Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Contributed by

Bhavani Sundari. B
Diabetic Educator

Diet foods are available in plenty in the market, the most common being biscuits, cookies and bakes. You also have breakfast cereal, health drinks, juices, supplements and teas – all of which are supposed to be 'Diet' and promise that they can benefit you, if included in the diet.

Is it true, that anything that claims to be beneficial for health or is labelled as "diet foods" can be included in the diet blindly?

The answer is NO!

Nowadays we have a number of persons with diabetes saying all that they eat are 'Diet' biscuits and it really should not cause them any problem.

What is so healthy about these biscuits? Yes, they may have added ingredients such as oats, or millets or flax seeds, but what about the fat or trans fats that are used to make them? What about the sugar that they invariably contain?

Another misleading food product available on the shelves of supermarkets is Breakfast cereal. Though some of these claim to be sugar free, they contain syrups such as invertase syrup which are similar to sugar as far as calories are concerned, adding to invisible empty calories, clearly making them NON – DIET food products, though they may claim otherwise.

Also most of the health drinks, such as soy milk available in the market contain added sugar.

Health drinks/ Juices such as barley and lime juice available in the market too contain added sugar.

There are plenty of supplements in the market too, such as protein powders and pills, which are mindlessly promoted by agents who are not qualified to talk about them. Just last week I saw a patient who was happily consuming protein powder from a multi level marketing company. The patient is supposed to be on a protein restricted diet as her kidney functioning is compromised, but due to some agent who lured her into buying protein powder, she has religiously been consuming protein powder and her serum creatinine levels had shot up from 1.2 mg/dl  to 1.8 mg/dl!!!

Do not be lured by “Sugar – free” biscuits and other sugar free products available in the market. We should look into the fat content of these products. Though they may be sugar free, they would most probably still be calorie dense as they have a lot of added fat in them.

Do not be lured by the low fat products available in the market. Though they are supposed to be baked and contain 50 % lesser fat, they contain lots of added sugar, making them unsuitable for persons with diabetes.

My request to all out there is be responsible. Educate yourselves about what is available in the market. Begin with reading the Food Labels.

Please keep in mind, that the most expensive product on the shelf need not be the healthiest product.

The next thing  you need to look at is the expiry date of the product. Please do not purchase products close to expiry date or products that have crossed the expiry date.

The next thing to read are the ingredients that are present in the product. Read all the ingredients carefully and if you are not sure of any ingredient added in the product, do not buy it at the time. Come back, talk to your dietician or do some research and then go back and decide if that product is for you.

The next thing you will have to look at is the nutrition table. The table clearly states how many calories are present in the food item alongwith calories available from fat, saturated fat, carbohydrates and sugar. Any product that has calories that are being contributed from sugars are definitely not for persons with diabetes.

Read the serving size. Serving sizes can be deceptive. Many food items available may look like one serving, but may actually be 2 servings or more. All nutrition facts are per serving, including calories. Calculate appropriately to know how many calories you are consuming.

High calories per serving means the food is either high in fat or high in sugars. Around 40 calories per serving is a healthy snack, while 100 calories per serving can still be considered. Anything above 250 calories per serving, is calorie dense and should not be included.

If any product has more than 3 grams of fat per serving or more than 5% of the daily value of fat or cholesterol, saturated fats or trans fats, then it definitely is not a healthy snack.

Snacks that provide more than 5% of the daily value of sodium is also a definite no.

Look for healthy carbohydrates that provide atleast 2 – 3 grams of fiber per serving. Avoid carbs loaded with added sugar. Check for the first 3 – 4 words  that end in 'ose', these are sugars in different forms.

Daily value in the nutrition label represents the amount of each nutrient you need if you eat / need 2000 calories per day. 20% or more is high. Look for 20% or more of fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Iron. 5 % or less is low and fat, saturated fat, cholestrol and sodium should fall within this range for a snack to be healthy.

To conclude, dieting is a lot simpler in India these days, provided we choose the right products from the shelf and make it a part of a healthy diet.