Having diabetes does not mean you have to give up your favorite foods or stop eating in restaurants. In fact, there is nothing you can’t eat. But you need to know that the foods you eat affect your blood sugar (also known as blood glucose). You should eat regular meals, think about the amount you eat and make food choices to help control your diabetes better and prevent other health problems.
Did you know that food has three main nutrients? They are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. While everyone needs a balance of these three things to stay healthy, eating right is extra important for people with diabetes. While this may seem hard, your diabetes educator can help you learn how to:
Count carbohydrates – “ Carbs” are found in all kinds of foods, including breads, pastas, fruits, dairy products and sugary foods such as desserts. “Complex” carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread, provide more nutrition than others. Sweets such as cake aren’t as good for you as whole grains and vegetables, and often are high in fat and calories. That’s why it’s better to save them for a treat.
Read food labels – Looking at food labels can give you a clue to just how healthy (or unhealthy) a food is. Your diabetes educator can help you know what to look for, but in general look for foods with three or more grams of fiber per serving and avoid saturated and trans fats.
Measure each serving – It’s very easy to eat more food that you need or are even hungry for, without realizing it. A diabetes educator can show you how to measure your food. That way you know how much you should eat and don’t overdo it. For example, a serving of protein (such as chicken or fish) should be the size of a deck of cards.
Develop an eating plan – Once you understand which foods are healthier and how much you should eat, a diabetes educator can help you find a meal plan that works for you. You can talk about how to plan a week of eating overall. Or you can talk about how to plan or each meal.
Prevent high or low blood sugar – Blood sugar that is either too high or too low can cause real problems and make you feel sick. When it’s too high, that means your diabetes is out of control and you may have blurry vision, headaches or feel tired. When it’s too low, you can feel shaky, sweaty, weak and light-headed, or have a fast heartbeat.
Set goals for healthy eating – Changing your eating habits can seem overwhelming. But by working with a diabetes educator you can make a plan that works for you and fits into your lifestyle. It starts with simple goals and a realistic plan to tackle them.
For more information, talk to your diabetes educator. If you don’t have one, find a diabetes educator near you or talk to your doctor to learn more and get a referral.
You can also download a flyer on healthy eating – including a worksheet that helps you can practice – here: