Eating Healthy with Diabetes
You don’t have to sacrifice your target blood sugar levels to enjoy some of your favourite foods. Here’s how to eat healthy with diabetes, whether you’re cooking at home or eating in a restaurant.
Carbohydrates and your blood sugar
Carbohydrates are sugars. They break down in the body to create glucose, a major source of energy. Counting the carbs you eat at every meal and pairing them with the correct dosage of insulin can keep your blood sugar level closer to normal range.1 It also allows you to eat a wider variety of foods. In fact, your diet can accommodate any food in moderation, so you don’t have to give up the food you love.
Many foods are on the good-for-you list, but these are extra healthy for people with diabetes, because they have a lower glycaemic index or net carbs and help stabilise your blood sugar.2
- Beans give you plenty of fibre in only ½ a cup, the same amount of protein in 28 grams of meat. Plus, they’re a good source of magnesium and potassium.
- Dark green, leafy vegetables give you a powerful dose of fibre, protein, vitamins, and minerals with hardly any calories or carbs.
- Citrus fruits are known for their generous amounts of vitamin C and fibre.
- Sweet potatoes give you more healthy fibre, antioxidants and vitamin A than white potatoes.
- Berries are packed with antioxidants, fibre and vitamins.
- Tomatoes, like citrus, are an amazing, low-carb source of vitamins C and E, and iron.
- Salmon, or any fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, can lower your triglycerides and blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. This is one of those “good fats”.
- Whole grains have all the folate, omega-3s, magnesium, chromium, fibre and potassium that white bread loses in processing.
- Raw nuts are quite possibly the perfect snack, since they’re full of healthy fats and fibre.
- Fat-free dairy is an important source of vitamin D. Plain, unsweetened yoghurt, in particular, has the added benefit of probiotic bacteria which keeps your intestines healthy and helps your immune system.
Even if you’re an old pro at counting carbs, it’s worth a reminder to take portion sizes into account. If you’re cooking at home, using a food scale and measuring cups can save you a lot of worry. This way, you’ll know exactly how many carbs you’re eating, instead of approximately how many. Over the course of a day, these little inaccuracies can really throw off your carb count.
If you don’t have a scale or measuring cup handy, here are some fairly accurate approximations:
- 1 serving of meat should be 85 grams, about the size of a deck of cards.
- 1 cup or 225 grams is about the size of a small fist. (250ml)
- 1 cupped hand is approximately ½ a cup or 115 grams. (125ml)
- The tip of your thumb, from the first knuckle up, is about 5 ml.
When at a restaurant:
- At an all-you-can-eat buffet, start with salad or veggies, and then save your 2nd trip for a small piece of meat and a carb.
- Split a main course or dessert with someone else.
- Get a starter or a salad (dressing on the side) instead of a main course.
- Get a take-away box at the beginning of the meal and put ½ of your meal in it for later.
For some more tips on healthy eating download the handy Accu-Chek® Portion Plate here.
How your blood glucose meter helps
By monitoring your blood sugar yourself, you can make changes to what you are about to eat or how much insulin to dose. Several Accu-Chek® products like the, Accu-Chek® Combo insulin pump, or the Accu-Chek® Connect system have built-in bolus advisors, which calculate your insulin dose based on your latest blood test result and the number of carbs you’re about to eat. Technology like this allows you to enjoy your meal without worrying about the maths. Over time, you may find that you create healthier and more manageable habits, stay on target, and reduce your risk of developing other health problems later.
1International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes education module 2.2b, 2011: Nutrition Part 2 Recommendations. Available at: http://d-net.idf.org/en/login.html?return=aHR0cDovL2QtbmV0LmlkZi5vcmcvZW4vbGlicmFyeS8xNzgtZGlhYmV0ZXMtZWR1Y2F0aW9uLW1vZHVsZXMtMjAxMS5odG1s.. Accessed June 30, 2015.
2American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Superfoods. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/diabetes-superfoods.html. Accessed June 30, 2015.