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Addressing 8 Common Nutrition Myths for People with Diabetes

Whether a friend or family member is offering advice on what you should eat or you found some information online, there is a lot of conflicting information regarding understanding some general guidelines for healthy eating for people with type 2 diabetes.

Nutrition guidelines and recommendations can change over time and should be individualized. Working with your healthcare team, including a diabetes educator or registered dietitian, can be very helpful in developing a meal plan that works for you. Read below to help better to understand some common nutrition myths for people with diabetes.

Myth: Everyone with diabetes should follow the same meal plan

Fact: The Diabetes Standards of Care indicate there is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach to nutrition therapy for people with diabetes.1

People have different food preferences, cultural considerations, allergies, and eating schedules. These are just a few considerations when developing a meal plan that works for you.

Myth: Sugar-free foods will not increase your blood sugar

Fact: Just because a food is labeled "sugar-free" does NOT mean it is carbohydrate-free. Foods may not have any natural or added sugars but still contain large quantities of carbohydrates. To tell if it has carbohydrates, look at the total grams of carbohydrates listed on the food label.

Myth: You don't need to monitor your protein intake since it will not impact your blood sugar

Fact: People often think they can eat as many low-carb foods as they like since it will have minimal impact on blood sugar. Although protein foods such as chicken, fish, beef, or eggs may not directly increase blood sugar, the preparation method may add additional carbohydrates, calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats. An excellent general rule is for protein sources to be about the size of the palm of your hand.

Myth: As long as beverages say "no sugar added" or "100 percent natural," it will not increase blood sugar

Fact: People with diabetes are encouraged to limit consuming beverages like juice, sweet teas, sodas, or sports drinks due to how much carbohydrates they contain.

Even if labeled with "no sugar added," a food may contain carbohydrates and increase blood sugar. If there are any carbohydrates listed on the label, it will increase your blood glucose.

Myth: People with diabetes must watch their sodium intake only if they have high blood pressure

Fact: It is recommended that everyone with diabetes limit their sodium intake to less than 2300 mg daily. Some people may also be encouraged to consume less than that.1

Myth: People with diabetes must give up all their favorite foods

Fact: People often feel they must eliminate all their favorite foods from their nutrition plan. While it is true that making healthy choices and watching your portion sizes is necessary, it is also acceptable to individualize your diabetes care plan to allow for your favorite foods important to you in moderation.

Myth: People with diabetes should eat small frequent meals

Fact: Smaller meals may work better for some people for numerous reasons, but having 3 balanced meals a day may work better for others. It is important to customize your meal plan to include what works best for you.

Myth: People with diabetes should skip breakfast to help lower blood glucose levels

Fact: People often think that just because they aren't eating in the morning, their blood sugars will automatically be lower. But for some people, the opposite may be true.

Studies have found that skipping breakfast or that first meal of the day can contribute to poor blood sugar control and more variability. Studies have also found that people who regularly skip breakfast 4 to 5 times per week are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.2,3

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So, which of these myths have you heard about type 2 diabetes? Remember that diabetes is different for everyone, so consult your healthcare provider before making any changes to your management plan.

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