Shortly after my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a funny thing happened. People started giving us “diabetic” candy for him. We knew it was well-intentioned and we appreciated the effort. Nevertheless, it all went straight into the trash.
Logically, it makes sense that people want to give a diabetic child sugar-free candy. But in practice, there are several reasons that it’s not the best idea.
1. Carbs NOT sugar
People with T1D have to pay attention to their carbohydrate intake. While sugar falls under the “carb” category, less sugar doesn’t always mean less carbs or insulin.
Often, sugar-free products actually contain more carbohydrates than their “regular sugar” counterparts.
2. Sugar alcohols
The reason these candies and chocolates are “sugar-free” is because the sugar has been replaced with sugar alcohols.
There are several different types of sugar alcohols, including Erythritol, Maltitol, and Sorbitol.
They count as carbs, but they aren’t digested the same way as carbs. Most people are told to subtract sugar alcohols from their total carb count.
Notice how I said most?
Some people react to sugar alcohols the same way as regular carbs. Or, to make it more complicated, some people react to certain types of sugar alcohols like regular carbs, but not others.
Bottom line, sugar alcohols complicate the carb counting process and it’s a lot easier to avoid them entirely.
3. The taste
Need I say more??
4. Tummy troubles
Oh, that chocolate bar is sugar-free? Go to town and eat it all! Have one every day if you want, it’s sugar-free after all.
It may please your sweet tooth, but you know who won’t be happy? Anyone who has to share a bathroom with you.
In large amounts, sugar alcohols work as a laxative. They can cause cramps, bloating, and diarrhea.
Don’t believe me? Just check out the reviews on these sugar-free gummy bears! (<– That’s an affiliate link, in case you feel like trying them out yourself… or if you have an enemy to send them to 😉)
Since diarrhea easily causes dehydration, this can be particularly problematic for people with T1. Dehydration is a factor that can lead to DKA (a serious, life-threatening condition) and can speed the process up significantly.
5. It’s not necessary to avoid sugar with T1D
Yes, it’s labeled as “diabetic” candy.
Yes, you’ve learned that people with diabetes can’t eat sugar. (Which is not true by the way, in case you still believe that.)
People with T1D can actually eat sugar. They can eat what anyone else eats.
Diabetic candy is made for people who have type 2 diabetes. For people who are able to manage their diabetes through diet and exercise (which, for the record, is not every person with type 2).
People with T1D can’t manage or reverse their disease with diet and exercise. They need to take insulin when they eat.
Whether it’s an apple or a bag of cotton candy, they need to calculate carbs and inject insulin.
No one should be eating excessive amounts of sweets or other junk foods. But having treats is fine for people with T1D, just as it is for people who don’t have T1.
So when someone gives you sugar-free candy…
Know that they mean well. They’re trying to help.
Thank them for their thoughtfulness and kind gesture.
Then explain to them that sugar-free is not necessary. That they can give the treats they would have given before the diagnosis.
And if they don’t want to listen and they keep giving you sugar-free candy, there’s always the trash can.
Happy carb counting!
Have you ever received sugar-free candy or chocolate from someone? What did you do with it? Comment below!
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