Diabetes-friendly food and lifestyle

Good Diabetes meal planning includes:

  • Understanding how different foods and the amount eaten affect your blood sugar
  • Choosing healthy foods
  • Eating the right amount of food for you at the right time

Understanding how different foods and amounts affect blood sugar

Starches and sugars (carbohydrates) have more effect on blood sugar than protein or fat. Carbohydrates include foods such as rice, cornflakes, bread, pasta, cereal, beans, milk, fruit and fruit juices, and sweets/chocolates. Keeping track of the carbohydrate foods you eat is a key factor in controlling your blood sugar. Carbohydrates have the greatest impact on your blood sugar after meals, and your blood sugar level can go too high when you eat more carbohydrates than your body can use. By keeping track of carbohydrates you eat and spreading them throughout the day, you can help control your blood sugar. Check with your doctor or dietitian for help in learning how your blood sugar is affected by carbohydrate intake.

Diet is the cornerstone of all therapeutic regimens for type 2 diabetes. Proper dietary choices are important for all people with diabetes. Unfortunately, dietary habits are the most difficult to change. Therefore, dietary management must be an ongoing process that seeks to improve compliance through continuous education and monitoring of progress report.

Diet in Diabetes should not be a complete deviation from the normal diet. The nutritional requirements of the person with diabetes are same as for a non-diabetic. Generally, in Indian diets, carbohydrates contribute most of the total calories of the daily intake.

Carbohydrates: It is recommended that 60% of the calories should be obtained from carbohydrates. Since the blood sugar levels depend mainly on the intake of carbohydrates, it is important to distribute the intake of carbohydrates as per the daily needs. This can be divided in to 4-5 equal parts. One-third (33%) of the diet is served during lunch, another one-third during dinner (33%). Of the remaining one-third, 25% is served during breakfast and the rest (9%) during evening tea or at bedtime.

Proteins: It is recommended that 15-20% of the total calories be derived from proteins. Meat and meat products, eggs, fish, milk, pulses, legumes and nuts are all rich in proteins.

Fats: It is recommended that 15-25 % of the calories be derived from fat. People with diabetes, should consume less of saturated fats (ghee, butter, vanaspati etc.) as compared to PUFA -poly-unsaturated oils (sunflower, safflower oils) and MUFA- mono-unsaturated oils (palm oil, olive oil etc.)

Vitamins and Minerals: These are protective factors which in small amounts are essential for the body. They are available in green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, milk, cereals, nuts etc.

Dietary Fibre: It is an important part of a diabetes diet and is present in cereals, legumes, fruits and vegetables. Intake of 25 g of fiber per 1000 calories is considered to be optimum for a diabetes diet. Long-term consumption of insoluble fiber (present in cereals) also improves glucose control.

Choosing healthy foods

The best choices for the rest of the family are also the best choices for people with diabetes.

  • Eat a variety of food from the different food groups..
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. All fruits and most vegetables contain carbohydrates, but their high content of vitamins, minerals, and fiber make them great choices.
  • Choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. These should make up only a small portion of overall food choices. Saturated fats (animal fats, for example) tend to raise blood cholesterol levels and are bad for the health of your heart
  • Moderate your salt intake. Most people eat more salt than they really need. For some people, extra salt may increase their risk for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is more common in people with diabetes and uncontrolled blood pressure (greater than 130/85) greatly increases the risk for health problems. Here are ways to cut down on salt intake:
    • Choose foods "close to nature". Less processed foods have less salt.
    • Avoid canned, boxed or frozen foods with extra salt. Try the "no-salt" added varieties.
    • Use herbs, spice and salt- free seasoning mixes for added flavor, instead of salt.
  • Moderate your sugar intake. .High sugar foods should make up only a small part of the diet. However, small amounts of sweet foods can be a part of a healthy diet, even for people who have diabetes. Learn how to fit the sweets you enjoy into your overall plan.
  • Moderate your alcohol intake. Alcohol can dangerously lower blood sugar in people with diabetes who take insulin or diabetes pills. If you choose to drink alcohol, talk to your doctor or dietitian about how to drink safely. Pregnant women should not drink alcoholic beverages.

Eat the right amount of food for you at the right times.

Several factors affect how much food you need each day. One of them is how much you weigh in relation to how tall you are. Another is how much exercise you get. People who exercise a lot or whose jobs involve heavy labor use more energy than people who are less active. Most people eat better, feel better, and have more energy if they eat regular meals. Spacing food throughout the day also seems to help you stay at a healthy weight and get the vitamins and minerals you need. Talk to your doctor and dietician to know more about your meal plan.