When it comes to meals for managing an illness like diabetes, there is some good news.
"Someone with diabetes can eat about anything they want," said Elizabeth Davis, a certified diabetes educator with the Cotton-O'Neil Diabetes Learning Center.
More than 17 million Americans are living with diabetes. For them, what they eat can be a lethal weapon. That's also true for many more of us. The American Diabetes Association says that for as many people who are diagnosed with diabetes, there are just as many - if not more - who are on the edge of developing the disease.
A person with diabetes can't use or produce insulin properly. Insulin is the hormone needed to convert sugar, starch and other food into the energy needed to live.
Davis said people with diabetes need to follow the same healthy diet recommendations as anyone else, while paying particular attention to carbohydrates. She said that means all carbs - not just sugars.
"It's not just sugars that raise the blood sugar. That's just one type of carb," Davis said. "For the most part we still teach a carb is a carb. It doesn't matter what the source of that carb is, in terms of effect on blood sugar, it's the total amount."
Davis said that's why some food labels can mislead you. Sugar free may mean no sugar, but with many foods, the sugar free version actually has more total carbs than the regular version.
"They take the sugar out, so legally they're okay saying it's sugar free," Davis said, "but they still have the same amount of carbohydrates because they substitute another type of carbohydrate for the sugar."
Davis said a person with diabetes should look at all carbs and be sure they make up no more than 40 to 50 percent of their diet. They also shouldn't eat anymore than a third of the day's carbs at any one time.
Some choices are better than others. Davis said diet soda pops and other items with sugar substitutes are okay; fruit is better than fruit juice; and choose bread and pasta carefully.
"Look at the ingredients and make sure the first item listed says whole wheat or whole oats - whatever the grain might be," she said. "Same for cereals."
Davis said eating well and exercising are good habits for anyone, as being overweight is a major factor in whether you'll develop Type 2 diabetes.
for more information:
Cotton-O'Neil Diabetes Learning Center
American Diabetes Organization