Low Carbohydrate, Sugar-free Foods, Diebetic Exchange in Pre-Insulin Days

Kerri Sparling Health Guide
  • Growing up on NPH and Regular insulin injections, my mom and I were always grappling with the peaks and valleys (literally) of these insulins.  We were constantly chasing my injections with food or exercise in efforts to keep my blood sugars from spiraling out of control.  And I was a kid.  So there was a lot of talk about snacks, and there was a lot of talk about "free foods."

    Free foods, according to my doctor at Joslin and my mother, were snacks like pickles, cucumbers, Jell-O, and sugar-free popsicles.  Foods without any real carbohydrate punch, leaving little mark on my blood sugar after consumption.

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    "Eat all you want!  Go on," my mother would urge, pointing her eight year old daughter towards the jar of pickles.  In those pre-insulin days of peaking insulin, it was all about meal plans and adhering to the guidelines.  Two starches, one protein, a fat, a milk, and a fruit.  We followed the "diabetic exhange" list obsessively at first, to the point where my mom was whipping out measuring cups at the restaurant dinner table in order to keep my meals precisely "exchanged."  Every day she did this, for about five years running.  Wake up, dose insulin, and scamper after it all day long.  Rinse and repeat.

    Except for the "free foods."  Bless their carb-free hearts, I was encouraged to go hog-wild on those suckers.   But my palette soon became tired of pickles and popsicles.

    "Why can't a Snickers bar be a free food?"  I would grumble, grumble under my breath as my mom cut up another plate of "jazzy cucumber slices."

    The one free food that always brought me glee was Jell-O.  My mom used to make "jigglers," which included a package of Jell-O and two packages of Knox unflavored gelatin.  They were prepared in the big 9x11 pan and she would leave them in the fridge for me to snack on.   (Sometimes she would add a small bit of whipping cream to the mixture and it would settle on the top, creating a very thin layer of fantastic Jell-O flavored custard on top of the aforementioned Jiggler.)

    This was a free food I dug.  And I still dig, especially now that I'm pregnant and doing my best to avoid any blood sugar spikes.  There's nothing like a snack that's carb-free for those hours when I'm starving but waiting for my blood sugar to settle down a smidge.

    A few nights ago, mentally revisiting my childhood, I made some Jell-O.  The tea kettle whistled and I poured the powdery mixture into my mixing bowl, adding the boiling water while I stirred.  (For the record, nothing stains a countertop quite like red-flavored Jell-O mix.  And yes, the flavor is always "red."  There are plenty of claims on those boxes but strawberry, raspberry, mixed fruit - they all taste ... red).

    Once the Jell-O solidified and was ready for consumption, I ate a whole bowl and stained my mouth red.  And felt like a kid again, all filled up with "free food" and scooping the last bits out of the bowl with my spoon.

Published On: January 13, 2010