Cheat Sheet for Sugar-Intolerance Grocery Shopping Made Easy
When your child is diagnosed with the rare, genetic disease Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID) resulting in Sucrose Intolerance, informally called “Sugar Intolerance,” and put on a low-sugar diet, it can suddenly feel like there is nothing your child can eat. Nothing your kid will eat, anyway.
Plus, going to the supermarket can feel overwhelming. Can your kid safely eat this yogurt? Is there bad sugar lurking in that ice cream? And what’s the deal with those starchy foods like rolls and potatoes?
Your 60-Second CSID-Before-the-Store Summary
No doubt what you’re hearing from your doctor and registered dietitian (RD) and seeing online on other websites can become jumbled when you’re thinking about what to feed your child who has Sugar Intolerance. And you keep hearing the words sugar and starch.
All of which makes sorting out the “right” and “wrong” foods for your kid confusing. At times, the advice sounds conflicting. And no doubt you’re hearing words, even common ones, not just medical-speak, that you don’t truly understand: What the heck is a starch, anyway?
It may give you a headache. So here’s your cure:
What’s the deal with sugar? Sugars, plural, are made up of molecules which, along with atoms and other things that you may recall from high school science, are one of the teeny, tiny building blocks of people, plants, and animals.
“Sugars” is actually used as a term for a whole category of different sugar groups. The three main groups are monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides. To make it easier, look for the boldfaced words that follow. They will help you understand CSID.
Monosaccharides are made up of a single sugar molecule.
This group contains three individual types of sugar (glucose, fructose, and galactose). Glucose, also called dextrose, comes from foods rich in carbohydrates, like corn, potatoes, and fruits.
Fructose is a natural sugar found in fruit. And galactose is a natural sugar in milk. Many people with CSID can handle dextrose and fructose.
Disaccharides are made up of two molecules stuck together. In this group is sucrose (table sugar), which is made up of two of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose.
The others in this group are lactose and maltose. Lactose is milk sugar — the one phrase you’ve probably heard of because a lot of people can’t tolerate dairy just as your child can’t handle sugar; lactose is made up of glucose and galactose.
Maltose is malt sugar, made up of two glucose molecules.
Polysaccharides, the last main group of sugars, is composed of more than 10 sugar molecules linked together. All of these molecules create what’s called a starch.
Starch sounds really bad. Is it? Don’t let that big number throw you. Yes, there are 10 sugar molecules (which makes them sound worse than the others), but not all starches are going to be off-limits to your child. Here’s why.
All of those sugar molecules form carbohydrates, often called carbs, which provide energy in the body. That’s fuel for the brain, organs, and muscles.
Essentially, sugar is just a carbohydrate.
The two types of carbs are simple and complex. Simple carbs are digested and absorbed fast, which is not what you want for your kid.
Complex carbs are the healthier starch for everyone because they are digested more slowly, which may help your child tolerate some of these kinds of starches.
What do all the big words in Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency mean? Now that we’ve broken out the nitty gritty components, here’s the real-people translation of this doc-speak.
Congenital: This means inherited. We inherit genes, which are made up of DNA. Genes act like the control tower at an airport, directing where the planes go. They determine what makes you “you” (called traits), like having blond hair or brown eyes or being the tallest kid in class.
If children have CSID, that means each of their parents has a gene that is damaged (also called mutated). Some damaged genes cause medical conditions. Your kid ended up with Sugar Intolerance.
Sucrase: Sucrase is a chemical, called an enzyme, which acts like a hammer that helps break sucrose apart into its two types of sugar: glucose and fructose.
Isomaltase: Isomaltase, part of the disaccharides maltose group, is an enzyme that digests maltase sugars.
Deficiency: Deficiency means “not enough.” Your child simply doesn’t have enough of the chemicals described here that are able to digest sugar and starch without getting sick.
The “sugar” and “starch” info here does the trick when you’re in the store, especially when choosing fresh produce. For other food items, you can read food labels to look for these words (it’s probably a good time to sharpen your skills on how to read a food label).
Now you’re ready to go food shopping. Print out and take along the list below and you’ll do just fine.
Ask your RD to help you figure out how to try other foods that would be good additions if they don’t make your child feel sick. That includes asking about seasonings (dried herbs and spices), which you may need to add to your kid’s diet slowly although salt, pepper, and fresh herbs should be fine.
- Cranberries (fresh)
- Figs (raw)
*Note: These fruits aren’t tolerated well by all CSID patients.
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Artichoke (globe)*
- Bamboo shoots
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts*
- Collard greens
- Green beans
- Mung beans (sprouts)
- Mustard greens
- Peppers (green, red and yellow)
- Snow peas†
- Soybean types (edamame, tempeh, and tofu but not soybeans themselves)†
- Spaghetti squash
- Wax beans (yellow)
- Yellow squash (summer)
- Zucchini (courgette)
- Plus: Vegetable oil
*Note: These vegetables can cause gas in all people, not just those with Sugar Intolerance, so watch for symptoms.
†Note: These veggies aren’t tolerated well by all CSID patients.
- Eggs (from chickens)
- Cheese (cheddar, Colby, mozzarella, parmesan, provolone, ricotta, and Swiss)
- Margarine (not fully dairy)
- Yogurt (plain, unsweetened; sweetened with dextrose or fructose)
- Cottage cheese (plain)
- Cream (sour cream, whipping cream)
Breads, Cereals, Rice and Pasta
- Bread (whole-grain, not white bread)
- Cereal (with the whole grains oats, barley, or bran)
- Pasta (whole wheat)
- Rice (brown or wild rice, white)
Nuts and Seeds
- Almond butter
- Brazil nuts
- Flax seeds
- Hazelnuts (filberts)
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Milk (from cows)
- Diet soda
- Water (without sweeteners)
Note: It is important to check the food labels and monitor for symptoms as not all foods mentioned may be appropriate for every child.