Person with diabetes or diabetic? For me, it’s not really an issue. I don’t have a problem with the word diabetic. I do, however, understand those who find it offensive. I bring this up now not because I want to get into the issue, but because of Sara Nicastro’s funny post on her blog Some Kind of Wonderful. Sara took a photo of a sign in her supermarket offering free diabetic recipes and then added the caption, “Don’t you hate it when your recipes get diabetes?”
But the words diabetic recipes don’t just bring up a question of syntax. They also raise a question of meaning. What makes a recipe a diabetic recipe or a recipe for a person with diabetes? There are probably as many answers as there are people with diabetes! Here are some possibilities: no sugar, low carb, low fat, low calorie, no meat, no cholesterol, low GI, no processed foods, no salt, something grandparents eat, something flavorless… And there are plenty of people who believe there is no such thing as a diabetic diet, but that people with diabetes can eat anything as long as it’s in moderation.
The variation in definition could be a good thing if it meant that people with diabetes were paying close attention to their food intake and measuring blood glucose levels to see how their bodies responded to any particular food. I suspect, however, that this is not what happens in most cases. And I think what I’m about to suggest is that there should be some sort of regulation on the words diabetic recipes. How can the millions of people with diabetes out there possibly be expected to “control” their diabetes when there is no clarity on what they should eat?
We diabetes advocates pick up on poorly researched diabetes articles in the media, where type 1 and type 2 diabetes are confused or not distinguished. But what about those seemingly innocuous articles like the one Mike noticed in Prevention magazine recommending dates as a fantastically healthy food for people with diabetes? What about the Reader’s Digest article called Diabetes Superfoods, which lists cereal (because it’s full of fiber), like Kellogg’sRaisin Bran, which contains: Whole grain wheat, raisins, wheat bran, sugar, brown sugar syrup…
Everybody is different, I know this. We have different kinds of diabetes, different body sizes, and we don’t all respond to the same foods in the same way. Some of us have food allergies. Some of us exercise to the extreme. Some of us don’t move at all. So there can’t be one diet that is right for everyone. But does that also mean that anything a person with diabetes eats is a diabetic meal?
I looked at some of the recipes on the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) website, hoping for some clarity, but I left it feeling more confused than ever. Why, for example, does the recipe for Indian Rice Curry call for “4 cups cooked white or brown rice.”
How is a person with diabetes going to understand that white rice is not a healthy choice if the recipe treats brown and white rice as equals.
Even weirder is that the ADA’s recipes are all followed by a disclaimer which begins, “Not all recipes presented here are necessarily appropriate for all people with diabetes…” I realize there is a need for disclaimers, but the way this particular one starts seems to endorse a hands-off approach.
If you agree that diabetes is a disease in which high blood sugar is a problem, then you should also agree that foods which cause high blood sugar like sugar in all its forms, white rice, and white flour should not be listed as “diabetic foods.” A person with diabetes may choose to eat such foods. That is an individual’s choice. But I would like that choice to be an informed one, not a miss-mash of meaningless terms being tossed around. If a person with diabetes eats a bowl of white rice that person should not be led to believe she’s eating a diabetic recipe, if in fact there is such a thing.
We do not need to be politically correct toward white rice, sugar, and dates. We can exclude them. The all-purpose flour in the ADA’s Provencal Tart will not be offended if we swap it out for whole wheat flour. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of great information on the ADA’s website. There are many recipes that would be considered “diabetic” by just about anyone. And as the ADA’s disclaimer continues, everyone should have a meal plan that’s right for the individual. But what about consistency for those who don’t have a meal plan? How is anyone to know if a recipe is really diabetic? Check its blood glucose?