This week’s question from http://foodpicker.org !!

I was diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago.  I’m wondering about those bars and shakes I see advertised for people with diabetes.  Are they good to use?  Sometimes I’m out and need a snack or quick lunch.

Absolutely. When you are on the go and are short on time, snack bars and shakes can be a good option. They can prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low when you have to skip a meal, and can even provide extra nutrition to those who are in need of it. These bars and shakes are typically referred to as “meal replacements,” and can also include puddings, soups, and frozen meals. When you go shopping you will find that there are a TON of them out there.  Meal replacement sales are as high as $1 billion each year.

Do be careful though. Ones that are directed towards diabetes are generally alright, such as Glucerna products, however always be conscientious of those carbohydrates and check labels. Everyone responds to food differently, so be sure that when you start using them you are monitoring your blood sugar regularly. This can give you an idea what works best for you.  You want to aim for a meal replacement that has a little fat and protein  in it to keep you full, and that will slow its absorption to prevent a dramatic spike in your blood sugar. Also look for ones that have 3 grams of fiber or more.

There are other issues to consider as well. If cost is a factor, this may not be the best route to go. Meal replacements can be pricey, and in the long term it can become very expensive. Taking some time to plan healthy snacks from home  occasionally can help alleviate this, such as a smoothie with low-fat or skim milk, or some cheese and crackers.

Use meal replacements sparingly, or only when they are needed. They are wonderful for a quick snack  if you are having a busy day, but if you have time to eat a real meal instead, please do. Research has found that excessive use of meal replacements can cause you to be deficient in vitamins and minerals in the long run. You may find your blood sugar becomes hard to control as well.

Everything in moderation!