Sweet Tooth…Or Not


One of the toughest things about being a diabetic is your relationship with sweet foods. It’s no secret that when someone is diagnosed with diabetes, they’re told to limit the amount of dessert they eat.

But the flip side of this is also true. At times, diabetics have to eat sweet foods when they don’t want to, i.e., when they have low blood sugar.

It might be hard for everyone to sympathize with this complaint. Yeah, right, a non-diabetic might think after reading this. I wish I sometimes had to eat a cookie. The problem is that even though diabetics have to consume sugar to raise low blood sugar, it’s not a guiltless pleasure. The sugar still has the adverse effects on your body and weight that it would with anyone else. Plus, lows often happen at times when you least feel like indulging in sweet foods. For example:

1. In the middle of the night. This is one of the most common times to go low. It’s also one of the times when you’re least likely to be craving something sweet, or even to be thinking about food at all. You don’t want to rouse yourself from peaceful dreams to go through your low blood sugar routine: scarfing down glucose tablets, waiting twenty minutes to make sure your blood sugar has risen enough, brushing your teeth, and, after all that, trying to get a little more sleep before your alarm clock rings.

2. After exercising. The last thing you want to do eat the calories you’ve just burned. If you’ve really pushed yourself in your workout, you might even feel a little nauseated. In psychological or psychical terms, it’s not a time when your body craves sugar.

3. After eating at a restaurant. Personally speaking, it’s more common for me to have high blood sugar than low blood sugar after eating a meal at a restaurant. I underestimate the amount of insulin I need because–of course–I don’t want to admit to myself how many carbs are actually in the food. Sometimes, though, a meal that will appear to be so high in carbs that I overestimate the amount of insulin I need. Two hours later, the realization that I consumed less carbs than expected would be a relief….except that I immediately have to eat those missing carbs in the form of glucose tablets. If I’m already full of a hearty meal and delicious dessert, it’s not likely that I’m in the mood for anything more.

So how can you make consuming sugar for low blood sugar less annoying?

Whenever possible, I try to eat something healthy to combat a low. Fruit or even fruit juice have more nutrients than glucose tablets, which contain only sugar. Even if I’m not in the mood to eat anything when I’m low, at least I don’t feel guilty if I eat something healthy. The problem with these options is that they’re hard to keep on hand. Juice boxes can be cumbersome and develop leaks. Fruit is perishable; you can’t keep it tucked in your bag for months in anticipation for the time you’ll finally need it. A piece of fruit also won’t raise your blood sugar as quickly as something made from pure sugar would. All too often, the choice is between glucose tablets and candy.

When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, my doctor warned me that the reserve of food I kept for lows shouldn’t be too tasty. Otherwise, I might be tempted to give myself a little extra insulin just so I would go low and “need” to eat some of the stash. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do a perfect job of  managing my diabetes, but I can say I’ve never felt this particular temptation. If I want to eat something extra after I’ve already given myself a shot for a meal, I just give myself another shot to cover it. So, if it’s a choice between sugar pills (which I find slightly disgusting) and chocolate (which I love) I’ll take chocolate any day. I figure that if I have to eat something unhealthy for my low, it might as well be something that tastes good. (Although I should acknowledge that chocolate, which contains fat in addition to sugar, is less heathy than glucose tablets.)

Ultimately, the best solution is probably to place a stricter limit on the amount on your daily sugar intake. If you happen to go low while sticking to this plan, you can eat something sweet with impunity. This isn’t the easiest route to go. In the back of your mind, you might think: But what if I don’t go low? I still deserve something sweet today! Try to look on the bright side: if you don’t end up needing to dip into your reserve of candy, you’ve been that much healthier for a day.

Does anyone else find themselves going low at times when you least feel like eating something sweet? What are your ways of dealing with this situation?

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Jessica Apple
13 years ago

Yes!  Many times at bedtime I’ve heard Mike say …”I’m so full, I can’t believe I have to eat something now.”  He also eats while he runs, which is far from ideal, but the only way he can keep from going too low.

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