diabetes

Traffic Lights

You’re probably familiar with the traffic-light nutrition labels – more companies are using them, even some supermarkets have adopted them. There is still a lot of discussion – will they truly impact eating habits? – but in the meantime, you see them cropping up more frequently.

It’s an easy at-a-glance first-level filter to help you determine how – or whether – to fit certain foods into your eating plan.

What if you extended the system? What if you used it as a guide to customize a personal plan?

When I was first diagnosed, I spent several weeks testing: check the glucose before I eat that food… check the glucose one hour after… check the glucose two hours after. It was the only way I could see to determine what might or might not work for me.

They said: “Don’t eat sweet potatoes! They have far too much sugar.”

I found that, for me, sweet potatoes cause no blood glucose spikes, and in fact, they are a healthy – and tasty – addition to my diet.

They said: “Forget about chocolate. You can’t eat that any more.”

I found that, for me, a small amount of quality chocolate as an occasional treat doesn’t seem to adversely affect my BG numbers.

They said: “As long as you substitute food items labelled ‘Made for Diabetics,’ you can still enjoy sweets and puddings.”

I found that, for me, many of the so-called “diabetic foods” are almost as problematic as standard foods.

Without planning to, I developed my own traffic-light system. Certain foods are frequently on my table: kale, which I’d never eaten; salmon, much more often than before; non-fat yoghurt and oat bran are staples in the kitchen now.

Some foods have been relegated to an amber-light category. For me, they are items like grapes, which can raise my blood glucose, depending what I eat with them. Parsnips, peas, even artificially sweetened foods, are things I can eat as long as I don’t have them frequently and watch portion sizes.

Although the rule of thumb is “All foods in moderation,” I find there are a few that, for me, will either cause a massive glucose spike or simply stoke my cravings for more than I should have.

My red lights include white potatoes, fresh or canned pineapple, and corn. No matter how the potatoes are cooked, they will not only cause a high increase in the post-meal glucose, they also seem to trigger a desire to have more.

Nearly any white foods – not just potatoes, but rice, bananas, breads, biscuits – seem to have a similar effect on me. I find it easier to pass them by. One’s too many, a thousand aren’t enough.

Do you have foods that you can group into your own traffic-light nutrition plan? Which ones can you use as green lights – and which would make you see red?

Kasey Coff is an American living in Cheshire. Just turned 60, she was diagnosed with Type 2 in 2008 and focuses on “lifestyle control” as a means of diabetes management.

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