Generally, a diabetic meal plan discourages the daily intake of fatty meats, high fat dairy products, fatty desserts, highly salted foods, and excess calories that may lead to obesity.
How to Begin?
So, what can the individual with diabetes do to create an individualized diet? Perhaps two of the most useful tools are blood glucose self-monitoring and a detailed diet diary. Glucose meter readings indicate the body's response to meals, snacks, exercise, stress, illness and general habits. Upon careful examination of multiple meter readings and diary notations, you and/or your physician can devise a diet suited to your lifestyle. For example, your physician or a board-certified diabetes educator may advise you to avoid large caloric intake during the evening meal. This can be especially true if the diary note for the same night was, "Sat and watched television until bedtime." Whereas a diary note such as, "I took a brisk walk for 20 minutes after dinner" may necessitate no changes in the evening meal because exercise lowers blood glucose levels.
What is a "Diabetic Diet?"
Simply "cutting out sugar" and "watching your diet" are not diet plans. In fact, a successful plan generally includes all types of foods. Most meal plans begin by estimating the amount of calories an individual needs to manage a realistic weight. Then, 55-65% of the total daily calories are allotted to complex carbohydrates; 20% to protein rich food; and, 15-30% to fatty foods.
After these proportions have been estimated, the size, time and number of meals may be determined. For example, it is possible that six small meals are going to be easier to digest and assimilate than three larger ones. For some people, it is easier to dispose of smaller amounts of glucose because less insulin is needed. Oftentimes, merely eating meals and snacks at consistent times will improve glucose levels.
What is an Exchange List?
Many individuals with diabetes are introduced to the "exchange list" system of food choices when they are given a diet plan. Foods are placed on one of six lists based upon their predominant nutrient content. Portion sizes are also indicated to keep caloric value very close for all foods on the list. These six lists are: starch/bread, meat/substitutes, vegetables, fruit, milk, and fats. A meal plan will most likely indicate how many choices may be taken from a list for a meal or a snack. Such an arrangement should afford a well- balanced diet while still regulating blood glucose levels.
What is Carbohydrate Counting?
Carbohydrate counting is a method of achieving a diet plan which is responsive to effective glucose control as well as offering a tremendous variety of food choices. Plans are drawn up which indicate a suggested amount of carbohydrates and calories for a meal or snack. Today most packaged foods have a nutrient label indicating the carbohydrate and calorie count in a serving. Once choices are made to attain the optimal carbohydrate amount, the remainder of the calories are allotted for protein and fat. Many vegetarians prefer to use carbohydrate counting because animal products which appear on the meat and milk exchange lists are usually omitted.
What about Fats?
Fat restriction is very important for the person with diabetes. Cooked fats are perhaps the most offensive to the body. High fat diets are not only linked with diabetes, but also with other degenerative conditions such as cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and colon cancer.