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Diabetes and Meal Planning

For people with diabetes, meal planning takes on a new importance. The food you eat has a significant effect on your current and future well-being. Eating an appropriate diet means eliminating or reducing certain types of foods that can contribute to or worsen your diabetes. It means counting carbohydrates, because they have the greatest influence on your blood glucose levels.

One of the first things you'll want to do is track your food intake and activity levels to see how they affect your blood sugar levels. This information will guide you in adjusting the quantity and types of foods you eat, how much you exercise, and the amount and frequency of your required diabetes medication. Achieving the correct relationship between all factors will help you to control your blood sugar, which is crucial for diabetics.

Your ultimate goal is to develop a meal plan that ensures you regularly eat well-balanced meals on a regular schedule. In doing so, you will benefit by leveling your blood pressure, controlling your blood glucose levels, reducing your cholesterol, fulfilling your nutritional needs, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

What is a good meal plan?

A person with diabetes can eat pretty much the same foods everyone else eats. However, more attention should be paid to reducing carbohydrates in your diet as these affect your blood glucose more than other foods. The key is to eat them in moderation. Read product labels to see how many grams of carbs are in a serving and limit your serving size for that food.

Carbohydrate-rich foods to watch are:

Starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, peas, beans and others)
Dairy foods (milk, ice cream, yogurt)
Baked goods (bread, crackers, cereals)
Pasta, rice, grains
Fresh, canned and dried fruit, and fruit juices
Sugary foods (soft drinks, sherbet, cake, cookies, pies, candy)
Alcoholic drinks and drink mixes (beer, wine)

Use the food exchange method to ensure proper nutrition

A technique that will help ensure you get adequate nutrition is called food exchanging. In short, it's simply a way to minimize unwanted foods and still get the nutrients they provide. The six exchange groups are:

starches and breads
meat and meat by-products

You can exchange any food serving in one group for another. For instance, in the meat and meat by-products category, you can swap one meat for low-fat or non-fat cottage cheese or white skinless chicken or turkey. Ensure that you eat foods from each of these six groups to be sure you get a complete and balanced diet.

Avoid or reduce the following foods:

Salt: Excess salt (sodium) can cause high blood pressure which damages blood vessels and the heart. Foods that contain hidden and often high quantities of salt include fast foods, cheese, soy sauce, canned goods, salad dressings and prepared foods.

Sugar: While sugar doesn't raise blood glucose any more than do potatoes, rice and pasta, the foods containing sugar generally contain large quantities of carbohydrates and fats. If your favourite foods are too tempting, simply keep your portion size small to minimize your sugar and carbohydrate intake.

Alcohol: Alcohol can trigger a drop in blood sugar and cause hypoglycemia. Alcohol is best consumed with a meal or a snack to minimize this possibility.

These are just some of the things to keep in mind when putting together your meal plans. A dietitian can assist you in developing a suitable program to manage your diabetes. Once you understand what to avoid, you can enjoy healthy, nutritious meals that will keep you at a healthy body weight and your diabetes in check.

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