Diabetes is a disease in which the body doesn't properly make or use insulin, a hormone necessary for keeping our blood sugar levels within a normal range. Over time, if diabetes goes untreated or is not well managed, high blood sugar levels may cause damage to the heart, kidneys, eyes or nerves. When it comes to treating diabetes, there is no "one size fits all" plan so it is important to work with your doctor or healthcare team to find a treatment plan that works best for your needs. In addition to regular physical activity, following a healthy eating plan can help to control blood sugar and help you to maintain a healthy weight. Below are some general nutrition tips for successful diabetes management:
- Be carbohydrate conscious- Foods that contain carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels. These include fruits, vegetables (especially starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn), dairy foods such as milk and yogurt, breads, cereals, rice, pasta, and snack foods like crackers, chips and cookies. Many beverages also contain carbohydrates such as sodas, sweetened teas, waters and coffee drinks and fruit juices. It is important to include healthy carbohydrates in your diet because they provide important nutrients, however to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range, pay attention to how many carbohydrates you eat and aim to eat consistent amounts at each meal and each day. Also avoid meal skipping and try to stick to a schedule that includes eating every few hours. The amount of carbohydrate that you need depends on many factors such as your activity level and weight goals so it is important to work with your doctor or healthcare team to find the amount that is right for you. Carbohydrates that raise blood sugar include both sugar and starches so when reading food labels, pay attention to the total amount of carbohydrate rather than just the amount of sugar.
- Plan ahead- Before heading to the grocery store, plan out your meals and snacks for the week. This will help you stick to a healthy eating plan and avoid visits to the drive thru window.
- Read food labels- It is important to familiarize yourself with the foods that you are eating to be successful at managing your diabetes and maintaining a healthy weight. Food labels are a great tool to help you choose healthy foods and identify the amount of carbohydrate a food contains as well as calories, saturated and trans fat and sodium. While reading labels, pay attention to serving size as there may be multiple servings per package.
- Avoid portion distortion- Food labels are very helpful but they are not always available. To help you stick to your meal plan when food labels aren't available, learn about portion sizes so you can estimate the amount of food you are eating. For example, a 3 ounce portion of meat = a deck of cards, 1 cup = a baseball or small fist, ½ cup = a tennis ball, 1 tablespoon= a poker chip.
- Follow the Plate Method- The American Diabetes Association recommends using the "plate method" to help manage both diabetes and weight. To do this, when eating meals, imagine cutting your plate in half. Fill one half with non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, cauliflower or green beans. Then cut the other half into 2 halves filling one section with one serving of a starchy food such as a whole grain roll, baked potato, rice, corn, pasta or bread. Then fill the other section with a serving of lean meat such as skinless chicken breast, salmon, beef sirloin, deli meat such as turkey or ham or low fat cheese. Then add a piece of fruit or ½ cup of fruit salad and serve with a cup of non-fat or low-fat milk and you have a well-balanced meal.
- Choose heart healthy foods- Those with diabetes are at an increased risk for heart disease and stroke, but the good news is that following a heart healthy diet can help reduce this risk. This includes reducing your intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol and sodium. To do this, eat a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat and fat free dairy foods and lean meats and fish.
- Fabulous fiber- Fiber slows down digestion and the rate at which sugar is absorbed into our blood which may help to control blood sugar levels. In addition, eating foods with fiber can help us to feel fuller, which may help with maintaining a healthy weight. Fiber may also help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk for heart disease. To increase your intake of fiber rich foods, eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils.
For a delicious hearth healthy recipe, try Roasted Asparagus with Chive Yogurt Ranch Dressing.
Please note: The information provided here is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or treat any particular illness or condition, nor is it intended to support any particular product or service. You should always consult your healthcare provider prior to making any changes to your healthcare routine.