Managing Diabetes Through Good Nutrition

Posted on Dec 16, 2011 in Health & Wellness

Having diabetes means thinking differently about food and nutrition. This can seem challenging sometimes, but it becomes a bit more manageable once you learn the facts. Here is some information that may help.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), healthy eating can make it easier to stay within your blood-sugar target range. It also may delay and help manage the complications of diabetes.

To help you create a healthy eating plan, following are some key tips from diabetes experts. It’s also a good idea to see a registered dietitian who can help you with a food plan that’s right for you. Keep in mind that regular physical activity is important in managing your diabetes as well.

Smart carbohydrate choices

Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source. Experts recommend that about half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Tracking how many carbohydrates you eat—along with setting a maximum each day—will help you keep your blood sugar within the target range.

Here’s a quick look at the 3 types of carbohydrates and the best food sources for them:

Starch: Good sources of starch include vegetables such as potatoes, green peas, and corn. Grains such as oats, barley, and rice also are high in starch. These foods tend to be high in vitamins and minerals.

Fiber: To get the fiber you need, aim for foods such as beans, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products. Fiber can help slow the rise of blood sugar, making it easier to stay within your blood-glucose target range. Soluble fiber, the kind found in foods such as oats, apples, and citrus fruits, also may help lower cholesterol.

Sweets: The occasional sweet treat may be fine for special occasions, but in general you should keep these to a minimum. Sweets often have fewer vitamins and minerals than more healthful foods. A tip: Taking a brisk walk after eating a sweet snack may be a good idea.

Fat findings

Some fat in the diet is essential, but it’s best to go for the “healthy” unsaturated fats found in nuts, vegetable oils, olives, and avocados. Nonfried fish such as salmon, mackerel, and albacore tuna is another good source. It contains healthy omega-3 fat.

Then there are the unhealthy fats—saturated and trans fat. Experts recommend that less than 7% of your total calorie intake should come from saturated fats. They are found in full-fat dairy products such as ice cream, sour cream, and cheese, as well as meats, chicken skin, and bacon.

Trans fats are present in margarine, shortening, and many processed packaged goods such as crackers and chips. A food-label tip: In packaged goods, trans fats can be listed as “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” fat, so look for those words when you’re reading the label.

Protein in moderation

People with diabetes generally should try to get the same amount of protein in their diet as those in the general population, which is 15% to 20% of total calories.

High-protein diets have been in the news a lot lately. But there’s no evidence they result in weight loss in the long term for people with diabetes or anyone else. Also, the long-term effects of a high-protein diet on kidney function in people with diabetes is unknown.

A word on alcohol

Alcohol is a source of extra calories with few nutrients. It’s best to get the OK from your health care professional on this. If adults with diabetes choose to drink alcohol, daily intake should be moderate. Moderate means 1 drink per day or less for women and 2 drinks per day or less for men.

Try this method at mealtimes

You can try a simple strategy for healthy nutrition from the ADA called “Create Your Plate.” This will help you figure out which foods to eat and how much—2 good things when it comes to managing diabetes and losing some weight. Here’s how it works.

1.  Using a dinner plate, draw an imaginary line down the middle of your plate, then divide the left side of your plate once more into 2 equal sections. Now you have 3 sections on your plate—2 small and 1 large.

2.  For every meal, try to fill the largest section with nonstarchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, lettuce, greens, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, or cucumbers.

3.  In 1 of the small sections, place starchy foods such as whole-grain breads, rice, pasta, tortillas, peas, potatoes, corn, lima beans, low-fat crackers or chips, or pretzels.

4. In the other small section, put your low-fat meat such as a deck-of-cards-size piece of chicken, tuna, salmon, cod, lean beef, or pork; or go with high-protein meat substitutes such as tofu, eggs, or low-fat cheese.

5. Add a low-fat drink and a piece of fruit for dessert.

Getting in the habit of organizing your meals this way can help make healthful eating a little easier, which can make a real difference when it comes to managing your diabetes.