Personalize Your Diet to Defeat Diabetes
Twenty-nine million Americans have diabetes but one out of every four are not aware they have the disease. The amazing thing is that all twenty-nine million diabetics have different nutritional needs, so why are we still clinging to the idea of a diabetic diet?
There is no such thing as a diabetic diet. Diabetes demands a healthy lifestyle, and while that lifestyle is similar for all Americans living with the disease, it is not the same. Managing diabetes requires an understanding of how food affects us as individuals. Portions are equally as important as food choices, and food choices are equally as important as exercise.
Healthy eating for diabetes is all about balancing food groups and exercise. Carbohydrates, fat and protein affect the body in different ways and learning about those differences could be beneficial for developing the right diet for each individual’s diabetes and blood sugar level maintenance. Good foods to consider are whole grains, vegetables (both starchy and non-starchy), fruits – especially high fiber fruits like berries -- lean poultry and fish, fat free and low-fat dairy, and healthy fats including vegetable oil, avocado, nuts, seeds and heart healthy spreads.
Diabetics should consider meeting with a registered dietitian or diabetes educator to discuss the importance of timing meals and snacks -- eating on a schedule is often beneficial for diabetics. The quantity of food consumed during a meal and eating a similar amount each day will help regulate blood sugar and medication levels. The choices of food for each meal need to support healthy weight, heart and blood sugar levels. A diabetes care team can teach diabetics how to choose foods that are appropriate, as well as the required quantities. Portion size is entirely dependent on the individual. How much exercise are you getting? What is your gender? How old are you? The answers to these questions can affect how many calories you should eat in a day. Daily calorie requirement is something an RDN or CDE can calculate for you.
Consistency can be one of the most useful and overlooked weapons when dealing with diabetes. Creating a daily plan to stay consistent with food and exercise will have you feeling better faster. Planning meals is important as well. Eating food that you have prepared yourself is the simplest way to do this. What if you are invited out for a meal? Consider visiting the restaurant’s website to preplan your menu choices. Just because you are a diabetic does not mean that you cannot enjoy a meal out with friends and family. Carbohydrates affect blood sugar and need to be monitored more closely in diabetics; learning to measure and count carbohydrates is an important skill your diabetes care team can provide.
If you don’t have a diabetes care team, what should you do? There are a number of people who can positively impact your disease management. The American Diabetes Association has a website search engine that provides the name and numbers of local endocrinologists, ARNP’s, certified diabetes educators and registered dietitians. Creating a team of health care professionals can make a huge impact on the quality of life a diabetic can lead.
Bottom Line: When your great aunt asks why you are eating a slice of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving when it’s not part of the “diabetic diet," you can let her know that there is no such thing. Diabetes is about leading a healthy lifestyle through balance and consistency.
Written by: Ariel Beaird, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern