The Basics of a Healthy Diabetes Diet
Eating Right With Diabetes
If you have diabetes, it's important to eat right every day to keep your blood sugar levels even and stay healthy. Here's some easy tips:
- Be sure to eat a wide variety of foods. Having a colorful plate is the best way to ensure that you are eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other forms of protein such as nuts, dairy products, and grains/cereals.
- Eat the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight.
- Choose foods high in fiber such as whole grain breads, fruit, and cereal. They contain important vitamins and minerals. You need 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Studies suggest that people with type 2 diabetes who eat a high-fiber diet can improve their blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Similar results have been suggested in some studies in people with type 1 diabetes.
Serving Sizes and Diabetes
Be sure to eat only the amount of food in your diabetes meal plan. Excess calories result in excess fat and excess weight. In people with type 2 diabetes, excess body fat means less sensitivity to insulin. Weight loss in overweight and obese people with type 2 diabetes helps improve blood sugars and reduces those risk factors which lead to heart disease. Your dietitian can help you determine the appropriate serving sizes you need, depending on if you need to maintain your weight, gain weight, or lose weight, and if you have high or low blood sugar levels.
- In women with gestational diabetes, it's important to eat multiple meals and snacks per day as recommended.
- Do not skip meals.
- Eat meals and snacks at regular times every day. If you are taking a diabetes medicine, eat your meals and take your medicine at the same times each day.
Note: If you are taking some of the newer diabetes drugs, some of these tips may not apply to you; ask your health care provider the tips you should follow.
The Sweet Truth about Food and Diabetes
You might have heard that, as a person with diabetes, you shouldn't have any table sugar. While some health care providers continue to promote this, many -- realizing that the average person lives in the real world and will probably indulge in a bit of sugar every now and then -- have adopted a more forgiving view. Most experts now say that small amounts of sugar are fine, as long as they are part of an overall healthy meal plan. Table sugars do not raise your blood sugar any more than similar amounts of calories from starches, which is found in many foods that we consume. It is important to remember that sugar is just one type of carbohydrate.
When eating sugar, keep these tips in mind:
- Read food labels. Learn how to determine how much sugar or carbohydrates are in the foods that you eat.
- Substitute, don't add. When you eat a sugary food, such as cookies, cakes, or candies, substitute them for another carbohydrate or starch (for example, potatoes) that you would have eaten that day. Make sure that you account for this in your carbohydrate budget for the day. If it is added to your meal for the day, then remember to adjust your insulin dose for the added carbohydrates so you can continue to maintain glucose control as much as possible. In other words, readjust your medications if you do add sugars to your meals.
- Sugary foods can be fattening. Many foods that have a lot of table sugar are very high in calories and fat. If you are watching your weight (and many people with diabetes must), you need to eat these foods in moderation!
- Check your blood sugar after eating sugary foods and talk to your health care provider about how to adjust your insulin (if needed) when eating sugars.
- Ultimately, the total grams of carbohydrates -- rather than what the source of the sugar is -- is what needs to be accounted for in the nutritional management of the person with diabetes.