DEAR DR. BLONZ: I work at a large manufacturing company and there seems to be an increasing number of people with diabetes and weight problems. One of my responsibilities is to oversee the break room and I want to have appropriate snacks available for diabetics. I would imagine that more fruit would help, but what prepackaged snacks would be best to have? -- R.D., via email
DEAR R.D.: The Centers for Disease Control has maps comparing the state-by-state levels of diabetes and obesity in the U.S. in 1994, 2000 and 2010 (tinyurl.com/9vdomyl). A look at this document reveals that your observations are as accurate as they are unfortunate. Having said that, healthful snack foods for diabetics don't differ much from those that would be recommended for others. You should aim for nutrient-dense, great-tasting foods that can serve either as a bite between meals or a meal substitute. The key for diabetic people, especially those who require insulin, is the availability of nutritional information about the food.
Good suggestions for snacks would include fresh fruits, as you mentioned, together with an assortment of nuts, seeds, pretzels and dried fruits. Keep a log of what you add, and when, so that you can track preferences and maintain freshness. Prepackaged snacks containing these foods would add a measure of convenience, but I would advise you to stay away from overly sugared snack products or any made with partially hydrogenated fats; check the nutrition facts panel and the ingredient list.
If you have a refrigerator in your break room, you might consider stocking some different yogurts or fruit/vegetable juices. I would also stock a selection of meal replacement bars; they can provide a good source of balanced nutrients and they can help fill in for any missed meals.
In all cases you should have a sheet that contains a nutrient breakdown of the various foods. You can get these from the labels, or from websites such as ndb.nal.usda.gov or nutritiondata.self.com.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: I was upset to read that some B vitamins stimulate the growth of fat cells. Could you tell me which ones do this? -- N.E., Waukesha, Wis.
The B vitamins are essential for energy metabolism and the growth and development of all cells, including fat cells. They should not be thought of as stimulants to fat-cell growth; that aspect is dependent on the balance between the amount of energy consumed and the amount required. I don't know where you read this, but the document seems to be a bit thin on the basic facts.
Send questions to: "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.