The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


November 16, 2010

Weight control, exercise better than special foods

MILTON — Is sugar-free candy a worthwhile investment for diabetics?

Hope Sheetz, executive chef at Geisinger Medical Center, doesn't seem to think so.

"Diabetics can eat anything that anyone else can, in moderation."

The sugar-free candy may offer a small calorie savings, but the difference in flavor, texture and in price -- as much as triple -- makes it "a waste of money," she said.

"You could pay three times the price and aren't getting any more out of it," she said.

Made with artificial sugars such as sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol and isomalt, sugar-free chocolate is absorbed and digested slower than regular sugars.

But if not burned off with exercise, the end result is the same.

"Sugar is sugar and fat is fat," no matter what form it comes in, said Sheetz during a diabetic clinic at Geisinger in Milton.

"You don't have to feel different or buy special food just because you have diabetes."

The most important component for diabetics is sticking to recommended diet given by their physicians, she said, but exercise and smaller meal portions and healthy lifestyles help.

For most diabetics, this is a lifelong goal, said Dr. Danquing Chow at Geisinger Medical Center.

"The lifestyle change is the most difficult for them," said Chow. "But sometimes medication works well."

Diabetes is a progressive disease characterized by abnormally high glucose levels in the blood -- any of several metabolic disorders marked by excessive urination and persistent thirst.

Growing up, Sheetz' father had diabetes and suffered from kidney failure. From watching her father go through this, she learned the importance of planning menus.

Now she prepares all her meals a week in advance. She recommends this to diabetics to prevent them from impulsively eating out

"When you get off work and you're tired, you sometimes just want to stop and get something quick," she said. "But that's the worst thing you can eat."

When planning meals, she recommends using a nine-inch plate, filling one-fourth with lean protein -- like fish and turkey -- one-quarter with starch -- whole grain bread and pasta -- and one-half with no-starch vegetables.

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