Living with diabetes blog

With diabetes, eating pizza not always a treat

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. March 28, 2009

For people who don't live with diabetes, eating pizza is usually a treat. The worst problem is you might eat too much.

My dietitian friends tell me pizza can be a healthy food (protein, vegetables and complex carbohydrates). "Can be" is the key. Those thick crusted, deep dish, meat lovers specials with extra cheese are probably not what my dietitian friends are talking about as far as a healthy meal.

Here are some interesting statistics from an industry Web site:

  • Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day or about 350 slices per second.
  • Pizzerias represent 17 percent of all restaurants.
  • Pizza is a $30 billion per year industry
  • Pizza accounts for more than 10 percent of all food sales.
  • Sixty-seven percent of Americans order pizza for a casual evening with friends.
  • Each man, woman and child in America eats an average of 46 slices or 23 pounds of pizza a year.

For people with diabetes, just thinking about pizza creates all kinds of emotional turmoil:

  • "Pizza, never touch the stuff, it causes my blood sugars to go crazy."
  • "I wish I could eat pizza, it's one of those things I haven't figured out how to cover with my meal insulin."

High fat foods such as pizza can cause a delay in the absorption of the carbohydrates for 2-3 hours after eating and can elevate the blood sugar for up to 8 hours.

So what's a person with diabetes to do? As you know, there are no hard fast rules in diabetes management; many times it's trial and error. You can do everything such as diet, activity and medication consistently and the blood sugar results will vary.

Some tips:

  • Experiment with one brand of pizza (preferably a thin crust). Test your blood sugar before and after the pizza and watch the patterns in your blood sugars. When does your blood sugar start to rise? If you are on an insulin pump or a multiple daily injection program (MDI), you can time the rapid insulin accordingly. It may mean taking the insulin after you eat.
  • If you are on an insulin pump, you can use an extended/combo or square/dual wave bolus, according to the patterns of blood sugars you've seen. Ask your diabetes educator to explain how these functions work and how to set these programs up on your insulin pump.
  • After you have one pizza mastered, you can move on to others.
  • If you are on insulin programs or oral diabetes medications other than the multiple daily injection program (MDI) or insulin pump, don't adjust your medication for the pizza intake (ask your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about this issue). Just be aware your blood sugar may run a little higher a few hours later or even into the next morning depending on when you ate. On the other hand, pizza may not have much of an effect on your blood sugar. Naturally, the amount of pizza you eat will make a difference in your blood sugar results.

Is eating pizza worth it? I'll be anxious to hear from you this week.

- Nancy

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March 28, 2009