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Diabetes: What are my food options?

Diabetes has long been viewed as a disorder of carbohydrate metabolism due to its hallmark feature of elevated blood sugar levels. Hence, a balanced diet, with careful attention given to the carbohydrates consumed, plays a prominent role in improving blood sugar control and other diabetic outcomes.

Educating diabetics about what foods can make a difference to keep their blood sugar under control can be very useful thus helping in improving quality of life. A type 2 diabetes specific diet and following the right meal plan can make a huge difference for a diabetic person.

The amount of each type of food you should eat depends on your diet, your weight, how often you exercise, and other existing health risks. Everyone has individual needs, which is why you should work with your doctor and possibly, a dietitian to develop a meal plan that works for you.

A registered dietitian can help you to stay informed about how to balance your diet with carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Here are some general guidelines:

What kinds of foods can I eat?


CARBOHYDRATE FOODS

Carbohydrates obtained from cereals, fruits, vegetables, beans are complex carbohydrates and should be consumed as per your dietary requirements. A general idea would be to try to have fresh fruits rather than canned fruits, fruit juices or dried fruit. You may eat fresh vegetables.

CEREALS and BEANS
  •  6 or more servings a day2
  • chapatti, bhakri, pohe, sooji, dalia, brown rice, etc. should serve as the foundation of your diet. These foods provide with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy carbohydrates.


VEGETABLES

  • 3-5 servings a day2

  • Consume plenty of fresh vegetables without added sauces, fats, or salt. You should opt for more dark green and deep yellow vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, carrots, and peppers.

FRUITS

  • 2-4 servings a day2

  • Choose whole fruits more often than juices. Whole fruits have more fiber. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, sweet lime would be a good choice. If at all you must, then choose fruit juices that do NOT have added sweeteners or syrups.

PROTEIN FOODS

Protein foods such as those found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, beans and some vegetables. Try to eat poultry and fish more often than red meat. Don't eat poultry skin, and trim extra fat from all meat. Choose nonfat or reduced-fat options when you eat dairy, such as cheeses and yoghurt.


What should I eat less of?

  • Refined and simple carbohydrates- such as sucrose, glucose or fructose, white rice, white bread, table sugar, sweets, honey, corn-syrup.

  • High fat food- In general, you should limit your intake of fatty foods, especially those high in saturated fat, such as cheese, ghee, mawa, and butter. Try to avoid fried foods, mayonnaise-based dishes (unless they are made with fat-free mayo), egg yolks, bacon and high-fat dairy products.

  • Alcohol- Higher quantities alcohol can cause health problems like liver damage and increase the risk of heart disease.

  • High sodium food- Pickles, sauces, processed and preserved meats and fish, salted snacks like chips, popcorn etc.

Maintain a healthy diet and achieve a good control of your blood sugar levels. This will help you to lead a healthy and long life.

Reference:

1. American Diabetes Association. Nutrition recommendations and interventions for diabetes: a position statement of the American Diabetes Association. Diabetes Care. 2008; 31:S61-S78.

2. What I need to know about Eating and Diabetes. Bethesda, MD, National Institutes of Health Publication; 2007.