Can I Have Pizza If I Have Diabetes?
Pizza is delicious. But if you’re living with diabetes, you might be wondering if you can safely indulge? The answer is – yes! You’re going to have to take certain precautions and do a little blood sugar navigation to make sure you’re not throwing your diabetes management entirely out of whack, but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a savory slice of pizza when the craving hits.
Yes, pizza raises blood sugar.
In fact, pizza can raise blood sugar pretty dramatically. Think about it, we're talking crust, which is usually carbohydrate heavy. In fact, a few slices of pizza can be upwards of 80-100 grams of carbs in a single sitting, and that doesn’t even take into account all that cheesy goodness which is also rich in fat. Not to mention, pizza is often very high in sodium which can pose a problem for those with diabetes who are also managing diabetes-related high blood pressure.
So, let’s get it out of the way and just say it. Pizza is definitely not the best choice in terms of blood sugar management. In fact, pizza, if eaten too often, isn’t a healthy choice for anyone, diabetes or not. But that doesn’t mean it should be off limits entirely to those of us with diabetes. You simply need to understand what you’re getting into when you order that pie.
Pizza, insulin, and delayed blood sugar spikes
One of the sneaky things about pizza and blood sugar is that because of all the fats in pizza it can actually delay the blood sugar spike you experience. You’re not just packing on the carbs when you eat a slice, you’re also consuming a lot of fatty cheeses that take a lot longer to digest and, therefore, impact blood sugar later. So, while things may seem okay at first, a few hours after eating you may find yourself experiencing a huge spike when all that fat finally starts to be digested and enters the bloodstream.
The answer for many people who take insulin treatments is to change up their blousing scheme to accommodate for this delayed reaction. Bolus insulin is taken at mealtime to keep blood glucose levels under control following a meal.
It’s usually taken before a meal, however, when it comes to pizza it might be a good idea to spread the insulin out to help manage that delayed blood sugar reaction.
A bolus change-up example
Let’s say a person calculates that they need 5 units of insulin to accommodate for a few slices of pizza. Rather than administering all of this insulin as a single bolus dose before starting the meal, it might be wise to divide it up. Perhaps, 2 units are taken 15 minutes before eating, then 1 unit is taken directly after eating, and the final 2 units are administered an hour or so later.
Spreading out the dosage this way can help avoid those delayed spikes. Before going any further, it is important to note that this is an entirely random example and by no means should be used in managing your own diabetes. That depends on your individual insulin regimen and diabetes management plan. Ask your diabetes physician if an alteration in your bolus plan might be wise when you eat fatty foods such as pizza.
Building a diabetes-friendly pie
As we’ve pointed out, pizza is certainly not the best dietary choice when it comes to controlling blood sugar. There’s really no way around that based on the carbs and fats involved. Still, there are some things you can do to make your pizza party a little more diabetes friendly. Let’s look at a few:
Crust or bust.
These days there are a lot of alternative crusts to choose from beyond those made with typical white flour. That’s not to say that any of these entirely eliminate the carb count, but they can help.
- Whole-Wheat/Whole-Grain Crust – these doughs tend to have fewer carbohydrates than traditional flower crust. But the real advantage is in the amount of added fiber you’re bringing to your pizza.
- Cauliflower Crust – many pizza parlors and store-bought pizzas have a cauliflower crust alternative. This will definitely lower the carb content of your pizza and lessen the impact on your blood sugar. Just be sure to ask about all the ingredients in the crust, as some incorporate cheeses and other flowers, which may defeat the purpose of trying to lower your carb intake.
- Keep it Thin – Sorry Chicago, but the thinner the crust the less carbs and the better it is for controlling blood sugar. Also, avoid those silly stuffed crust pizzas as they only add up to extra calories and carbs you don’t need.
Choose toppings wisely.
The best part of a good pizza is piling on your favorite toppings. Do yourself a favor by sticking with veggies and healthy proteins. Bell peppers, mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, spinach, and artichokes are all great options. What makes them even better is that most pizza parlors put the veggies on fresh, so they maintain their nutritional value even after being cooked. For proteins, opt for lean grilled chicken or a lean chicken sausage.
Limit slices and add healthy sides.
The last thing you want to do is go overboard with pizza. Think of it as a delicious indulgence that needs to be enjoyed in moderation. One or two slices should suffice. What can help prevent you from overdoing it is making sure you have a healthy side dish or two to round out the meal – a crisp garden salad, steamed or grilled veggies, any healthy option that won’t contribute to dramatic blood sugar increases but will help fill you up.
Bake your own pizza.
The best way to know exactly what’s in and on your pizza is to do it yourself. There are plenty of great dough and sauce options available at your local supermarket. You’ll be able to read the labels and know exactly how many carbs, sugars, and salt will be in your pizza. Pick up some fresh veggies from the produce section and you’re good to go!
Relax and enjoy!
Go ahead and let yourself savor that hot, gooey pizza. You’re entitled! Incorporating your favorite foods into your diabetes diet now and then should not throw your blood sugar out of whack. The primary goal of a diabetes nutrition plan is long-term blood sugar success. It’s not there to eliminate your favorite foods. It’s there to help you enjoy them with your health in mind.
We hope you found this post informative and helpful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we committed to keeping you up to date with the latest topics and unique insights on living with diabetes. We’re also proud to help you stick to your doctor-prescribed diabetes treatment plan with a huge selection of diabetic supplies and equipment at prices up to 65% less than you’ll find at pharmacies and other suppliers.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.