Dr. Scott Friedberg
If you have diabetes, your body cannot make or properly use insulin. This leads to high blood glucose, or sugar, levels in your blood. Healthy eating helps keep your blood sugar in your target range. It is a critical part of managing your diabetes, because controlling your blood sugar can prevent the complications of diabetes.
Are you constantly asking yourself, "What can I eat?" Living with diabetes doesn't have to mean feeling deprived or restricted. A diabetic eating plan should take into account your weight, medicines, lifestyle, and other health problems you have.
Tips for Eating Right with Diabetes
- Be sure to eat a wide variety of foods. Having a colorful plate is the best way to ensure that you are eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other forms of protein such as nuts, dairy products, and grains/cereals.
- Eat the right amount of calories to maintain a healthy weight.
- Choose foods high in fiber such as whole grain breads, fruit, and cereal. They contain important vitamins and minerals. You need 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. Studies suggest that people with type 2 diabetes who eat a high-fiber diet can improve their blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Similar results have been suggested in some studies in people with type 1 diabetes.
Healthy Diabetic Eating Includes:
- Limit foods that are high in sugar
- Eat smaller portions, spread out over the day
- Be careful about when and how many carbohydrates you eat
- Eat a variety of whole-grain foods, fruits and vegetables every day
- Eat less fat
- Limit your use of alcohol
- Use less salt
- Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. Try picking from the rainbow of colors available to maximize variety.
- Eat non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, broccoli or green beans with meals.
- Choose whole grain foods over processed grain products. Try brown rice with your stir fry or whole wheat spaghetti with your favorite pasta sauce.
- Include dried beans (like kidney or pinto beans) and lentils into your meals.
- Include fish in your meals 2-3 times a week.
- Choose lean meats like cuts of beef and pork that end in "loin" such as pork loin and sirloin. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
- Choose non-fat dairy such as skim milk, non-fat yogurt and non-fat cheese.
- Choose water, unsweetened tea, coffee and calorie-free "diet" drinks instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other sugar-sweetened drinks.
- Choose liquid oils for cooking instead of solid fats that can be high in saturated and trans fats. Remember that fats are high in calories. If you're trying to lose weight, watch your portion sizes of added fats.
- Cut back on high calorie snack foods and desserts like chips, cookies, cakes, and full-fat ice cream.
- Eating too much of even healthful foods can lead to weight gain. Watch your portion sizes.
Snacking with Diabetes:
Having diabetes does not mean that you must stop eating snacks. It does mean that you should know what a snack can do to your blood sugar. Snacks with no carbohydrates change your blood sugar the least. The healthiest snacks usually don’t have many calories. Read food labels for carbohydrates and calories. You can also use carbohydrate counting books. Over time, it will get easier for you to tell how many carbohydrates are in foods or snacks.
Some low carbohydrate snacks, such as nuts and seeds, are high in calories. Some examples of low carbohydrate snacks are:
- Celery sticks
- Peanuts (not honey-coated or glazed)
- Sunflower seeds
Alcohol and Diabetes:
Use discretion when drinking alcohol if you have diabetes. Alcohol is processed in the body very similarly to the way fat is processed, and alcohol provides almost as many calories as fat. If you choose to drink alcohol, only drink it occasionally and when your blood sugar level is well-controlled. Remember, most wine and mixed drinks contain sugar.
Next Steps- Live and Learn the ABC’s of Diabetes:
The goal of nutrition for people with diabetes is to attain the ABC’s of diabetes. The A stands for the A1c or hemoglobin A1c test, which measures average blood sugar over the previous three months. B is for blood pressure, and C is for cholesterol. People with diabetes should attain as near as normal blood sugar control (A1c), blood pressure, and healthy cholesterol levels. Living with diabetes may seem frustrating, but there are many people who do it, and so can you!