How to Properly Plan a Diabetes Diet to Control Your Blood Sugar Levels

By KrisTina | Articles

Jul 28

It is a well-known fact that those with diabetes have a much greater risk of heart disease as well as certain mental disorders such as depression.

But not to start this on a gloomy note, type II diabetes cases (at least most of them) can not only be prevented, but even reversed!

But it’s not like one has to live in deprivation in order to hinder or manage their diabetes.

The key is to eat a well-balanced (and tasty!) diet which will supply you with all the nutrients needed, as well as giving your energy levels and immune system a boost.

Some think that they have to remain hungry and keep choosing bland foods just to stay healthier, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The Best Diabetes Diet?

It’s not like you have to eat any special foods. Whether diabetic or not, your nutritional needs are the same as those of all others.

However, as you certainly know, you still have to keep an eye out for certain types of food – namely, carbs.

And while following popular diets like the Mediterranean one is bound to help matters, your best option is still to lose a little bit of weight.

In fact, dropping as little as 5 or 10% of your total current weight is more than enough for lowering your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

And everyone knows that the healthier you eat, the better your general mood becomes.

So don’t think that just because you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s too late to make a change for the better.

By making better life choices such as being more active and choosing healthier foods, you can put a damper on your symptoms, or, in some cases, even reverse your diabetes altogether!

And remember, you have more control over your body and health than you are probably aware of.

How to Properly Plan a Diabetes Diet

First thing’s first: a diet for diabetics doesn’t have to be all that complicated, nor does one have to say goodbye to their favorite ‘guilty’ foods.

Your initial step is to learn the myths and facts about properly eating while having diabetes.

The Facts and The Myths:

  • Myth – Sugar must be avoided at any cost.
  • Truth – You can enjoy a tasty dessert as long as you avoid any hidden sugars and properly plan your daily diet.
  • Myth -One has to drastically cut down on carbohydrates.
  • Truth – What’s crucial is the serving size and just what type of carbs are ingested. Whole grain carbs are way better than starchy carbs, so you’d be wise to focus on them.
  • Myth – Special diabetic meals are required.
  • Truth – Such meals usually offer no benefit whatsoever, not to mention they’re expensive. Like we said, it doesn’t matter whether one is diabetic or not, the rules of a healthy nutrition are the same for everyone.
  • Myth – A diet high in proteins is best.
  • Truth – According to a large number of studies, eating too much protein (especially the animal kind) can cause a resistance to insulin. Our bodies need carbs and fats too, not just protein, in order to function properly. Balance is the key here.

Of course, we don’t need to tell you to avoid processed and packaged foods and aim for healthier options.

One shouldn’t obsess over certain types of food, as variety is important for everyone’s daily diet.

Eat More of…

  • Healthy fats from fish oils, avocados, and nuts
  • Fruits and veggies – did we even need to tell you this? And remember, whole, fresh fruits rather than canned or juices
  • Whole grain, high-fiber breads and cereals
  • Organic turkey or chicken, as well as shellfish and fish
  • Protein of the highest quality such as beans, eggs, sugar-free yogurt or low-fat dairy products

Eat Less of…

  • Deeply-fried foods full of unhealthy trans fats
  • Baked goods, chips, fast foods and packaged foods
  • Refined rice or pasta, as well as cereals loaded in sugar or white bread
  • Red meat and processed meats
  • Fat-free yogurt (don’t let the name lead you on, they replaced healthy fats with added sugar) and any other ‘fat-free’ product

The beauty about high-fiber carbs is that they are released much more slowly into one’s bloodstream, thus hindering any insulin spikes.

Be Smart About Choosing Sweets

Like we previously stated, having diabetes doesn’t mean you should avoid sweets altogether. Having said that, most of us, diabetes or not, consume way too much sugar on a daily basis, mostly without even realizing it.

That’s why the main point here is to consume sweets in moderation. No one is going t stop you from indulging in your favorite type of dessert now and again, just as long as you limit the portion size.

It’s very important that you don’t over-indulge, something even non-diabetics do, especially here in the U.S.

Here are some tips we’d like to share with you which you just might find useful:

  • Learn to reduce your cravings one step at a time by slowly ingesting less and less amounts of sugar each day, giving your taste buds enough time to adjust to this positive change.
  • If you do have dessert, make sure to skip on any pasta or bread during the same meal, as there are plenty of carbs in the desert as it is.
  • It’s always a good idea to include some healthy fats to your desert. This is to slow down your digestive process, so your blood sugar levels don’t spike quickly. And the key word here is healthy, so be sure to reach out for fats like nuts, yogurt, ricotta cheese or peanut butter.
  • Eat sweets not as a standalone snack, but rather as one whole meal. If eaten by themselves, they are sure to cause a spike in your blood sugar. But if you integrate them together with a healthy meal, they won’t do nearly as much damage.
  • Learn to savor each bite while eating your dessert. Come on, admit it, we all mindlessly chow down on high-sugar foods without actually getting to truly enjoy their taste. Which makes us eat even more, and that’s a big no-no when it comes to sugar. So next time, make each bite count as you enjoy the texture and flavor. That way you’ll feel less guilty about indulging in an unhealthy food.

