I’m no diet expert, but I still get lots of emails about Glucerna and other “diabetic” food products: How or what good are they really for people with diabetes?  In a new twist, I got this email from a non-diabetic reader not long ago:

Dear Diabetes Mine:

I am a 42 yr old male, in good physical shape, and I eat pretty well (healthy).  My real weakness is sweets-cake, cookies, chocolate, candy, protein shakes, etc. I see advertisements for diabetic foods such as “Glucerna” shakes, etc.

Is it OK for a non-diabetic to eat these foods on a regular basis?  I’m trying to find a way to get my sugar fix without the sugar.


This one stumped me — and intrigued me at the same time, as I’m always looking for good “fake desserts” for myself as well.

To answer the question I turned once again to my local nutrition expert Norae Ferrara for some help.  This lady knows her stuff:

Interesting. . .,” she writes,”it isn’t often that I hear a non-diabetic choosing Glucerna over dessert!  To answer your question, I will assume that “good physical shape” means you are happy with your weight.  In that case, then yes! It should be fine for you to have Glucerna shakes pretty frequently instead of desserts-it is significantly lower in sugar, as you desire.”

“To further explain, the reason I make the assumption that you are not trying to lose weight, is that Glucerna — or any other meal replacement drink — is, just as its beverage category implies, intended as a replacement for meals, and therefore intentionally loaded with calories.”

What is Glucerna and how is it intended for consumption? Glucerna’s original intention is as a tube feeding supplement.  It is proudly labeled as “nutritionally complete,” meaning that many, many people live well on Glucerna alone.   It is complete with all essential vitamins, minerals and macronutrients needed for survival.

Knowing that, it is best to think of Glucerna as a chocolate-flavored drink with a couple multivitamins and a scoop of protein powder blended into it.   If you already eat “healthy” it is unlikely that you have any need for all the extra calories that go along with the vitamins and minerals.

A second common use in medical practice is for with our diabetic patients who need to gain weight (typically Type 1 diabetics).  For those of you in this less common situation, we suggest Glucerna as a supplemental snack between meals.   It works well given that each little 8oz bottle harbors a scale-tipping 200 calories.  In a non-diabetic case, a couple cookies or a candy bar may not be any different on the waistline.  But for those Type 2 diabetics out there, Glucerna is lower on the Glycemic Index, significantly lower in sugar, and a much, much smarter choice than a candy bar.  Check out my comparison chart to make your own decision:

 CaloriesCarbsSugarsSaturated Fat
Glucerna (8fl oz)20027g6g.5g
Chocolate Chip Cookie
(homemade with trans fat free margarine)
2 Reese’s Peanut butter cups (1.5oz)23023g20g 4.5g
Hostess Cupcake (1)18130g17g2.5g

Thank you, Norae. Personally, I’ve got some pump weight gain going on over here, so I won’t be snacking on Glucerna any time soon.