The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight are well known for people living with diabetes. Staying within weight management targets can make it easier to control blood glucose and can help to avoid complications such as heart disease and kidney and nerve damage. In addition, people feel better overall and have more energy when they maintain their weight at a healthy level.
Following a diabetes diet recommended by a registered dietitian is the recommended way to keep weight within healthy targets over the long-term, combined with a program of regular physical activity. However, many people are tempted by the quick-loss promises of more structured, sometimes short-term weight loss plans. We have taken a look at some of the well-known diets, and considered pros and cons. We try making sense of well-known diets.
The Mediterranean Diet - This well regarded diet plan puts an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, together with healthy fats like olive oil. Unhealthy fats and fatty proteins are limited.
Research studies report that in addition to weight reduction, the Mediterranean diet can bring significant overall health benefits. Some studies have reported additional benefits of reduced heart disease and other chronic diseases.
The Dash Diet – Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – more commonly known as the DASH Diet – is promoted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Originally developed to control blood pressure, this highly regarded diet has been found to be a successful tool for weight maintenance.
The Dash Diet puts a similar emphasis on the foods recommended for a healthy diabetes diet. It is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts, and other foods low in saturated fats and cholesterol. The diet is low in sodium, sugars and red meats and is reported to be an excellent choice for many individuals living with diabetes.
Low-carb diets – Several well-known diets are based on severe restriction of carbohydrates, which can result in rapid weight loss. The down-side is that many of these diets lean to high-fat choices. Some plans also cause ketosis in the induction stage.
Glycemic Index Diets – Lower glycemic index (GI) foods can be useful in helping to maintain blood sugar targets. However, it is important to note that low GI foods are not always healthier, since many high-fat foods fall into this category.
It can also be complicated for individuals to follow a low GI diet plan on their own. Many food labels don’t include GI ratings, and GI diets tend not to take cooking methods into consideration.
Dieting for long-term weight maintenance - Although rigid, well-known diet plans can bring about initial weight loss, meal planning for weight maintenance is ultimately much easier when it becomes a way of ‘eating for life’, rather than a temporary diet to meet a short-term goal. One of the most successful ways to lose weight is by keeping a food diary (or food journal). See our dietitian’s blog on keeping a food journal to learn about the benefits and to find practical tips about food diaries.
The dietitian on your diabetes healthcare team can develop an ongoing healthy eating plan that is designed to meet individual lifestyle and health needs. It is also important to consult with the dietitian before following any of the well-known diet plans discussed in this article.
You and the person you support may find it useful to review the diabetes menu planner provided by Dietitians of Canada. This is a free service with easy-to-use nutritional information from registered dietitians.
Further information on weight maintenance for people with diabetes can also be found in our expert blogger’s article Finding the right diet for managing diabetes.