Managing type 2 diabetes means developing healthy eating habits, but for most of us this is easier said than done. Many type 2 diabetes sufferers have acquired the condition as a result of a lifetime of poor diet choices, and making a change for the better takes planning to be effective.
By having healthy, well-balanced meals planned in advance and keeping low-carb snacks close at hand you avoid succumbing to cravings for convenient yet unhealthy foods. Meal plans and many delicious, diabetes-friendly recipes may be found on a number of websites such as Diabetes.org, belonging to the American Diabetes Association. However, you’re going to need to limit carbohydrates.
Simply put, carbohydrates are quickly converted to blood glucose, which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels when consumed in too large a quantity. Two easy methods of meal planning involve counting carbs and the somewhat simpler plate method.
Limiting Carbohydrates to Manage Blood Glucose Levels
Counting carbs means tracking the number of carbohydrates you eat and setting a limit. Your carb limit will depend on a number of things such as what medications you are taking and your level of activity. Your doctor can recommend a precise limit, however 45 to 60 grams per meal is a good place to start.
Carbohydrate-rich foods include starches like pasta, bread, rice, cereal and crackers, starchy vegetables such as corn and potatoes, fruit and fruit juice, milk and soy products, yogurt and beans, and simple sugars found in candy, cookies, sweet drinks and snacks. Non-starchy vegetables do contain carbs but in significantly smaller amounts.
A 15-gram serving of carbs could be two small cookies, four to six crackers, one small piece of fruit, one slice of bread, 1/3 cup of rice or pasta, ½ cup of ice cream or ¼ of a large baked potato. A complete list of carbohydrate serving size equivalents may be found at the website of the American Diabetes Association, among other places.
For packaged foods, carbohydrates are listed on the label. In reading labels, however, it is important to remember that the nutritional information given only applies to the serving size, not the whole package. Check the total grams of carbohydrate, number of calories, saturated and trans fats and sodium.
Number of calories is important when following a calorie-limited diet for weight loss and is also helpful to compare similar products. Saturated and trans fats are important to avoid in order to stave off heart disease – for which diabetics are generally at higher risk, and high levels of sodium contribute to hypertension, another diabetic complication.
A simpler alternative to counting carbohydrates, the plate method involves proportioning daily meals. As a rule of thumb, fill half of your plate with vegetables low in starch, i.e. broccoli, carrots, green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, beets, turnips, okra, mushrooms and the like – basically side dish vegetables or salad, but be sure to use only a small amount of reduced fat, low calorie dressing.
Divide the other half of your plate into two categories: protein and starch. The protein portion should be lean meat such as skinless chicken, fish, turkey, pork tenderloin or seafood, or meat substitutes like eggs, low-fat cheese and tofu. A recommended portion is about 3 ounces, around the size of a deck of cards.
The starch portion of the plate may include whole grain bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, beans and lentils, peas, corn, sweet potatoes, lima beans, potatoes, etc.
Add a glass of skim or 1% milk, or a small serving of yogurt if you prefer, and top it off with a small piece of fruit or ½ cup of fruit salad for desert for a complete and satisfying meal.
A terrific menu planning program can be found at shopdiabetes.org to help you get started. The important thing is to find a plan that works with your schedule, is easy to follow and provides plenty of low-carb healthy snacks to keep your blood glucose from plummeting, causing extreme hunger and triggering an unhealthy eating response.
Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.