Previously in our blog posts, we have talked about diabetes and its management through different modalities. Diet control, perhaps, is the most important measure in managing diabetes. In this article, we will discuss some simple measures related to dietary management that help improve blood glucose levels.
1) Meal planning
Planning your meals helps in optimizing blood sugar control. Most people with diabetes are advised to have four meals a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a nighttime snack). Some people may also require between-meal snacks. The idea is to have small but frequent meals to avoid sharp rises and falls in glucose levels. Being consistent in meal planning is also important. It is generally recommended to have the same amounts and types of food at the same time every day.
2) Meal components
It is advisable to incorporate all the major food groups in your diet. The ‘Plate method’ is a simple and effective model to determine the portion sizes of each of these food groups while preparing your meals. According to this method, if you take a standard dinner plate, half of it should have vegetables (at least of two different kinds), a quarter of it should be grains and starches (like rice, whole wheat, and lentils, etc), and the remaining quarter should be meat or alternatives (such as eggs, and tofu). Fats also form an important constituent of our diet. However, they should ideally be obtained as saturated fats (such as plant oils and nuts), and their amount should be limited to 25%-30% of total dietary intake. When selecting grains and starches, it is important to pick the ones with high fiber content such as whole wheat, bulgar, oats, and chickpeas. In addition to this, fruits, cheese, nuts, and milk and alternatives (such as soy milk and almond milk) should also be incorporated into the diet.
3) Choosing low glycemic index foods
The Glycemic index is a scale out of 100 that categorizes different foods according to the extent to which they can raise blood sugar levels after being consumed. Foods with low glycemic index (GI) raise the blood sugar levels lower and slower than foods with high or medium glycemic indices. Low GI are under 55. Medium GI is between 56-69 and High GI is 70 or above. Checking your blood sugar levels before as well as 2 hours after eating can help identify how your body reacts to the foods consumed and help with food selection.
4) Carbohydrate Counting
On the Nutrition Facts label found on packaged foods, the amount of carbohydrates per serving is shown. To calculate the total amount of carbohydrates per serving, subtract the grams of fibre from the grams of carbohydrate present in the food. Fibre does not raise blood sugar levels. If there is no Nutrition Facts label available for a particular food item or if the amount of carbohydrates per serving is different than the amount you are using for cooking, consider finding an online nutrition counter and looking up the food online.
Visit the Diabetes Canada website to see sample meal plans and more health management tips. There are also detailed guides available to help determine glycemic categories.
For more information on diet management in diabetes, contact us at Guildview pharmacy or visit us for a free consult with our pharmacist trained in diabetes management.