How to Manage Diabetes with a Balanced Diet
No carbohydrates…nothing white…no dessert…no potatoes…no bread…no rice…no..no..no…NO FOOD!
When you are first diagnosed with diabetes so often everyone wants to give you their two cents on exactly what to eat. Typically, it focuses on what you cannot eat. And guess what? What do you usually want to do after hearing that? You guessed it, eat exactly the things you were told not to!
Diabetes does not have to feel like a diet. Let me tell you a secret, there is no “diabetic diet.”
I am here to tell you that you CAN eat with diabetes. So where do you begin?
Balance Your Marconutrients
What are your macronutrients? Carbohydrates, proteins and fat.
All of them will have some effect on blood sugar.
Carbohydratesturn 100% into sugar when eaten. You might think, well then I should not eat them! Wrong! Carbohydrates are your body's energy source, without them your body will not run. It is important to remember some carbohydrates are better than others and what makes them better is FIBER. (We will talk more about that later) Ultimately, your goal is to focus on consistent amounts of carbohydrates throughout the day.
Carbohydrates come from starches, likes breads, pasta, potatoes, corn, cereal, and snack foods, fruits whether dried, whole or fruit juice, and milk and yogurt. Eat some, but not too much.
Proteinwhen eaten in proper portions and with carbohydrates will not affect your blood sugar. However, when you eat too much or you do not eat carbohydrates it will be turned into sugar by your body. The goal is to keep your animal protein to less than 3 oz per meal and to eat them with a healthy source and portion of carbohydrate.
Fat is the sneaky macronutrient. The fat we wear as well as the fat we eat causes insulin resistance. Insulin resistance does not allow the sugar in your blood to get from your blood stream to the cells. Your goal is to keep the fat you eat to as little as possible to prevent the fat your eat from causing your blood sugar to remain elevated.
Balance Your Meal Spacing
Skipping meals can be your worst nightmare with diabetes.
Skipping a meal or not eating carbohydrates can actually make your blood sugar go up. Why? Your liver will produce sugar to keep your body running. This production cannot be turned off and you end up with very high numbers when you do eat carbohydrates.
Skipping a meal can also cause you to over eat later. What you choose to eat at that time will likely be high in processed carbohydrates and fat because your brain wants quick calories. This can wreak havoc on your blood sugar.
Your body is like a car, if it does not have gas it will not run. Your goal is to eat carbohydrates every 4 to 5 hours.
Balance Out Your Plate
Eating with diabetes can be as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4.
- Fill ½ of your plate with non-starchy vegetables – lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc...
- ¼ your plate with starches - ideally whole grain.
- ¼ your plate with protein - either plant-based like beans or animal based like chicken.
- Add a piece or small bowl of fresh fruit to the side – avoid juice if you can.
At each meal, your goal is to have nutrition that will keep you full and running. A balanced plate can help balance your hunger and your diabetes.
Balance Your Blood Sugar with Fiber
Fiber is your best friend! It is a non- digestible plant substance that you may know as adding bulk to your stool but it can also help control blood sugar and keep you fuller longer.
Fiber acts like a dam for sugar. It holds back the release of sugar into your blood stream allowing for a nice slow rise and fall in your blood sugar. When you remove the fiber, you are removing the dam, and sugar will flood your blood stream very quickly, leading to extremely high spike in blood sugars.
Fiber is found in all plant foods, but the more processed the food the more the fiber is broken down.
For example oatmeal (1/2 cup cooked serving)
Oat groats - 5 grams fiber
Steel cut oats - 4.5 grams fiber
Old fashioned oats - 4 grams fiber
Instant oatmeal - 2 grams fiber
Oat flour - 1 - 2 grams fiber
White flour – 0 grams fiber
Your goal is to eat as whole as possible!
Balance Your Cravings
Ultimately, we all enjoys treats. You do not have to avoid sweets and treats forever, the key is to try not to have it every day. Then when you do have it, it is a real treat.
You also want to enjoy it in smaller portions. Instead of eating the entire cake, try having small piece. Make it replace the starch on your place. This will help to keep your portion size in control and allow you to still enjoy the things you want!
Ultimately, if you do have one day per year where you go crazy with your treats and its portion size, this will not break your diabetes. You will likely have a high blood sugar for the day and even into the next. You can manage one day of high blood sugar once in a while, it is the chronic high blood sugar that you do not want!
Let’s Balance It Out
Balance means several things!
- Balance your food groups - do not cut out any one food group, if you do you are likely missing out on some important nutrition.
- Balance your meal timing - do not skip meals, skipping meals can lead to elevated blood sugar and over eating later.
- Balance your plate - make at least 1/2 your plate vegetables.
- balance you fiber - fiber can help keep you fuller longer and balance your diabetes.
- Balance your cravings - it is alright to have a treat once in a while, just try to manage your portions.
When it comes to healthy eating with diabetes balance is key! Diabetes does not have to mean not enjoying eating anymore and in fact can help you to live a healthier life!
Main cover photo credit: Agência Brasil Fotografias
Need to Improve Your Diet?
Get 1-on-1 coaching with a licensed nutritionist online. Achieve health and fitness goals.