Tips on How to Cut Down on Sugar

  • Try and reduce any sodas, juices and soft drinks, as they are bursting with unneeded extra sugar. And this includes any creamers or sweeteners you may be prone to adding to your coffee or tea.
  • Sugar is no replacement for saturated fats. While it is definitely a good idea to avoid refined carbs and whole-fat dairy products, a large number of the population make the famous mistake of replacing them with low=fat alternatives charged with added sugars.
  • Make sure to sweeten your food yourself. That means buying unflavored oatmeal, plain yogurt, and unsweetened iced tea, and add the quantity of sugar yourself (preferably fruit). You are bound to add less than the manufacturer would.
  • Develop the habit of checking labels and always opt for products low on sugar. Same goes for ditching any canned goods in favor of frozen and fresh ingredients. Use caution particularly when it comes to cereals and soft drinks.
  • Steer clear of any processed and packaged foods. We’re sure you’ve heard this about a million times by now, but it’s the truth. Create a healthy habit for yourself by preparing more meals in the comfort of your home instead of opting for frozen dinners to just throw in the microwave or canned soups. Such products usually contain hidden sugars.
  • Try and cut back on sugar in recipes. Rather, you can take a pick from the many healthy ingredients for sweetening your dish. Such examples include nutmeg, cinnamon or vanilla extract.
  • Look for healthy ways of satisfying your sweet tooth. For instance, instead of reaching out for ice cream, why not blend some freezer-kept bananas for a nice, creamy, healthy treat. Or, when craving for some chocolate, the dark one is an infinitely better option than the milk variety.
  • Divide your usual desert in half; the other half should contain fresh fruits.

Learn To Spot Hidden Sugars

One example is in alcohol, something most of us ignore. But the fact remains that most underestimate just how much caloric content alcoholic beverages like wine and beer pack.

Not to mention cocktails which are mixed with both alcohol and sodas.

Furthermore, they represent even bigger bad news for those who happen to be diabetic, as it is already widely known that alcohol can mess with insulin and diabetes medication.

In other words, it is not enough to choose your sweets wisely; you should also remember that a large number of foods, even those which do not taste sweet at all, may be hiding sugar.

So put on your detective cap and do some investigative research starting with a careful study of the labels on the products, and don’t be shocked when you discover how many of them contain added sugars.

While it is required of manufacturers to include the sugar per serving size on their products, they are not forced to spill the beans on how much of that sugar belongs naturally to the product in question and how much is unnecessary, added sugar.

Additionally, it would not hurt to get yourself acquainted with the ‘vocabulary’ used on the labels. We are referring to ‘sugar, by any other name’.

In other words, other than the usual ‘sugar, molasses, and honey’, there are plenty of other ingredients such as:

  • Cane crystals
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Agave nectar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Lactose
  • Crystalline fructose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • And even more, if you can believe it

So make sure not to fall for this cheap trick and keep an eye out for any sugars which are strategically called differently.

That way you’ll be saving yourself from a great load of empty calories.

Be Smart About Choosing Fats as Well

This is of crucial importance to everyone on this planet, not just those with diabetes.

The thing is, some fats are abundant in health benefits while others hang at the opposite end of the spectrum by being highly unhealthy and damaging to one’s health.

Here they are divided into groups:

Unhealthy Fats – The most harmful kind are the artificial trans fats. But you should also avoid any product which has “partially-hydrogenated oil” as part of its ingredients. Never mind the fact that it might claim to be free of trans fats.

Healthy Fats – Unsaturated fats take first place here. They can be obtained from plant and fish sources such as, say, nuts, olive oil, and avocados.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also a great choice since they support the health of your heart and brain as well as fighting inflammation. Rich sources are flaxseed, tuna, and salmon.

Saturated Fats – Even though there is hardly a way to avoid them altogether, one should still try to limit their intake.

10% of your daily caloric intake is more than enough, according to the American Diabetes Association. They can be found in dairy, red meat and oils of the tropical kind.

If you are looking to limit your unhealthy fat intake and replace it with healthy fats, you can use simple strategies such as cooking any other way instead of frying, and when you do fry, use healthy olive oil.

You should also minimalize your daily dairy intake.

Eat Regular Meals

The fact that one only needs to lose 7% of one’s entire body mass results in cutting one’s diabetes risk by half.

Sounds encouraging? We think so too. And don’t worry, you don’t have to count every single calorie or forcibly starve yourself to achieve this.

Here are some tips we think you’ll find helpful:

  • Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day – so make sure you don’t skip out on it.
  • Eat small meals regularly – even up to six a day
  • Maintain your calorie intake – aim for eating the same amount every day, at least a rough estimate. This regulates your blood sugar levels and is much better than binging out one day and then skipping meals the next.

Keep A Food Diary

Another interesting find is that those who keep a food diary lose even twice as much body weight compared to those who don’t.

Why is this? Simple, it makes you much more aware of what you eat.

Also, by keeping track of everything you consume, you can eventually locate problem areas such as overly-caloric meals and drinks.

Keeping Active

We realize you are probably tired of hearing this, but the fact that exercise helps you not only lose weight but also manage your insulin levels, is something which cannot be ignored.

You can ease your way into becoming more active by a mere 30-minute walk each day.

We’re not saying you should overdo it, simple light exercises like biking or taking a swim are more than enough to make you a little sweaty and improving your stamina.

That’s it dear, readers. Don’t discourage yourselves if at first you don’t succeed. After all, most things in life require some trial and error. Stay healthy!

Source: Help Guide | HSPH Harvard | Joslin