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Diabetes Nutrition Tips: A dietitian’s journey

Diabetes Nutrition Tips: A dietitian’s journey

I have worked in the field of Clinical Dietetics for the past 27 years, having chosen this field largely because food choices and the topic of sugar have been in my life for as far back as I can remember.  Having lived with Type 1 Diabetes since the tender age of 4, and then experiencing my younger brother and first cousin go through the same diagnosis, I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those close to me and those around me.  Making healthy food choices on a daily basis is part and parcel of my everyday living and I love helping my patients to do the same.  


I qualified with my B.Sc Dietetics in 1995 and then my Post-Grad Diploma in Dietetics in 1996, from the University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, where I was born and grew up.  I have loved my field of work over the years and am passionate about assisting others in the field of nutrition and healthy living.  FUTURELIFEŽ has featured in my practice as far back as its inception in 2009.  I have always loved the fact that the entire range is nutritionally balanced, instant and can really enhance the nutrition of all my patients whom I work with.  The fact that many of the FUTURELIFEŽ products are low GI really enhances the message that I convey to most of my patients in practice, as I truly do believe the science behind low glycaemic index eating.   So many of my patients over the years have loved the variety of the FUTURELIFEŽ brand and have seen and felt a huge difference in their overall health, weight and glucose levels.  


What is Sugar?

Sucrose is the chemical name used for sugar, which is a sweet tasting disaccharide, with a medium GI value.  It’s made up of 2 simple sugars, called glucose (a simple sugar, which makes 50% of the sucrose molecule) and fructose (another simple sugar, making up the other 50% of sucrose).  Sugar makes healthy food more palatable and has many functional properties in foods.  Sugar also prompts the release of dopamine, associated with improved moods.  However, the use of too much sugar is a worldwide problem and it’s a common belief that excessive consumption of sugar can contribute to the prevalence of obesity and other co-morbidities such as Type 2 Diabetes. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that in both adults and children, the intake of sugar should be reduced to less than 10% of your total daily energy intake. “All things in moderation” is one of my own personal mottos and I enjoy sharing this concept with my patients in more detail.  Remember too, ingredients are always listed in order of weight, with the highest ingredient listed first, followed by the rest in decreasing order.


Living as a Type 1 Diabetic for the past 47 years, I’ve certainly learned my fair share about sugar over the years.  I have used the GI as a tool in my personal life, for many years, with good effect.  Food products tested and endorsed with the low GI logo are readily available and easy to incorporate into menus, adding a practical way to ensure improved glycaemic adherence.


Tips to Reduce Sugar in Your Daily Diet

There are very practical, easy ways to reduce sugar consumption in your diet, namely:

  • Reducing sugar content in tea and coffee e.g. instead of using 2 tsp per cup, reduce it down to 1½ and then eventually 1 tsp.  For 3 cups of these hot beverages per day, that’s a reduction of 50% added sugar.  Add that up over a week, then a month…..that’s a big saving in sugar intake!
  • Instead of using sweetened yoghurts, use plain yoghurt and add stewed or chopped fruit to this-much healthier.
  • Cut back on sugar-sweetened fizzy cooldrinks and use more plain water or water with sliced lemon in.
  • Avoid products that contain sugar in the first 3 ingredients; learn to read those labels carefully.
  • Be cautious of “hidden sugars” i.e.. any sugar ending in -ose e.g. glucose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose solids etc.

