It’s been said that “timing is everything,” and that’s certainly true of Diabetes Awareness Month. It begins on November 1, after all, which is the day after Halloween. You know, the night when costumed kids roam the streets collecting candy, and dads skim off a few sweet treats for themselves afterwards.

“Borrowing” a little chocolate is no big deal, but consuming too much sugar on a regular basis can have serious health consequences. Just ask Karl Subban: The father of three NHL players was so focused on helping his children succeed that he sometimes overlooked his own sugary eating habits and, at age 40, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a disease in which the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body does not properly use the insulin it makes. As a result, sugar builds up in the blood instead of being used for energy.

Why prevent diabetes? If left untreated or improperly managed, it can result in blindness, along with other severe complications including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, and amputation.

Karl’s journey to manage his diabetes was an important factor in his decision to become a champion for Canadian Men’s Health Foundation. “As you work to take care of everybody else, make sure you’re also working to take care of yourself,” Karl says. “It doesn’t mean you have to make monumental changes…pay attention to what you’re putting in your body.”

The good news: it’s easy to follow Karl’s advice. Cut down on sugar, and keep diabetes at bay, by making the three simple food and drink swaps listed here. If you’re wondering what helps prevent diabetes, keep reading…

Swap soda pop for water

There are around 30 to 40 grams of sugar in a can of soda pop. That’s nine teaspoons, or about the same amount as in a chocolate bar. Not one of those miniature Halloween ones—a full-sized bar!

In fact, drinking just one can of pop accounts for nearly all of your recommended daily intake of added sugar, which is why swapping pop for water, which contains no sugar, is a slam-dunk solution.

If this is easier said than done—pop is everywhere, after all—here are some easy ways to jazz up your H20:

Just add fizz: If it’s the bubbles you miss, buy soda water at the supermarket or make it yourself with one of those inexpensive home-carbonation machines.

Flavoured soda water: There are dozens of natural, healthy, low-sugar water additives out there. Add zesty zip to your still or sparkling H2O by squeezing in some lemon, lime or orange juice, or get creative by  stirring in some fresh mint, cinnamon, and sliced cucumber or strawberries.

Just add ice: Find your favourite flavour and add it to your ice cube tray for a quick and easy water booster.

Swap sugary cereals for fibre-rich ones

Vampires and leprechauns make for fun Halloween costumes, but it’s a bad sign when they appear on cereal packaging. Check the “nutrition facts” panel on the side of the box: If a serving of cereal has more than 10 grams of added sugar — that’s about the same amount as 3 chocolate chip cookies—it’s too much. If a cereal contains marshmallows, chocolate chips, and/or a sugary or honey coating, chances are it exceeds the 10-gram mark.

You can also use the nutrition panel to guide you in a healthy direction. Any cereal that delivers more than a quarter of your daily fibre requirements—a healthy adult needs approximately 21 to 38 grams per day—is likely a positive nutritional influence. As well as aiding digestion and making you feel full longer, fibre also stabilizes blood-sugar.

Less sugar and more fibre? That’s a diabetes double knockout!

Swap refined sugar for maple syrup

Speaking of morning rituals, here’s one for your coffee. If you stir white sugar into your Java, why not use Canada’s national condiment instead? Maple syrup has a lower glycemic index than sugar, which means that it increases your blood glucose level less than refined sugar. Your pancreas, in turn, won’t have to work as hard, which may reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

And if you want to hum “O Canada” while drinking your coffee, all the better!

Photography by: Vanessa Paxton

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