Everyone knows they should be eating more healthy foods, but for people with diabetes it's an essential part of proper management. The key to managing diabetes is to make a plan for eating so that you know exactly how much of something you can eat without breaking out of your target range.
Here are a few of the essential things to remember while you're adjusting your eating habits.
First, counting carbs is important for more than just people on low-carb diets. Eating carbs raises the blood glucose, which means that you have to know how much it will raise yours and how much you can eat and maintain good levels. Correct carbohydrate levels will vary for different people, depending on how active the person is, which medications they are taking, etc., but for most people with diabetes it will be somewhere between 45 and 60 grams of carbs per meal. With the help of a doctor or a diabetes educator, you can decide how much is right for you and plan your meals accordingly. The following foods contain a significant number of carbs:
- starches like bread, rice, cereal, crackers, or pasta
- fruit and juice
- dried beans or soy products (this includes tofu and veggie burgers)
- starchy veggies like corn and potatoes
- sweets - candy, cookies, soda, cake, etc.
Next, remember that the easiest way to change your eating habits is to keep eating what you're eating - in different proportions. (This applies only if you were actually eating vegetables before. If you weren't, you're going to have to make some additions to your diet, which was clearly boring anyway.)
The American Diabetes Association suggests dividing your dinner plate - draw a line down the middle, and then divide one of those sections in half. The biggest section should be the proportion of vegetables, then one of the smaller sections should be carbs and the other should be meat or another protein. Obviously you don't have to eat half a plate of vegetables at every meal, but using those proportions (instead of spreading the vegetables over the big section and squeezing as many carbs into the small section as possible) will mean your are keeping your food intake where it's supposed to be. If you add 8oz of milk or a light yogurt, as well as a piece of fruit or half a cup of fruit salad, you'll have a healthy meal that will help you to stay within your targets.
Finally, it's important to create a meal plan so that it isn't a huge process to decide what you're going to eat every time you do. Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator about what you need to do to create a meal plan that will work for you.
By planning what you will eat and setting goals and targets, you can avoid major fluctuations in your blood glucose and stay healthy for many years to come.