When you’re diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, jelly babies are given an almost mythical status as the hypo treatment of choice. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, or, heaven forbid, you don’t like the taste of jelly babies, it can be a bit of a slog to find a suitable hypo treatment. Look no further, I’ve undertaken the arduous research for you! I’m just going to throw it out there that I hate fizzy drinks, so I’m not going to recommend any. Also, there are of course glucose tablets, but unless you like the taste of chalk, very expensive chalk too, read on!
What should I look for in a hypo treatment?
A hypo treatment needs to contain 10-15g of 🏃♀️ fast-acting carbohydrate. Fast-acting or high GI (glycemic index) is key, as you want to raise your BG levels as quickly as possible. When you’re looking at labels of potential hypo treatments, you want the first, if not the second, listed ingredient to be ‘sugar’ or ‘glucose syrup’ or something that sounds equally like a superfood (I kid, I kid!) The proportions of ingredients on packets in the UK descend from the highest contributing ingredient to the least, so make sure sugar is way at the top. One major exception is chocolate, but more on that next.
What about chocolate?
Some chocolate bars will have sugar listed as the first or second ingredient, buuuut the high concentration of fat in chocolate will slow down the release of said sugar. If you eat dairy, you’ll notice that milk is often the first ingredient in milk chocolate… quite predictably. If you’re vegan, you’ll probably see cocoa butter occupying prime position, which is also very high in fat. So, in terms of hypo treatments, the more fat, the slower the treatment will work! However, chocolate is great after a hypo. To keep your levels nice and steady, I find that 10g of relatively slow release carbs will do the trick – a small bar of chocolate, a small packet of crisps, or a few biscuits (without a bolus!)
I don’t eat gelatine – what sweets can I eat for a hypo treatment?
There are actually plenty of veggie sweets out there. I’m going to list quite a few here, but rest assured that there are more out there if nothing I suggest tickles your fancy. All of the sweets below are vegetarian. You only need to watch out for gelatine in sweets if you’re vegetarian. If you’re vegan, watch out for the ingredient E901, which is beeswax, and shellac, which is made from beetles.
- Skittles (vegan)
- Jelly beans (some brands are vegan)
- Love Hearts (vegan)
- Starburst (vegan)
- Flying saucers (most brands are vegan)
- Strawberry laces (some brands are vegan)
- Turkish delight (most brands are vegan)
- Goody Good Stuff sweets (all vegan)
- Biona Organic sweets (most sweets are vegan)
A lot of hard sweets are vegan too, but they take too long to eat to really be suitable as hypo treatments – so, the softer, the better.
Some supermarket websites have filter options so that you can check ‘suitable for vegans.’ Failing that, have a cheeky Google for ‘supermarket vegan list’ and scroll down to the ‘confectionary’ section.
I don’t have much of a sweet tooth/I’m trying to be a little healthier – what are the alternatives to sweets?
After you’ve had type 1 for a while, sweets may begin to taste a little like hypo (coined here first!) In those instances, I would recommend juice. The cheaper, the better. Look for something that has around 20g of carbohydrate per carton. Despite all the bad press juice gets, you’d be surprised at how low-carb some juices are. They even sell low-sugar juice these days! If a juice carton looks like its aimed at children, it’s highly likely to be a very low sugar version, so avoid those.
Just to note, most packets of juice cartons come in quantities of three. Buying a large bottle of juice and decanting it into a small bottle would, I’m sure, be cheaper, but more convenient – no!
I spent an embarrassing amount of time looking up juice prices on the websites of different supermarkets before realising that they’re pretty much all the same. Whether you shop in Asda or Waitrose, have a look for the generic boxed juice cartons (sold in threes or sixes) – they all cost around 25p per carton/hypo. I’m partial to the essential Waitrose apple juice, but there are lots of choices out there. Also, Capri-Sun works out at a similar price, especially when it’s on a multi-buy.
I like to pop at least two cartons of juice in my bag. You should always carry a hypo treatment with you, and this prevents having to pay through the nose for fancy organic juice in a cafe that I’m just going to chug down anyway. I’ve never been told off for drinking my own juice, but I would just explain that it was a medical emergency if I was ever asked. I think the diabetes paraphernalia spread about my table usually deters such questioning though.
I am a very particular person and I have found all of your suggestions thus far useless. What else is out there for me?
Urban Fruit make bags of baked fruit that is vegan and very high in sugar. However, I found that I had to eat A LOT of the bag in order to treat a hypo (TMI alert: and they are rather high in fibre if ya know what I mean!)
Have a cheeky scroll through Accidentally Vegan’s Instagram feed for more suggestions.
Failing all of that, you could just chug down a sugar packet or two, or add said sugar to a hot beverage of your choice.