Cutting Down Sugar with FUTURELIFEÂŽ

The use of many of the low GI FUTURELIFE® products have made meals and snacks so much easier to use, with respect to sugar consumption.  As a Registered Dietitian working with numerous Diabetic patients, I have seen good post-prandial glucose responses after Breakfast, using in particular, FUTURELIFE®, Smart Instant Oats Classic which contains no sugar and by adding a small serving of fresh fruit, you can enjoy a little bit of natural sweetness!  FUTURELIFE® Smart food® ZERO is also sugar free and contains 2 alternative sweetening agents, namely Sucralose and Erythritol, which both have zero calories, yet ensure some sweet flavour, without the guilt.  Sucralose is made from sugar but is 400 – 600 times sweeter than sugar.  This sweetening agent is also found in the FUTURELIFE® Smart food® ZERO with Oats, a delicious option for the cooler Winter months.  Erythritol is a sugar alcohol i.e.. a nutritive sweetener, generally providing around 2kcal per gram. It is manufactured from different sugars and is absorbed at a slower rate.  Other examples of sugar alcohols include xylitol, mannitol and sorbitol.  The new, updated packaging of the FUTURELIFE® Smart food® ZERO and FUTURELIFE® Smart food® ZERO with Oats does include the endorsement by DSA (Diabetes South Africa) and GIFSA (Glycaemic Index Foundation of South Africa), which gives the consumer peace of mind and assurance that these products have been tested and approved for use in both Diabetes Nutrition and weight loss.  The scientifically formulated low GI combination of whole maize flour, whole soybean flour and other nutritious additives in FUTURELIFE® Smart food® ZERO, ensures a slow, gradual release of energy into the bloodstream.  This adds to improved satiety and satisfaction, seen in many of my patients’ glucose levels, as well as my own.  The properties of the wholegrains used in low GI products, make them the better starch choice for sustained energy and less variable blood glucose levels. What better way to improve glycaemic control and still enjoy a tasty, enjoyable food choice! The versatility with FUTURELIFE® Smart food® ZERO is that you can also use it as part of a smoothie, which I often do on my exercise days.  Adding a measured amount of low GI fruit and some sugar-free peanut butter, gives a delicious breakfast option for before exercise in the morning.   The FUTURELIFE® Smart food® WHEAT also makes another useful reduced sugar option for a meal, smoothie or snack and it’s quick and easy to use, just needing milk; no cooking necessary.  It contains only 4.3g sugar per 50g serving, 50% less sugar than the leading Whole Wheat RTE cereal in South Africa as at May 2021.


The other useful FUTURELIFE® product I often suggest to my Diabetics with a sweet tooth, is the FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN LITE Bar, which comes in two different flavours, namely Chocolate Crunch and Peanut Butter Crunch.  Both these Lite options contain 25% less sucrose than the FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN Bars.  The main reason I love these 2 options, is the fact that a 40g bar is equivalent to more or less 1 protein exchange (one serving of protein contains 7g of protein, the same as 1 whole egg or a 30g serving of lean mince). So with half of the FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN LITE Bar, you have roughly 4.6g protein and more or less only 4g carbs per serving.  I often suggest that my patients slice up their half bar serving into little slivers and use it as a “sweet treat” when their cravings happen……works like a charm!  Just this week, a Type 1 Diabetic patient of mine said that she cuts up half of the FUTURELIFE® HIGH PROTEIN LITE Bar Chocolate Crunch Flavour and then sprinkles cinnamon over it, mixed into her yoghurt-clever suggestion too.


A similar ‘treat’ that I sometimes recommend to my patients is also the the FUTURELIFE® BEAUTI FOOD™ Protein Bar, available in delicious Chocolate Brownie (with a sugar-free dark chocolate coating) and French Vanilla flavours.  With only minimal sugar of between 2.8g (chocolate) - 3.2g (vanilla) per 40g serving (1 bar), this bar serves as a useful protein snack, something I often suggest to my Diabetic and weight conscious patients in my practice.


I personally find the use of fruit a very worthwhile substitute for sugar, not only in recipes like bran muffins, but also for desserts e.g. cheesecakes.  Fruit contains fructose, a low GI sweetening agent with a nutritive value but a slower release of energy into the bloodstream than sucrose.  The fruits preferable to use are the berry fruits, citrus and deciduous (those with edible skins, due to the slower release of energy, as well as and the fibre benefit).


The FUTURELIFEÂŽ Smart Instant Oats with Ancient Grains actually contains 38% less sugar than previous formulations, great to see a company constantly looking for ways to reduce sugar with no compromise on taste.


MODUCAREŽ is a daily immune supplement used in many FUTURELIFEŽ products, made up of natural plant extracts, to help support and enhance a healthy immune system.  Just another reason why this range of products is so versatile and can be easily used by many people.


So hopefully you now all feel a little more inspired as to how to reduce your sugar intake more naturally in your meals and snacks!



Author:  Julie Peacock RD (SA)

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