Diet and Diabetes
Diet and Nutrition is perhaps the most critical component to living well with diabetes. However, there is no one diet plan that fits everyone with diabetes. Your body is unique and only you and your Dietitian can create a meal plan that is right for you. In general, a healthy meal plan should:
- Help manage blood glucose
- Work to manage weight
- Help to control cholesterol levels
- Reduce the risk of diabetic complications
What can you Eat?
With flexible insulin regimens and insulin pumps, what a person with type 1 diabetes can eat can be more flexible and tailored towards individual needs and general good nutrition advice. It is very important to understand the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels and how to count carbohydrates to accurately calculate insulin doses with meals. Some people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes may be tempted to cut carbohydrates out of their diet. As carbohydrates are an important source of fuel for energy it is important to include them in appropriate portions as discussed with your Dietitian. It is recommended to make healthier carbohydrate choices such as wholegrain breads and pasta, high fiber fruits and vegetables, unsweetened yogurt and milks or dairy alternatives.
No two people with diabetes are the same, and this is especially true with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes where age and weight may vary considerably. Our advice is to make healthier choices more often, increase consumption of fresh vegetables and fruit, eliminate highly processed foods, and choose sweet treats less often and in small portions. Try and make changes to your diet that are realistic, so they are sustainable in the long term. Meeting with a Registered Dietitian is important to develop a meal plan that suits your individual needs and goals.
What Shouldn't you Eat?
Rather than cutting these foods out completely try limiting the amount of these foods you consume to keep you blood sugar in range.
- Avoid Highly processed foods- These are prepared with excess sodium, sugar and saturated fat.
- Limit sugars and sweet which raise your blood sugar quickly- such as sodas, candies and juices with added sugar
- Chose foods with high levels of saturated fats less often- these increase your 'bad' cholesterol and increases your chance of heart disease
There are 3 different types of Carbs
- Simple Sugars: sugars, (brown sugar, honey, molasses etc,) sweet foods and drinks, desserts, candies, sugary drinks and natural sugars in fruit
- Complex carbohydrates (Starches): Examples; bread, rice, pasta, potato, crackers and cereals.
- Fiber: this is the part of plants that is indigestible but is needed for digestive health.
Both simple sugars and starches will raise blood sugar levels, but fiber does not.
How many Carbs can you eat?
There is not a specific amount of carbohydrates a person should eat every day although it is recommended generally that if you previously had a diet high in carbohydrates (simple sugars and starches) that you look to reduce the amount for better blood sugar control as this has a significant impact on your sugar levels. The amount of carbohydrates you eat should be calculated based on your age, activity and both blood sugar and weight goals
Lack of time and planning can make healthy eating a challenge with diabetes, Meal planning is an important skill to learn what is best to eat and when. There are several ways you can meal plan to make sure you are eating the right foods and the right amounts every day. Before you choose a method of meal planning, there are few things you can do. These can help you choose the method that works best for you.
- Keep a food diary: Knowing patterns and how you eat currently is important to find out what changes you may need to make. Be accurate and as detailed as possible as this will help when you review this.
- Talk to your health care team: Speak to your physician and ask for a referral to meet with a Registered Dietitian to help get you started. Registered Dietitians provide medical nutritional counseling to manage diabetes with specific individualized recommendations to meet your own health goals.
- Consider your goals: Everyone is unique; therefore, your goals will be unique to you and will inform the type of meal plan you and your healthcare team decide on. Consider things like:
- Weight loss: do you need to lose, gain or maintain current weight?
- How do your medications react to food?
- What is your target blood sugar range?
- Do you need to follow a low fat and/or low sodium diet?
It is recommended to make changes to what you are eating gradually. Do not change everything all at once! Implement small sustainable changes each week until you reach your goals.
Portion Size and Serving Size
A single portion of food does not always equal a single serving of food. A portion is the amount of food you decide to eat, it can be large or small you decide. A serving is a simply a premeasured amount of food With the average size of portions increasing over time, foods that come in single portions can contain multiple serving for example a single bag of Doritos- which is usually treated as one portion- can have 3.5 servings in it. it is important to always check the Nutrition label on the back of a food label for the correct serving size.