Medical Information From The Cleveland Clinic
Maintaining a healthy diet is important for everyone, but it is especially important for people with diabetes. Following the right meal plan can make all the difference to a person struggling to keep their blood sugar under control. But what is the right meal plan? How much of which food group should you eat? Along with a visit to a dietician, this guide should help answer questions you may have.
Understanding Carbohydrates and Fiber
Carbohydrates provide fuel for the body in the form of glucose. Glucose is a sugar that is the primary means of energy for all of the body’s cells. There are two types of carbohydrates — simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are sugars — they are found in refined sugar, and in fruits. Complex carbohydrates are the starches — they are found in beans, nuts, vegetables and whole grains. They are considered very healthy mostly because they are digested by the body slowly and provide a steady source of energy. Carbohydrates have the most immediate effect on your blood glucose since carbohydrates are broken down into sugar early during digestion. It is important to eat the suggested amount of carbohydrate at each meal, along with some protein and fat.
Carbohydrates are mainly found in three food groups: fruit; milk and yogurt; and bread, cereal, rice, pasta, and starchy vegetables. You will need to consider the total amount of carbohydrates when working out your daily meal plan.
What Is Carbohydrate Counting?
Counting grams of carbohydrate and evenly distributing them at meals will help you control your blood glucose. Carbohydrate counting is a method of meal planning that is a simple way to keep track of the amount of total carbohydrate you eat each day.
Instead of following an exchange list, you monitor how much carbohydrate (sugar and starch) you eat daily. One carbohydrate choice is equal to 15 grams of carbohydrate.
With carbohydrate counting, you plan your carbohydrate intake around the amount of insulin that’s available to process it. The insulin can be either injected or naturally produced by your body. If you eat more carbohydrate than your insulin supply can handle, your blood glucose level goes up. If you eat too little carbohydrate, your blood glucose level may fall too low.
A registered dietitian will help you figure out a carbohydrate counting plan that meets your specific needs. For adults, a typical plan generally includes three to four carbohydrate choices at each meal, and one to two carbohydrate choices as snacks. With carbohydrate counting, you can pick almost any food product off the shelf, read the label, and use the information about grams of carbohydrate to fit the food into your meal plan.
Carbohydrate counting is most useful for people who take multiple daily injections of insulin, use the insulin pump or who want more flexibility and variety in their food choices. The amount and type of insulin you are prescribed may affect the flexibility of your meal plan.
Carbohydrate counting may not be for everyone, and the traditional method of following food exchange lists may be used instead.
How Much Fiber Should I Eat?
Fiber is the indigestible part of plant foods and it plays an important role in the digestive process. Fiber helps move foods along the digestive tract and adds bulk to stool to speed its passage through the bowel and promote regular bowel movements. Fiber also delays sugar absorption, helping to better control blood glucose levels. In addition, fiber binds with cholesterol and may reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood. Lastly, fiber helps prevent constipation and reduces the risk of certain intestinal disorders.
The goal for all Americans is to consume 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. The best way to increase your fiber intake is to eat more of these fiber-rich foods:
Since diabetes raises your risk of developing heart disease, eating foods lower in fat – especially saturated fat – is particularly important to keep that risk as low as possible. In addition, limiting calories from fat will help you lose any extra weight, especially when combined with an exercise program.
Here are some general guidelines for selecting and preparing low-fat foods:
Your registered dietitian can provide more information on how to prepare and select low-fat foods.
Having diabetes puts you at greater risk for high blood pressure. High levels of sodium (salt) in your diet can further increase that risk. So your healthcare provider or dietitian may ask you to limit or avoid these high-sodium foods:
Low-Sodium Cooking Tips
What Seasonings Can Replace Salt?
Herbs and spices are the answer to improving the natural flavors in food without using salt. Below are some mixtures to use for meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, soups, and salads.
2 tablespoons dried savory, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon powdered lemon rind or dehydrated lemon juice
2 tablespoons dried dill weed or basil leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crumbled
A pinch of freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon coriander seed (crushed)
1 tablespoon rosemary