Learn the Key Concepts to a Successful Diabetes Eating Plan
The term diabetic diet is a thing of the past. Nowadays, people with diabetes do not have any strange food restrictions the way we once thought. It’s not necessary to avoid fruit, eat zero carbohydrates or buy diet food. But, what we do know is that individualized meal plans that are fiber rich and modified in carbohydrates work best for those persons with diabetes.
We also know that meal plans do not have to be boring or monotonous.
You can say goodbye to steamed broccoli and boiled chicken and welcome a variety of foods, cuisines and diet types. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan or trying to eat low-carbohydrate, today, you can craft a plan that works for you if you have the right tools.
The key to a successful diet plan for diabetes is to:
Monitor Your Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the nutrient that impact blood sugars the most. If you have diabetes, it’s important to monitor your carbohydrate intake so that you may discover which foods work best for your blood sugars. Some people with diabetes benefit from following a consistent carbohydrate diet for which they eat the same amount of carbohydrates at the same time daily. Ask your registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator if you’d benefit from eating a fixed amount of carbohydrates at your meals.
Stock up on non-starchy vegetables: By stocking up on non-starchy vegetables, you’ll increase the volume of food at your meals which can help to reduce total calorie intake.
Reduce your sodium intake: A diet that is rich in sodium can increase your risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure), which is a risk factor for developing heart disease. Because people with diabetes are at increased risk of developing heart disease, keeping your blood pressure at goal is important. You will want to avoid adding salt to your food as well as increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, two food types that are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium which may have favorable effects blood pressure. A diet type that has worked for many people with diabetes is called the DASH diet.
Make it fit to your lifestyle: Nutrient rich plans that are convenient, delicious, and culturally appropriate will help you make long lasting changes to achieve and maintain body weight as well as prevent or delay complications of diabetes. Start making changes by setting simple, tangible and realistic goals. For example, if you never eat breakfast because you are in a rush in the morning, start by eating breakfast three days per week.
Or if you have to start work early, pack breakfast in the morning and eat it at work. Learn how to choose healthy choices when dining out or taking in food. And if you are not a chef, but want to start cooking, learn about basic skills and simple recipes. It takes time to make new behaviors.
Maintain the pleasure of eating: Eating should be a pleasant, enjoyable experience. Food is not just about taste, it’s associated with family and sharing. Therefore, being able to maintain the pleasure of eating is a critical component to healthy eating. Sure, it sounds easy on paper, but if it were that easy no one would have difficulty figuring it all out.
Aim to find balance by choosing healthy foods most of the time, listening to your body, and eating mindfully.
Find simple, well-balanced recipes from credible resources: Many times we know what to eat, but have no idea how to put it all together. Having recipes to help guide you is important for learning about portion control. Recipes can also help you discover new and delicious food pairing and combinations as well as save time on food preparation and meal planning. A great resource was developed by Registered Dietitians of the Diabetes Care and Education practice group of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Each recipe was developed by a professional and lists the nutrition content. They also provide tips on what to serve the food with and how to make substitutions.
Get help: If you are having trouble adapting concepts on your own or making your own meal plan, ask for help. If you have diabetes, your insurance should cover diabetes self-management therapy, making you eligible to meet with a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). One of the specialties of CDE’s is to develop individualized meal plans to suit not only your nutritional needs but your lifestyle, goals, and culture.
American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes – 2015.Diabetes Care. 2015 Jan; 38 (Suppl 1): S1-90.