Nutrition and physical activity are important parts of a healthy lifestyle when you have diabetes. Along with other benefits, following a healthy meal plan and being active can help you keep your blood glucose level, also called blood sugar, in your target range. To manage your blood glucose, you need to balance what you eat and drink with physical activity and diabetes medicine, if you take any. What you choose to eat, how much you eat, and when you eat are all important in keeping your blood glucose level in the range that your health care team recommends.
Becoming more active and making changes in what you eat and drink can seem challenging at first. You may find it easier to start with small changes and get help from your family, friends, and health care team.
Eating well and being physically active most days of the week can help you tremendously. Here are some key variety of healthy foods from all food groups in the amounts your meal plan outlines.
Nonstarchy: includes broccoli, carrots, greens, peppers and tomatoes
Starchy: includes potatoes, corn and green peas
Fruits: includes oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas and grapes
Grains: at least half of your grains for the day should be whole grains which includes wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, and quinoa. Some examples are bread, pasta, cereal, and tortillas
Protein: includes lean meat, chicken or turkey without the skin, fish, eggs, nuts and peanuts, dried beans and certain peas, and meat substitutes such as tofu.
Dairy: (nonfat or low fat) includes milk or lactose free mild if you have lactose intolerance, yogurt and cheese.
Eating the right amount of food will also help you manage your blood glucose level and your weight. Your health care team can help you figure out how much food and how many calories you should eat each day.
Two common ways to help you plan how much to eat if you have diabetes are the plate method and carbohydrate counting, also called carb counting. Check with your health care team about the method that’s best for you.
The plate method helps you control your portion sizes. You don’t need to count calories. The plate method shows the amount of each food group you should eat. This method works best for lunch and dinner.
Carbohydrate counting involves keeping track of the amount of carbohydrates you eat and drink each day. Because carbohydrates turn into glucose in your body, they affect your blood glucose level more than other foods do. Carb counting can help you manage your blood glucose level. If you take insulin, counting carbohydrates can help you know how much insulin to take.
Carbohydrate counting is a meal planning tool for people with diabetes who take insulin, but not all people with diabetes need to count carbohydrates. Your health care team can help you create a personal eating plan that will best meet your needs.
As always, please consult with your doctor or healthcare professional to help design the perfect meal plan for your diabetic health.