Diet plays a key role in controlling your blood sugar. A healthy-eating plan tailored to your needs will do that and more. Majority of people affected with diabetes are overweight or obese. In fact, your risk of getting diabetes increases the more weight you put on.
So controlling your diet can be the key to reducing the risk of diabetes as well as improving your symptoms if you are already affected by this disease people often refer to as “the silent killer.”
Everybody knows that maintaining a good diet is a healthy choice for every person. But for diabetes patients, this statement means something more significant than the recent fad over healthy living.
For diabetes patients, having a healthy diet means eating in a way that reduces the risk for complications that are commonly associated with their conditions, including heart disease and stroke. For them, a healthy diet could mean the difference between die-abetes and live-abetes.
Eating healthy involves eating a wide variety of foods that encompasses the whole diet spectrum of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, poultry, and fish.
No, you do not have to eat all of that, but a little bit of this and that enough to balance the three basic food groups (Go, Grow, and Glow) is what you should aim for.
Tip #1: Preparing a Meal Plan
When you go on a diabetes diet, the first things you need to do is to prepare a meal plan. This will serve as your guide to how much and what kinds of food you can choose to eat at meals, and even at snack times if you wish to include that.
Now, be sure that your meal plan fits in with your schedule and eating habits. That way you will not be likely to ruin your diet simply because your work schedule conflicts with your meal schedule.
Keep in mind your end-goal: To keep your blood glucose in levels that are easy enough to maintain.
In addition to that somewhat myopic diet goal for diabetes, you also want to follow a meal plan that will help you improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as keep your weight on track.
All these – blood pressure, cholesterol and weight – are factors that contribute to the worsening of your diabetes symptoms, so controlling them could very well mean controlling your diabetes.
When preparing a meal plan, be sure to balance uptake and down take – that is, food and exercise, respectively. Additionally, your doctor may have prescribed you with insulin or oral medications to help you manage your condition.
Take those medications into account as well when you plan your meal plan, making sure that the food is balanced with the drugs. The whole thing sounds like it’s a lot of work but with a few suggestions from your physician and/or dietician you can start building a meal plan that is best for you and your condition.
Tip #2: Use the Diabetes Food Pyramid
The Diabetes Food Pyramid, released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is composed of six food groups (arranged according to how much you should eat from the least to the most and based on carbohydrate and protein content):
• Fats, sweets, and alcohol • Milk • Meat, meat substitutes, and other proteins • Fruits • Vegetables • Grains, beans, and starchy vegetables
Fats, sweets, and alcohol are the one food group that diabetes patients should avoid.
The problem with diabetes involves a certain malfunction in the way our bodies make use of glucose in the blood. It is either there is too much glucose in our blood because we ate too much food rich in sugar so that the hormone responsible for regulating glucose – insulin – is unable to cope. Or, our cells are defective so that even though we have enough insulin to handle the job, our cells do not respond.
In order to control the levels of glucose in the blood stream, controlling diabetes diet is important. The intake of fats, sweets, and alcohol and other generally “unhealthy” foods should be minimized and only for special treats.
As for the rest of the food groups, here are the serving sizes recommended by the American Diabetes Association:
• Meat and Meat Substitutes: 4-6 oz. per day and divided between meals. This is equivalent to ¼ cup cottage cheese, 1 egg, 1 tbsp peanut butter, or ½ cup tofu. • Milk: 2-3 servings per day • Fruit: 2-4 servings per day • Vegetables: 3-5 servings per day • Grains and Starches: 6-11 servings per day, equivalent to 1 slice of bread, ¼ of a bagel, or ½ of an English muffin or pita bread.
Use this Diabetes Food Pyramid only as a guide in planning your meals. If you want a more individualized option, consult your dietician.
Tip #3: Draw Lines on Your Plate
Another good way to ensure that you are eating a balanced diet is to draw a line across your plate. It could only be an imaginary line. As you sit there for a meal, the exercise might even prove to be fun.
The first step, of course, is to imagine that you are drawing a line through the center of your plate. Then, divide one of the halves into two.
Then, fill this section with grains or starchy foods, such as rice, pasta, potatoes, corn, or peas.
The other section should comprise your meat and meat substitute group – meat, fish, poultry, or tofu.
Next, fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables. You can place there broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, salad, tomatoes, and cauliflower.
Last, add a glass of milk and a small piece of roll, and eh voila! You are ready to eat.
Tip #4: Reading Food Labels
With food labels, it all comes down to the Nutrition Facts. It’s that list of nutrition information found on the package of foods sold in the grocery store. Reading food labels can help you make wise choices about the foods you buy. The labels will tell you what ingredients were used, the amount of calories, and other pertinent information essential to a diabetes patient.
For instance, a typical food label would contain the total amounts per serving for the following nutrients:
• Calories • Total fat • Saturated fat • Cholesterol • Sodium • Total carbohydrate • Fiber
Use the nutrition facts found in food labels to compare similar types of foods and buy the one that contains fewer calories, lower fats, cholesterol, etc.
Pay close attention to free foods like sugar-free gelatin desert, sugar-free ice pops, sugarless gum, diet soft drinks, and sugar-free syrups. Just because they are called “free” does not mean they are entirely free of calories so don’t be overconfident. Instead, read the label. Most free foods should have less than 20 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving.
Another thing, “no-sugar added” means no sugar was added during the manufacture and packaging of the foods. The ingredients do not include sugar. However, the food may be high in carbohydrates still so be sure to read the label carefully.
Fat-free foods could still mean that they contain lots of carbohydrates. Often, they contain almost the same amount of calories as the foods they replace so be sure to pay attention to the label. Buying fat-free foods instead of regular foods does not necessarily mean that you are making a wise choice.
Tip #5: A Word about Sweets Now, you know that sweets are generally discouraged among diabetes patients. However, having diabetes does not necessarily mean that you cannot have sweets. Imagine how bad life can be for the sweet tooth with diabetes. But as long as you keep your intake of sweets in moderation, there is no reason you have to eschew sugar from your life forever. After all, glucose (sugar) is still the most basic source of energy that the body needs.
So sweeten your foods with these following options:
• Sugar and other sweeteners with calories: honey, brown sugar, molasses, fructose, cane sugar, and confectioners sugar
• Reduced calorie sweeteners: erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol
• Low calories sweeteners: ascelfume potassium, aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose
Research has overturned the long standing belief that sugar caused diabetes. The new studies show us that sugar has in fact the same effect on blood glucose levels as other carbohydrates like bread and potatoes. Based on this discovery, experts agree that a diabetic can now consume sugar as long as they incorporate it into their meal plan the way they would with any ordinary carbohydrate-containing foods. Now that you have been pointed to the right direction with these tips to improve your diabetes diet, you can go ahead and live a healthier, fuller life where nothing – no carb nor sweets – is denied you, as long as you keep it all in moderation. by Nishanth Reddy