestyle Advice