The goals of a diabetic diet are to lower blood glucose levels, maintain a healthy body weight, and provide a balanced diet. The best food choices for diabetics are actually the best food choices for the whole family. The basic guidelines are relatively simple: eat a variety of high-fibre vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans. Eat less salt, sugar, and added fat, and learn to read food labels. Try new foods often to avoid boredom.
Simple changes in meal planning help manage your diabetes. Eat meals at a regular time each day, and eat about the same portion each day. Skipping meals is not a good idea, so if you're not hungry, try a protein snack. A few whole grain crackers with peanut butter and a glass of milk are good choices. If you are dining out, choose a low-fat meal, and don't eat out more than three times a week if possible. A good guideline is to look at the food on your plate. If it's colourful, you're probably eating a balanced meal. If you're seeing all the same colours (brown meat, brown rice, brown bread), you need more variety - and more vegetables.
Blood glucose levels are affected by the amount and type of carbohydrate in the diet. A goal in diabetic meal planning is to maintain a consistent level of complex carbohydrates and limiting intake of simple carbohydrates. Meals should include six or more servings per day of whole grains, beans, and starchy vegetables, with two to four servings per meal. Beans are good sources of fibre and protein. Choose whole grain breads and crackers or, if you bake your own bread, use whole grain flour.
Vegetables, Fruit, and Dairy
Fresh or plain frozen fruits and vegetables are best. If using canned fruit, be sure to choose those in unsweetened juice instead of heavy syrup. Choose dark-coloured vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots, peppers, and tomatoes. Healthy choices for dairy products include low-fat or non-fat milk, yoghurt, and cottage cheese.
Meats, Fish, Poultry and Fats
The ideal portion of lean meat, poultry or fish is between four and six ounces, or about the size of a deck of playing cards. Grill, bake or broil instead of frying, and use spices or lemon juice for added flavour. Trim fat from meat and cook only skinless poultry. Eat less saturated fat, which is found in meat, bacon, butter, and cheese, by substituting with foods containing healthier olive oil, canola oil, and reduced-fat products.
Contrary to popular belief, diabetics can enjoy a carefully chosen dessert, such as a small cupcake or muffin, a couple of cookies, or a small portion of sugar-free ice cream. The key to desserts is to make them part of the overall food plan, not as an added extra.
Read labels and understand what you are reading. "No sugar added" does not necessarily mean the sugar content is acceptable. Watch for hidden sugars in the form of high simple carbohydrate content or high fructose corn syrup.