Diabetes Q and A

By Janis Roszler, MSFT, RD, CDE, LD/N

Q Thanksgiving is almost here and my family is going to embarrass me again – they will lay out a delicious spread of homemade foods that I can’t eat, and set aside some store-bought microwaveable foods for me, their “little diabetic.” Can you help me have a better holiday?

A Here are several things you can try to help everyone enjoy a better Thanksgiving:AA006908

  • Call the host of the dinner ahead of time and let him or her know that you appreciate their concern, but don’t require special foods. Then use the Plate Method to take reasonable portions, so your blood glucose level stays within your target range:
    • Take a standard 9-inch plate.
    • Fill one half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables. These include lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, celery, cauliflower, etc.
    • Limit your starch servings to ¼ of the plate. These include potatoes, stuffing, corn, peas, etc. Do not eat a larger portion. These are carbohydrate-rich foods that will raise your blood glucose level.
    • Fill the remaining ¼ of the plate with turkey or other protein item.
  • Limit your dessert servings. Take just a taste and move away from the buffet table. If you can’t limit yourself, walk away before dessert is served and sit down with a cup of coffee or tea. Or, offer to bring a diabetes-friendly dessert that all can enjoy.
  • I can’t stop your relatives from calling you their “little diabetic,” but I do have a suggestion that may help. Go to and print out copies of their Diabetes Etiquette booklet for people who DON’T have diabetes. Pass these around to relatives who are interested in learning how to interact with people who have diabetes. It is a great resource!
  • Here’s another hint that you may find helpful. Most people respond to the tone that you set. If you are comfortable with your diabetes, they will be comfortable too. When your aunt calls you her “little diabetic” give her a hug and call her your “little auntie” and see what happens then change the subject. You’ll be turning it into a lighthearted joke and will, hopefully, take the sting out of the comment. Family can be frustrating, but they do provide us with many things that we are thankful for.

Q My boyfriend has type 1 diabetes. His doctor said that he might not be able to have children. Is this true?

A Having diabetes shouldn’t affect a man’s ability to have children. A very small study published in 2007 in the Journal of Human Reproduction showed that men with type 1 diabetes may have a slight change in sperm quality that could affect fertility. All of my patients with type 1 who wanted to have children, now have beautiful families. Tell your boyfriend not to worry.

Q I forgot what to do when my blood sugar drops too low. Can you print the tips again?

A Sure! If your blood glucose level drops below 70 mg/dl (or below your target range), use the 15/15 Rule. Here it is:

  • Eat 15 grams of a quick-acting carbohydrate food. Examples include:
    • ½ cup of fruit juice
    • 1 can of regular soda (not diet)
    • 2 teaspoons of sugar
    • Commercially sold glucose tablets (as directed on the label)
  • Wait 15 minutes
  • Test again.
  • Repeat until you are within your target range or above 70 mg/dl. Follow this treatment with a small protein/carbohydrate snack.

*This article originally appeared in 2008
**please consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes to your diabetes regimen.

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