Rambling About Diet (and Diet Coke)

Regarding the diabetes, the past week’s been pretty uneventful. Which I like. The only minor glitch in self-management happened yesterday at lunch. A pretty drastic blood glucose spike after lunch, actually, that gave me pause.


First, though, let me provide some backstory, although it’s probably not really essential.

See, neither my wife nor I much care for grocery shopping. We get into routines where we’re pretty good about going together to the store once weekly, and we’ll carry that on for several months. Then life gets busy, and we fall into the habit of putting off getting groceries…until tomorrow, until the next day, until the weekend.

Which leads to what? Well, yep, all of a sudden we’re picking something up for dinner; we have nothing to bring to work for lunch, so we run out and grab something (we both work within walking distance of dozens of restaurants).

I know that this is not good practice for anyone, especially someone like me, who has Type 1 diabetes. When frequenting restaurants becomes a burden rather than a treat, something’s upside down. And all because we sometimes can’t bring ourselves to go to the grocery store.

We have looked into some alternatives. One local grocery store lets you shop online, and for a $6 fee, they’ll bag everything up for you and you just go in, pick it up, pay, and get on your merry way.

Really, though, we ought to just suck it up and go to the store. Yet I’m sure you can understand how something so seemingly simple and relatively mundane can loom, especially when days are long and you don’t wish your free time burdened by that trip to the store.

We are somewhat careful about what we order, however, when out to eat. The expense is another thing, and we’re pretty good at chastising ourselves when we spend the money on one meal in a restaurant that could have gone for at least three meals at home.

Which brings me back around to yesterday’s blood glucose spike…

I have three or four regular places that I go to for lunch, when I go by myself. I get the same meal, in part because I’m not a gourmet, and food, for the most part, is food; but also because the meals I get are often the healthier ones on the menu, and also—more importantly—because I know what the carbohydrate counts are for those meals, and I can bolus accordingly.

So when I checked my blood glucose yesterday a few hours after eating a grilled chicken burrito that I’ve had dozens of times, I was perplexed when the reading spiked near 300 mg/dl.

What caused it? My guess, my detective deduction, is purely speculative, but I think it’s also pretty plausible. With the improved taste of diet sodas these past few years, and with Coke Zero pretty much tasting (to me, at least) just like regular Coke, how would I know if during my lunch I had the wrong beverage in my glass?

I started lunch with a Diet Coke, but when I was almost empty, I went back for a fountain refill of Coke Zero. This was the help-yourself soda fountain, and I filled up under the correct dispenser. But here’s the deal: Have you seen the soda syrup boxes those lines from the fountain connect to? I know of them because I worked food service in college. They all look pretty much the same, with only a small rectangular sticker differentiating their contents.

So my hypothesis is that an employee, in haste (not intentionally), connected the Coke Zero line to a box of regular Coke syrup. Because 20 ounces of regular coke would certainly explain my blood glucose reading. Right?

Ahh, the mysteries of the blood glucose!

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  • JHG999

    I had this same problem with a major burger joint in SO CAL. This same thing happened 3 – 4 times.

    The sad thing was that neither the local manager or the headquarters gave a damn.

    Now I only purchase bottled beverages.


  • CalgaryDiabetic

    Dear Eric.

    Like the Roman Emperor I let my kids or wife taste first. If they like it, it is not aspertame. Actually when we go to Costco I put a bit of regular sprite in the diet Coke to make it palatable. Read in some book that you can detect some glucose in the drink with a test strip. Not sure but it is hard to believe that pop would be all fructose without any glucose.

  • SSP

    I solve this problem by keeping a few of those old profile strips in my meter case – you remember the ones that took 45 seconds to read – they were a reagent strip with a white backing? if you touch a drop of the soda to the white back and it turns purple, it has sugar in it. I have tested using water, and diet soda from a bottle and neither cause any change in color to the reagent strip. Real soda, turns it dark purple almost instantly….

  • Nicky

    That is such a PITA! I’ve taken to carrying the kind of test strips you use for urine glucose testing around, after having “full-fat” coke given to me once too often. They’re quite handy, actually, because you can dip them in drinks and sauces quite discreetly; and they’re very cheap.

  • K Ben

    I’ve had this happen to me on several occasions. Such an error is inexcusable. Food service providers are careful about providing information about peanuts in foods as a result of the increase peanut allergies. They should be equally diligent in ensuring that the sugarfree sodas they serve are in fact sugar free. The result of this error could be serious for someone who has high blood glucose when they drink what they believe to be a sugarfree product.

  • haydesigner

    I have a simple solution… At home, I do drink soda about 1/3 of the time (Dieto Cherry Pepsi, if you must know). But when I go out to eat, it is almost always strictly water for me. No worries that way.

  • Eric

    Yes, haydesigner, simple. But simple in theory. Diet Coke is an integral part to my enjoying my meals when dining out. Practically speaking, I’d have to go through some severe habit modification to drink only water when out to eat ūüėČ


  • david h.

