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Fast four: diabetes diet basics to remember

As with turning a car's fuel into momentum, the conversion of food into energy is a complicated chemical process. In diabetes there is a glitch in that process, so the conversion of carbohydrates into sugar is not regulated. Controlling blood sugar requires three things: insulin, proper diet, and exercise. All three are important, but learning what, how, and when to eat may be the hardest adjustment to make. It's no help that the typical American diet and food supply is heavy on fats, sodium, and carbohydrates, which contribute to obesity and diabetes.

Four basic diabetes diet guidelines

Here are some basics to master when you embark on your diabetic eating plan.

  1. Favor fresh foods. Fresh fruits, grains, and vegetables contain more fiber and less sodium and filler than processed foods.
  2. Balance your meals. Eat balanced portions of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber in moderate quantities. The body absorbs these at different rates, minimizing blood spiking.
  3. Eat regularly. Eat meals at approximately the same time each day, spaced out to keep blood sugar levels as even as possible.
  4. Count carbohydrates. For women, 45-60 grams of carbs per meal is optimal; for men, 60-75 grams.

Are there forbidden foods when it comes to diabetes?

Forget myths about forbidden foods. The reality is that few foods are totally forbidden. The secret is mastering common sense and moderation, and staying within your carb intake guidelines. Early in the process your doctor typically recommends frequent blood sugar testing. Keep a food diary, too, of everything you eat in a small spiral-bound notebook. Soon you should begin to correlate certain foods and portions with blood sugar spikes. In turn, understanding safe portion sizes becomes a habit when treating yourself to salty snacks, chocolate, peanut butter and other temptations.

When eating, do the math

There is a certain amount of math involved in designing and maintaining a healthy diabetic diet. Fortunately, nutrition labels are mandated for all processed and packaged foods, to help with portion control. For fresh foods, you can find booklets with carbohydrate and fiber counts for typical portions. For instance, a small banana or a small apple comes in around 15 grams of carbohydrate. Purchase diabetic cookbooks. Browse diabetic recipes on websites. These resources for delicious meals tell you the portion size to use and ensure balanced meals without excessive carbs.

The bottom line is that a healthy diet plus an exercise program and the proper insulin or medication dosage, when required, can enable those with diabetes to maximize their longevity and enjoyment of life.

About Roger Diez

Roger Diez was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in September 2008. While first on Metformin, Roger lost 40 pounds through diet and exercise and is happy to say he is now off medication. He still tests blood sugar daily and maintains his A1c at below 6.0. Roger is a professional freelance writer who has used his writing experience to discuss living with diabetes. His articles have addressed topics such as diet, exercise, insulin delivery systems, the glycemic index, carbohydrate counting, weight control, and more.

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