Managing diabetes well has a lot to do with finding a healthy way of eating. Healthy eating options vary from simple ideas such as “cutting down portion sizes” to more intricate meal plans that include measuring and counting carbohydrate amounts. For the person looking for a more structured approach to meal planning, the choices seem endless: high protein/low carbohydrate, low glycemic index, low fat/high fibre, Mediterranean Diet, and so on. To find the right diet for managing diabetes can be tricky. Diets may promise quick weight loss results while leaving a person feeling deprived or hungry, or they may include foods that aren’t familiar. Preferably, meal plans should be simple, include mainly unprocessed, readily available and familiar foods.
Many people have tried numerous diets in the past and each one can bring back memories of the last one they tried. Being on a “diet” can trigger feelings of deprivation because the meal plan doesn’t offer what they feel like eating at the moment. Meal planning should be a way of eating “for life” not a temporary diet to be followed for a short time or until a specific goal is reached like “losing a certain number of pounds” or “fitting into a favourite outfit”. A meal plan needs to bend and flex the way life does. It should also contain the same foods that the rest of the family will eat. You are not likely to continue using a meal plan if different meals have to be planned and prepared for different people in the home. For people who eat out a lot, a structured meal plan can pose some problems. Having the opportunity to exchange choices for other foods can be helpful.
Following a structured meal plan (even for just a few weeks) can be useful in teaching consistency in carbohydrate and calorie intake. For people using certain oral diabetes medications or insulin (particularly “premixed insulin”), a diet consistent in carbohydrates at each meal can be especially helpful in keeping blood sugars within a desirable range. Working with a Registered Dietitian will help a person create an individualized meal plan that works with their schedule, and provides the right balance of calories to manage body weight as well as improving blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.
EatRight Ontario, a free service providing easy-to-use nutrition information from Registered Dietitians, has developed a diabetes menu planner for people with diabetes. The meal plans provide a consistent amount of carbohydrate per meal using a general guide of 45 – 60 g per meal for females and 60 -75 g per meal for males. Snacks provide 15-30 g carbohydrate each.
Some individuals may prefer to limit the amount of carbohydrate even more. The key is to be consistent. Speak to your diabetes health care team about an individualized meal plan.
To help you find the right diet for managing diabetes you may also want to visit the EatRight Ontario website, click on: http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/Articles/Diabetes-Prevention/Diabetes-Menu-Plan-for-prevention-and-management.aspx