Whether you are Type 2 Diabetic, have a family history of Type 2 Diabetes, or have been told you are at risk, it is crucial to consider your diet. The diabetic diet is a healthy, balanced approach to nutrition while being mindful of the glycemic load of carbohydrates and the added sugar hidden in the foods you eat. A good diabetic diet plan can help you manage diabetes, keep it under control, or even reverse the early stages of the disease.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes occurs when your body no longer produces insulin or becomes resistant to the insulin it does produce. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which works to manage the blood glucose level. When the body doesnt produce enough insulin or isnt sensitive to the effects of insulin levels, the level of blood glucose can get too high. Diabetes increases your risk of other health problems and can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms.
How Can a Diabetic Diet Help Control Diabetes?
A diabetic diet should be balanced, healthy, and sensible. Extreme diets, fasting, or gimmicky diet plans can actually make diabetes harder to manage. What is important is consistency and balance. It is also extremely important to get specific dietary advice from your health care provider. No diabetic diet is better than the one your health care provider recommends because they know you best. Diet is not intended to replace diabetic medication that is required, but instead to support it.
Top Ten Tips for Diabetic Diet
- Balance is Important – You need to ensure you get enough of each of the food groups every day. Each day, the diabetic diet should include vegetables, fruit, starchy foods (carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta), protein (meat, fish, pulses, eggs), dairy (milk and alternatives), fats (oils, spreads). All of these food groups are essential, none should be cut out completely, but the amounts of each food might need to change. When having a main meal, most of the plate should be vegetables, then a smaller amount of protein and starchy foods. Fat should make up the smallest amount.
- Healthy Carb Choices – Swap processed carbohydrates with wholegrain versions. This means switching to wholegrain pasta instead of white pasta, using brown rice to replace white rice, quinoa, or buckwheat, or wholegrain bread rather than white bread. Vegetables also deliver a healthier form of carbohydrates, as do pulses such as beans and lentils. Wholegrain or brown versions of starchy foods will also increase the fiber in your diet, which is very important for digestion and feeling fuller for longer. This can help you stop snacking or feeling an energy slump between meals.
- Learn to Love Water – Many of us are slightly dehydrated, and we do not even realize it. Our bodies often tell us to eat, sending us hunger signals when, really, we are thirsty. Staying well-hydrated is essential for everyone, but it can be especially helpful in managing diabetes. Good hydration helps with digestion, flushes toxins from the body, and can even stop us snacking when we hit that mid-afternoon energy slump!
- Choose Natural Sweetness – Added sugar is a big no for those with diabetes or those who are threatened with diabetes. However, this doesnt mean that you cannot have fruit. Natural sugars are a better source of sweetness than added sugars. Just be careful about how much fruit you are eating, and make sure you stay within the guidelines provided to you by your healthcare provider. Whole fruit is always better than fruit juices.
- Increase Vegetables – Vegetables are your friend. Increasing how much vegetables you eat is always a good idea. Swap out some starchy carbs such as pasta and rice for veg such as salad, pulses, or a healthy helping of your favorite garden veggies. Vegetables not only give you the important nutrition you need each day in the form of bio-available vitamins and minerals, but they also deliver lots of important fiber and other essentials.
- Be Choosy about Fats – We all need fat. But choosing the right type of fats in our diet can make a massive difference to our health. Saturated fats such as those found in processed meats, pastries, and cakes increase the risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. However, there are healthier options; the fat found in oily fish, olive oil, avocados, and nuts is unsaturated, which is a better option, especially if your diabetes diet aims to help you lose weight.
- Reduce Salt – Reducing salt helps reduce the complications of diabetes, such as cardiovascular disease or stroke. Salt increases blood pressure, so reducing salt reduces blood pressure. A low salt diabetic diet can also encourage you to stay away from processed foods, which are often packed with salt! By cooking your own meals you have full control over the salt you eat, and this will, in turn, reduce the calories you consume and help you manage your weight.
- Eliminate Sugar in Drinks – If you like to drink sodas or cordials, then check out the sugar content. This is one way that sugar can sneak its way into your daily diet. We all know that soda’s and energy drinks can be full of sugar, but did you know that fruit juices can also be extremely high in sugar? Opt for whole fruit if you want a sweet snack, and swap out sugary beverages for water, milk (or dairy alternatives), or unsweetened tea.
- Watch your Alcohol Intake – Alcohol might not seem sweet, but it is high in calories, so cutting down is a great idea if you are trying to lose weight as part of your diabetes management plan. It is also worth remembering that people who have to take insulin to manage their diabetes should be incredibly careful if consuming alcohol, especially on an empty stomach. Speak to your healthcare provider about how much alcohol you should limit yourself to and how you can drink safely and avoid any risks.
- Dont Let a Treat Become a Binge – If you slip up or do indulge in a treat, thats fine! Just dont let a treat ruin your diabetic diet. Enjoy a treat occasionally as part of your plan, then get back on track. Life doesnt have to stop because of diabetes, and with a well-managed diet, you could feel healthy and avoid complications of the disease.