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A Simple Guide to Nutrition for Diabetics

Updated: May 31

We already know that lifestyle changes are important for our well-being. These healthy habits and decisions such as drinking more water and getting physical activity can mean a lot towards living a healthier and happier life. If you have diabetes, these decisions also include daily dietary choices. Diabetes affects the way the body processes glucose and relies heavily on maintaining a healthy diet. However, planning your diet as a diabetic doesn’t have to be difficult.

Diabetic Nutrition Tips

There is no specific diet or meal plan that suits everyone with diabetes. The diabetes type, medications, and medical conditions can create differences in nutritional needs. To get the best guidance, consult your health provider. Some may recommend a registered dietician (RD) or diabetes educator to create individualized plans.

If you have conditions complicating diabetes such as obesity, they can recommend programs such as diabetic weight loss programs which combine diet plans with weight loss goals.

After consulting your provider and getting the proper recommendations, simplify meal choices further by remembering healthy eating focuses on what, when, and how much to eat.

Nutrition for diabetics

Diabetic Nutrition Tips: What to Eat

While all foods can affect your blood glucose, some have more impact than others.

1. Eat Less Sugar.

Sugar is what comes first to mind when talking about diabetes. Simply put, sugary foods can create blood glucose spikes. Avoid sugary treats such as cake, ice cream, cookies, and candy. Also, avoid drinks with added sugar such as juice, soda, and energy drinks.

2. Limit Simple Carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body and create glucose spikes, while complex carbohydrates are broken down more slowly. Avoid refined, highly processed carbohydrate foods such as white bread, white rice, and pasta. Consider whole, minimally processed carbohydrate foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

3. Focus on Non-Starchy Vegetables.

Non-starchy vegetables contain little carbohydrates and more fiber. Vegetables are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and some can be considered as superfoods. Choose fresh non-starchy vegetables as much as possible, like beans, brussels sprouts, peppers, squash, collard, and kale.

4. Eat More Protein.

Protein breaks down more slowly in the body, slows down the digestion of carbohydrates, and keeps you full longer. Pick lean protein sources like chicken, fish, and vegetarian proteins such as lentils, beans, tofu, chia seeds, and peanut butter.

5. Get More Fiber.

Fiber provides a range of health benefits including glucose control. Fiber also helps keep you feeling full longer. Eat more fiber-rich foods such as fruits, non-starchy vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, quinoa, whole-wheat pasta, and whole-wheat bread.

Diabetic Food Tips & Advice

Diabetic Nutrition Tips: How Much to Eat

Depending on your needs, there are a few ways to simplify how much to eat when you’re diabetic.

The Plate Method

The American Diabetes Association offers a simple method of meal planning called the plate method. This method includes using a 9-inch plate and filling half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and the last quarter with carbohydrates.

Counting Carbohydrates

Some dietitians recommend counting meal carbohydrates by grams, and then adjusting medication dosages to it, especially if you’re on mealtime insulin. A dietitian can teach you how to count carbohydrates in meals and food labels. You also use different apps and tools such as a food composition database.

Glycemic Index

Glycemic index (GI) represents how quickly a food can make your blood glucose rise. Planning meals using GI requires being allowed to eat more of the low GI to medium GI foods such as oatmeal, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts. High GI foods such as white bread, snack foods, sugar, and processed cereals are limited.

When Diabetic Should Eat

Diabetic Nutrition Tips: When to Eat

Meal timing is essential in stabilizing blood glucose levels. Three balanced meals per day with one or two healthy snacks as needed will help keep blood glucose stable as well as avoid prolonged periods of hunger and unhealthy eating.

Plan meals and snacks in advance, to avoid skipping meals. Set timers or alarms if you tend to get busy and miss mealtimes. Cooking meals at home and bringing them can help you stay on top of your meal schedule as well as control portions and ingredients.

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