Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tidbits: Figuring Fair Foods for Fun

What do you do if you have diabetes or pre-diabetes and your family or friends talked you into going to the local or state fair?  Sooner or later it will be time for you to eat; what should you do?

Some people think ahead and bring along a small picnic lunch, while others would consider bringing their own food a big bother, and simply hope they will find something to eat. And we all know what is typically offered at fair food booths. Plenty of yummy-smelling but heavy choices such as deep fried onions, French fries, sausages, ice cream, caramel corn, donuts, etc.  

The diabetes educators at the International Diabetes Center at Park Nicollet (in Minnesota) put together a fabulous list of typical fair food items, with the calorie, fat and carbohydrate values for each food. Even if you are simply interested in the calorie value of the foods, click here to see a pdf list.

The one food that surprised me was the blooming onion with dip…over 1500 calories, 80 grams of fat and 180 grams of carbohydrate? You better have lots of friends helping you eat that item!  Have fun with this list!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Q & A: Is chicory root extract another name for sugar?

Blue-flowered chicory, a summer roadside staple.

 Q.  I was reading the ingredient list for Fiber One bars, and the first ingredient is chicory root extract. Is that a tricky name for sugar?  B.H. Holland, MI

A.  No, chicory root extract is not a sugar.  While chicory root extract has a little sweetness (one-tenth the sweetness of table sugar), it is more valued as a type of soluble fiber. This fiber is called inulin (not to be confused with the hormone, insulin) and is a polysaccharide similar to starch.  The Fiber One bars are high in fiber with 9 grams fiber per bar, and the chicory root extract is part of the fiber count.

Chicory grows wild throughout the world. In West Michigan it is a summer roadside staple (along with Queen Anne’s Lace and other wildflowers). But the makers of fiber bars are not digging up chicory from along the road; it is grown as a crop for the fiber content. Chicory root also can be roasted and used as a caffeine-free coffee additive (a popular beverage type in New Orleans).