Food bank donations are often unhealthy for diabetics

Holiday food drives are underway in full force. While donors give with the best of intentions, many commonly donated foods are poor choices for people with diabetes, according to an article by the Associated Press.

Donated foods are often high in sugar, calories, fat and sodium. For people with diabetes, this is exactly what they should avoid to properly manage their disease.

Diabetics must keep their carbohydrate, fat and protein intake in balance to keep blood sugar levels stable, according to the American Dietetic Association.

In addition, donors tend to neglect the nutritional value of the foods they donate. Sugary cereals, sweetened beverages and cookies are popular items that hold little nutrition.

Instead, donors could select low-sugar, high-fiber cereals to donate. Cans of 100-percent fruit juice are better, as are nutritious foods like canned tuna and lite peanut butter. It's best to skip snack foods like chips, candy, cookies and crackers altogether.

Inexpensive foods are another pitfall. Commonly donated items like instant ramen noodles and boxed pasta dinners are high in sodium and calories. They also are high in “unhealthy” carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates affect a person's blood sugar more than other types of foods, so limiting consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates is crucial. Diabetics should target foods high in dietary fiber, which promotes glucose tolerance and helps control blood sugar levels.

The ADA recommends that diabetics try to consume at least three servings of whole-grain “healthy” carbohydrates. Good sources include oatmeal, brown rice, buckwheat and whole-wheat products. Legumes and beans are other excellent and inexpensive sources of fiber.

Processed canned foods are also popular donation items. Unfortunately, foods like like soup, chili and ravioli are high in calories and sodium. Lite or low-sodium canned items are a better choice.

People with diabetes need to make wise meal choices to maintain their blood glucose levels and avoid complications. To help food pantry recipients stay the course, donors can select healthy, nutritious yet inexpensive non-perishable food items to give this season.

Source: Associated Press, American Dietetic Association

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