Having been a low-carber for five years and having a mother with type 2 diabetes, a lot of gifts we get are thrown out: food and restaurant gift certificates, in particular. Almost anything that's labeled "Healthy" or "For diabetics," isn't. If the recipient of your gift is strict about their diet, gifts on the no-no list will end up re-gifted or in the trash. Here's some help in making a good choice.
- Sweets. There's a reason they used to call it sugar diabetes: it's a disease of disregulated blood sugar. Sugary foods are out.
- Starches. Starches are made of chains of glucose. The chains break apart in the digestive system, turning into glucose--a type of sugar. Bread, crackers, beans, noodles, potatoes, muffins, cornbread--no.
- Sugar-free or "for diabetics." "For diabetics" doesn't mean anything--literally. It should probably say "for diabetes," meaning enough of it, in the right person, will cause diabetes. Sugar-free foods can be loaded with carbohydrates, which raise blood sugar. Some products, like bread from Julian's Bakery, have been found to be deliberately mislabeled and are, in fact, high-carb foods.
- Fruit. Fruit may be natural--so is radon--but it's full of sugar. Cross the fruit basket off your list.
- Restaurant gift certificate. Maybe. Check the menu to make sure there's something they can eat: eggs or unbreaded meat for the entree. I once got a gift certificate from someone who said, "I don't know if there's anything you can eat there." And the place was at the opposite end of downtown from where I worked. Gee, thanks.
- Diabetic cookbooks or magazines. These are full of high-carbohydrate recipes that can make you diabetic.
- A donation to the American Diabetes Association. The ADA is largely funded by pharmaceutical companies that sell diabetes medications. These businesses have nothing to gain by reducing their customer base, which is why the ADA recommends eating a portion of starchy food (a quarter of a dinner plate) at every meal. That's more than enough to give diabetics blood sugar levels that, experienced day after day, are toxic and can lead to blindness and amputation. I'd sooner make a donation to Al Quaeda.
- Homemade low-carb goodies. Yes--but make sure they're actually low carb. An apple pie made with Splenda still has a flour crust and fruit. (Remember the part about starches and fruit being bad for blood sugar?) On the other hand, a pumpkin pie made with canned or fresh pumpkin (not "pumpkin pie filling"), Splenda, a nut crust and heavy cream or coconut milk instead of sweetened condensed milk should be low carb. For cookies, breads and pastries, get a recipe book like Cooking with Coconut Flour (and don't use any sugar, honey or maple syrup--use Splenda). You cannot swap regular flour with coconut flour or almond flour; you need a recipe written for those ingredients. A word about sweetness: someone who has been on a low-carb diet for a while has probably seen their taste for sweetness ratcheted down. I typically use half the sweetener called for in recipes, except when making cookies: baked goods need the whole amount for the texture. To get an idea of the right level of sweetness, eat a square of Dove dark chocolate.
- A low-carb food basket. A basket of smoked salmon, avocados, hard cheese, olives and nuts--ain't no way this will be regifted.
- Wine. Maybe. A lot of us enjoy it, but it interferes with some common medications and blood sugar levels for some people. If you're not sure about it, find another gift.
- Restaurant or coffee shop gift certificate. Again, maybe. Make sure it's a place they'll like to eat or drink and that it's convenient for them to get to. Places with the word "grill" in the name are best: there's something they can eat there and it's hard to screw up a hamburger. But I've seen it done! I've found that my taste sensitivity to everything has gone up, and bad food and coffee aren't merely bad, they're dreadful. Choose carefully.
- Books and magazines. Low-carb enthusiasts are aware of all the new books out there. But for a newbie, Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution and Blood Sugar 101 are indispensable for diabetics. Dana Carpender has written many low-carb cookbooks with carbohydrate counts for the recipes. Long-term low-carbers are often avid readers--an e-reader or gift certificate to Amazon or Barnes and Noble might be a great gift.
- Donation to Heifer International. The very poor often subsist on low-nutrient, high-carb, grain-based diets. Heifer International (fka The Heifer Project) provides needy people with livestock and training to care for the animals. The people they serve get the benefit of a more nutritious diet from the animals' milk, eggs and meat, more fertile land, and income from wool and extra food.