Updated: Aug 21, 2021
A key aspect of managing blood sugar when you have diabetes is eating healthy every day. When someone is diagnosed with diabetes it is difficult to adjust to the “new way” of eating especially if eating unhealthily was part of their lifestyle. Eating foods that you love can fit into a healthy meal plan when the portions are managed well.
Main Nutrients in Foods
The building blocks of good nutrition are protein, fat, and carbohydrate (carbs). Of the three nutritions, carbs have the greatest effect on blood sugar. When we eat carbs our body converts them to form of sugar called glucose which the body uses for energy. When you have diabetes too much or too little sugar in the blood can cause complications.
Carbs are the body’s main source of energy. When carbs are eaten in large portions it raises blood sugar higher and faster than protein and fat. Carb sources are starch, sugar, and fiber. Starches are found in grains and grain products such as rice, pasta, bread, cereal, tortilla, to name a few. They are also found in starchy vegetables such as potatoes, peas, corn, Lima beans, yams, and squash. Kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils also contain starches. Sugars are naturally found in all fruits, dairy products, and foods with added sugars such as most desserts, processed foods, candy, regular soda, and fruit drinks.
Fibers are found in plant foods. The body cannot digest most fiber so it does not raise blood glucose as other carbohydrates. Fiber sources are found in fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, and nuts.
What eating plan is right for you?
There are many different "diet plans" to follow when someone has diabetes but the ones that I usually use are the "Plate Method" or carb counting. If you have diabetes it is best to collaborate with your diabetes professional or a registered dietitian to see which plan is best for you.
A great start to managing diabetes is monitoring portions. Individuals with diabetes can manage their portions by using the “Plate Method” plan. Focus on using a 9-inch plate and make half of the plate vegetables (non-starchy), ¼ starches (whole grain or starchy vegetables), and ¼ proteins (lean or plant-based). The "Plate Method" is great for an individual that is newly diagnosed with diabetes when eating out, and at home on a daily basis. Individuals can personalize their plate by eating a fist-size starch and a palm-size lean protein.
Another eating plan that can be used by individuals with diabetes is carb counting. This method is usually used by individuals with type1 diabetes and those who are taking mealtime insulin. Carb counting is an easy way to track the number of carbs eaten at each meal daily. Eating too many carbs can raise blood sugar and eat too little can also be a problem because you run the risk of having low blood sugar.
Carbs are counted in grams and the “Nutrition Facts” label on the packages is used for this system. The food label tells you how much food makes up one serving and also tells you the total carbohydrate, protein, and fat in each serving of food. This will help you decide if the food you are choosing fits into your meal plan. Some foods such as fruits and vegetables are not labeled.
One choice of carb is equal to 15 grams. Carbs foods that contain approximately 15 grams per serving include 1 slice of bread, 1/3 cup of rice, 1/3 cup of pasta, 3/4 cup dry cereal 1/2 cup of beans,1/2 cup of starchy vegetables such as potato, corn, and peas,1/2 cup of hot cereal, a small fruit, and1tablespoon jelly. A good app to use to help with carb counting is CalorieKing
The "Plate Method" or carb counting are two great eating plan to manage your blood sugar when you have diabetes
Eat from all the food groups for a balanced diet to give the body the nutrients it needs
Enjoy your favorite foods but monitor your portion size accordingly.
Large portions of carbs raise your blood sugar
Eat less fat and reduce intake of sugary beverages such as regular soda, sports drinks, and fruit juice, instead have water or other sugar-free liquids to manage blood sugar and weight
Consume fiber-containing starches at each meal to stabilize blood glucose