My dad has Type 2 diabetes and some doctors have advised him to stay away from sugars all together, while some have told him he can have SOME, but keep it limited. What is a SAFE amount of sugar for him to intake? Is the sugar in fruit safe for him to have? And what about Splenda?

People with Type-2 diabetes need to pay special attention to their diet. They need to monitor and regulate carbohydrate intake. As you may already know, carbohydrates are found in various foods, which include starches (breads, grains, cereal, rice), fruit, milk, and simple table sugar. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that we get approximately 50-60% of our total calorie needs from carbohydrates per day. For good diabetes management, your dad should have adequate carbohydrate intake and balanced meals. He should focus on “healthy” carbohydrates (like high fiber/whole grain bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta/cereal, and also fruit and low fat dairy products.) There is no formal limited Recommended Daily Amounts (RDA) for sugar per day, but most health care professionals suggest that we limit added sugars (excluding milk and fruit) to about 40 grams per day (10 teaspoons). I suggest that you begin checking the nutrition label of various foods. Look for added sugar ingredients like “high fructose corn syrup”, “honey”, “molasses”, “rice syrup”, and “sorghum”. As I have mentioned, fruit can be a very safe and healthy addition to anyone’s diet. Fruit is considered a carbohydrate and it does contain natural sugar (fructose), but it also contains high amounts of disease fighting antioxidants and is high in fiber.

Splenda is an artificial sugar and is found in various products such as candy, gum, soda, low-sugar juice, and protein bars. It can be safely consumed and included in the diet. As with most everything, I encourage moderation with its use. You may use Splenda in substitution for regular sugar in various cases, which will help your father control blood sugar levels. Please keep in mind, however, that even if a product says “sugar free” (and is artificially sweetened), it will likely still contain carbohydrates. For example, I had a patient do a diet recall the other day. He stated “I had three pieces of apple pie after dinner. But it was Ok because it was ‘sugar free’ “. I reminded him that the pie still contained carbohydrates (pie crust, apples etc) and he had to take that into account when counting his carbohydrates.

A healthy diabetic meal plan should include a good variety of foods. Have your father focus on lean meats and other high protein foods like egg whites, nuts/seeds, peanut butter, beans and also encourage him to increase his vegetable and fruit intake and focus on low fat dairy. Try to include several food groups at each meal and encourage him to check serving size labels and to watch his portion sizes. Remind him the artificial sweetened products are a way to decrease intake of simple sugars, but should be used in moderation. Finally, have him focus on high fiber products for optimal blood glucose control.

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