    Would someone please be so kind as to tell me exactly the strips they are using. I had the exact problem last week. I was given a real coke instead of a diet. I could tell after a few minutes after drinking.

    I went to the pharmacy and bought some Clinistix Reagent strips from Bayer. However these only detect glucose. I went and tried this in sugar water (fructose) and got nothing.

    I read somewhere that if you swish the solution in your mouth, your acids in your mouth will convert the sugar to glucose… However again I had no luck

    Do these work at all with real sodas or does one need to purchase the Diastix.

    Or is there another brand/product?
    After my incident at a resturant, I may be forced to drink water, unless I can know for sure what I am getting.

  • Richard Weir

    I solved the sugar-soda problem quite easily. I don’t drink sodas!

  • M Riley

    I too have had this problem. The young food service workers are too casual about the type of soda they serve. If I cannot see them pour it or get it in a can or bottle, I drink ice tea. I used the test tape you test urine for sugar with until I ran out and I have not gotten any more. It worked great. Sometimes my husband can tell the difference but I am not always sure how accurate he is. If the canister would be hooked up wrong then watching them pour would not help. Getting regular pop when you think it is diet could be disasterous.

  • TootSuite

    I am so happy to know that this happens to others. I now either get unsweet tea or water. Taste the tea first, if sweet it goes back. If you folks find that this is a fairly regular occurance at a resturant, complain loudly. We now eat out so infrequently, that I can’t tell if it is a recurring thing at a resturant or not. UM I may also pick up a few test strips to be on safe side. Thanks for the tips. SSS

  • charlotter

    I know what you mean..when getting a beverage anywhere I always ask when I am served, “This is diet, right?” A couple of times they had to say,”Er…no.” Glad I caught it. I never worried about the self serve though…thanks for bringing that possiblility to my attention.

  • Ephrenia

    The strips referred to are called Diastix. Every pharmacy carries them and they are about $10 for 50 in a vial. No prescription needed.

    It’s far better to stick to water or unsweetened tea if you can’t get bottled drinks.

    Another thing to watch for… we went out to a place once that had sugar in almost everything. Including the pinto beans (yuck). Golden Corral’s green pea salad has sugar in it (again yuck). Many places put sweet relish in their tuna salad. It isn’t only the drink you have to watch out for.

  • poppa ralph

    I don’t drink diet soda……I buy a case of seltzer a week……I can make any drink I want…..add lemon,,,orange…any kinda of taste ya want……read contents on a case of soda…then on a bottle of seltzer……have fun

  • lassengrl

    My daughter had the same thing happen the other day at the Mall. She said she ate 1/2 turkey sandwhich and a diet coke and her # was over 240. I really think she had a real coke by mistake. Becareful of those machines!

  • Cathy

    I don’t drink sodas ever but my friend is a diet coke addict. when we go to a place not known for its coke products – where pepsi is king she has to bring her own. I am a tea person but I am picky about my tea. As a type 2 living in Georgia, the home of “sweettea”, I have to be really careful so I have learned to choose tea in a restaurant by ordering half and half (half unsweetened and half sweetened) this is usually the perfect blend for me. It’s unusual enough that the server usually remembers it and its easy down here to tell when they forget and bring sweet. If its right it’s not sweet enough to send my readings into the thousands and it still tastes great. I also like seltzer with a squeeze of lime or lemon. I really don’t miss or even think about sodas as a drink any more.

  • Marlene

    In the almost 50 years I have had diabetes this has happened to me a few times. Usually one sip is all it takes to know that something has gotten screwed up. When I ask someone else to taste test and s/he is not sure either, I just do not drink the beverage. During a recent hospital stay a new horror happened. I was given a tray with a sealed container of jello on it. I check everything I am given, especially in the hospital. No one could tell me whether or not the jello was sugarfree. The label was not printed in English, nor was it in French or Spanish! So I just didn’t eat the stuff! First time I have ever checked a label for sugar content and was that clueless! My latest is yogurt. I used to be able to find several brands that I could eat. Now, in an effort to make them healthier and more “natural”, the sugar content has gone up. Splenda seems to have been banned! As a Type 1, nutrition labels are nothing new for me. My choice of foods has greatly expanded since my initial diagnosis. It just seems to me that in an effort to make food products healthier, processors are eliminating some products for those of us who need sugar free items

  • Diana

    I just stumbled across your blog and thank you. Trying to eat properly in this battle. I started drinking diet soda/coke zero and my blood sugar levels are running 150-200. I thought that it was the new meds not working and began to do some reasonable deductions and ask what have I changed resently. The sodas. The other responses have enlighten me. I am buying the strips and test my drinks also. Thank you for the information.

  • Mike

    The diet sodas have a lot of caffeine, which could raise your blood sugar as well. I would stay away from them altogether for that reason and because they contain aspartame which has been connected to brain cancer. You have to ask yourself if the brief satisfaction you get from the taste is worth the associated health risks.