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C. L. Bruner/Bradenton Herald/MCT

C. L. Bruner/Bradenton Herald/MC,

Halloween: 'Nightmare on Carb Street'

  • Article by: MELISSA CASTINO REID
  • October 30, 2012 - 9:06 PM

It's Halloween, and kids of all ages are preparing for some frightful fun. So begins a string of holidays during which many Americans feast on decadent delights.

But for diabetics like me, these festive occasions are one long "Nightmare on Carb Street."

I'm new to the diabetic arena. In December 2010, my father died of a second bout of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The grief struck this 40-something hard, and I was diagnosed Type II within a month. By June 2011, my 4-year-old daughter experienced a life-threatening illness. My A1C numbers skyrocketed.

Daily, I read labels with laser vision, carefully count carbs. I dutifully consume my medications, and have inserted running (never before a part of my regimen) into my weekly activity.

I am fully aware that all my choices either help or hinder my battle with diabetes.

This is why I applaud New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's efforts to start a nationwide discussion about healthier food choices. I view Bloomberg as a superhero for getting America to think twice about ordering large sugary drinks at sports arenas, movie theatres and restaurants.

The Star Tribune reports that a 20-ounce soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar. Do we need that much sugar? No. I am old enough to remember the public service slogan "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." This time, it should say, "Friends don't let friends consume so much sugar."

Let's talk each other down off that ledge. Offer loved ones diet sodas or water. Otherwise, they risk weight gain and a faster onset of diabetes. Welcome to a life of finger pricks and perhaps insulin.

Many laugh at Bloomberg, and some are downright upset at his so-called infringement on choices. Here's what they don't get: As a diabetic, my choices are limited.

I bet diabetics aren't the only ones who would welcome changes. Many parents and health-conscious people want better choices. In addition to Bloomberg's efforts, let's do more.

When I go to a coffee shop, I should be able to order at least one sugar-free option in the pastry department. When I want to go out to eat at any restaurant, I should be able to order whole wheat pasta or a low-carb option from the menu. When I go to the grocery store, I should be able to buy sugar-free candy at the same volume and price as the full sugar choices. What if I go to the movie theater? Can't I have sugar-free candy there too?

When I asked the coffee shop for a sugarless dessert the other day, I was met with the barista's fear, not hope. If a mistake was made, a lawsuit would result, they assume. But somehow it's OK to offer full-fat, full-sugar options that contribute to our blossoming waistlines. I don't get it. (Sadly, I was the first to ask for a healthier pastry selection).

Some restaurants are health conscious and provide better choices. The Whole Grains Council offers a list of eateries that serve better options for me. I'm thrilled about a place like Olive Garden, where I can request whole wheat pasta instead of regular for any of its dishes. Perkins has one low-carb choice, but doesn't offer any whole wheat pancakes. Why not?

Critics argue that diabetics aren't a large enough demographic for which to make changes. They also might counter that it's too hard and/or too expensive to create these sugar-free and carb-less options. These might be fair points.

But the American Diabetes Association informs me that by January 2011, "25.8 million children and adults in the United States -- 8.3 percent of the population" were diagnosed with diabetes. That percentage will grow unless we make changes.

This is why all diabetics, parents and health-conscious people must demand better choices by writing to the companies and restaurants we patronize. It's simple economics: If demand rises, so will supply.

Let's join Bloomberg's mission to produce not just a better tomorrow, but more of them.

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Melissa Castino Reid lives in Mound.

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