Diabetes and Meal Planning
Healthy eating is a cornerstone of any diabetes management plan. But it's not just what you eat that affects your blood sugar level. How much you eat and when you eat matters, too. To keep your blood sugar levels in check, you should educate yourself on the best food choices and organize a healthy meal plan. A meal plan designed specifically for you, helps ensure you eat a balanced diet high in fiber and low in fats. It can also help you lose weight, by controlling portion sizes and calories.
Where should you start?
The diabetes food pyramid can help you make wise food choices. It divides foods into groups, based on what they contain. You should eat more from the groups at the bottom of the pyramid (starches, fruits and vegetables), and less from the groups at the top (fats and sweets). Foods from the starches, fruits, vegetables, and milk groups are highest in carbohydrate, which affect your blood glucose levels the most.
How much should you eat?
Everyone is different, so you should talk to your diabetes nutritionist or doctor to figure out a meal plan that works best with your regular diet, daily routine, diabetic medications, etc. Then you can make your own plan designed specifically for you. Here are some helpful guidelines:
- Have about 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day if you are a: small woman who exercises, small or medium-sized woman who wants to lose weight, medium-sized woman who does not exercise much.
- Have about 1,600 to 2,000 calories a day if you are a: large woman who wants to lose weight, small man at a healthy weight, medium-sized man who does not exercise much, medium-sized or large man who wants to lose weight.
- Have about 2,000 to 2,400 calories a day if you are a: medium-sized or large man who exercises a lot or has a physically active job, large man at a healthy weight, medium-sized or large woman who exercises a lot or has a physically active job.
Be consistent. An hour or two after you eat is when your blood sugar level is at its highest then drastically falls. Although this can be frustrating, the predictable pattern can work to your advantage. Being consistent and simply eating close to the same amount of food at about the same time every day can help you control your blood sugar level more effectively.
Even out your carbs. Food items such as carbohydrates have a bigger effect on your blood sugar level than does protein or fat. In order to keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day, you should eat about the same amount of carbohydrates at each meal or snack.
Coordinate your meals and medication. A common side effect of diabetes is hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. If you eat a small portion of food in comparison to your diabetes medications — especially insulin — it may result in dangerously low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia. Contrastingly, if you eat too much food, it may cause your blood sugar level to climb too high causing hyperglycemia. You along with your diabetes health care team should communicate a plan to help you strike an ideal balance.