Eating well is an important cornerstone of living well; with or without diabetes. Managing diabetes makes it important to understand how various foods affect glucose levels. What, when, where, how much and why one eats, can all affect blood sugar levels.
Read here to learn more about these 5 Pillars of Nutrition
Eating well to manage diabetes does not require complete elimination of any energy giving foods. Rather a balanced intake between these nutrients can provide a sustainable, therapeutic and enjoyable meal plan. The Mediterranean meal plan is one such way of eating that not only includes all the various food groups but also has been proven to be effective in managing diabetes, heart health and weight. While the original meal plan is not best suited for everyone, keeping in mind food preferences and culturally specific eating habits, adaptation of this way of eating has also shown to be equally effective. Read here to learn more about how various diets compare.
Foundations of Eating Well- Identify the food groups
Let’s start from the very beginning and build a strong foundation for eating well. This article takes a deep dive into understanding and identifying the food groups and the 3 macronutrients they are made of.
Protein helps build and maintain tissues and muscles. Aim for lean proteins when choosing animal proteins for heart health. Plant based proteins have its set of benefits from a heart health perspective too. For people with diabetes taking mealtime insulin, do account for legumes and lentils towards your carbohydrate count.
Fat is a nutrient that’s used to store energy. There are many types of fats. They are also the most calorie dense nutrient. It is recommended to choose heart-healthy fats more often as compared to fats that can increase the risk for heart disease. These are called unsaturated fats. Read here to learn more about heart health. Choose wisely to keep a happy heart as well as for weight management strategies.
Carbohydrates are sugars and starches that break down into glucose. While this type of energy-giving foods have the most impact when it comes to raising blood glucose levels, it’s important to know that the quality and quantity of carbohydrates matter when managing diabetes. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that remains undigested and mostly does not break down into sugars in the body. As a result carbohydrates such as non starchy vegetables rank high in fiber and can be liberally included in a meal plan. Carbs that are minimally processed such as whole grains, legumes, whole fruits are wise choices when trying to experiment with carbs that raise blood glucose within a safe range.
Putting it All Together
- Many foods have more than one macronutrient in them
- Liberally include non starchy vegetables. They are a type of carbohydrate, rich in dietary fiber and have minimal effect on raising blood glucose levels.
- Rice or pasta can be volumized and included on a plate by adding more non starchy vegetables to it. Try 1/3 cup cooked pasta or rice with 2/3 cups of veggies as a cup of a carb portion
- Portion and Include lentils, legumes, peas, soy. They are fibrous carbohydrate choices, rich in protein, and as a result can raise blood glucose at a slower rate
- Avoid liquid carbohydrates. Milk contains protein but is a liquid carbohydrate similar to sugary beverages that can raise blood glucose levels very quickly”
- Yogurt can be included. Learn to read nutrition labels to choose one that works well for you. Quick tip: Consider choosing plain yogurt- Flavor it with nuts, chopped fruit, cinnamon or any flavored extract!
Once these energy giving foods are clearly identified, the next step is to create meals or snacks that combine fats, proteins along with carbohydrates that are higher in fiber.
Together they also play an important role in providing flavor and meeting hunger satiety too. And those occasional celebrations with a piece of cake or a festive meal won't necessarily throw your efforts off course!
Reach out to your diabetes care and education specialist to build a meal plan that works best for you.
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