No doubt, one of the biggest challenges in taking care of your diabetes is making healthy food choices and eating at regular times. Mastering these challenges is a key to controlling blood glucose levels and staying healthy.
1. If you have diabetes you should avoid foods with sugar and not eat sweets.
False. It is now known that it is the total amount of carbohydrate (both starches and sugars) you eat that raises blood glucose levels, not whether the carbohydrate is from bread, potato or gum drops. While foods that contain carbohydrate do affect blood glucose differently, these differences are minor. The American Diabetes Association suggests that into their food choices once in a while as long as they substitute them for other carbohydrate-containing foods.
2. Starchy foods, such as bread, cereal, and pasta are the only foods that contain carbohydrate.
False. Beans, peas, crackers, bread, dairy food, fruits, vegetables, sugary foods, and sweets also contain carbohydrate.
3. A key to controlling blood glucose levels is to eat similar amounts of carbohydrate at meals each day.
True. It’s the carbohydrate in foods that raises blood glucose levels the most and the fastest. So, your first priority is to eat similar portions of these foods at similar times each day, or that you learn to adjust your food and medicine to control your blood glucose levels.
4. The most important place to look on the food label’s Nutrition Facts is at “Sugars”
False. When you look at the Nutrition Facts, note that “sugars” is indented from Total Carbohydrate. This tells you that the sugars are counted within the Total Carbohydrate. The term “sugars” does not just mean added sugars, like corn sweeteners or table sugar. It also includes natural sugars, such as the sugar in milk and fruit. Focus on the Total Carbohydrate, not the grams of sugars.
5. People with diabetes should buy as many “sugar free” and “no added sugar” and “fat-free” foods as they can.
False. The nutrition claims “sugar free” and “no added sugars” are allowed on products that contain the type of sugars called “sugar alcohols” or “polyols” such as sorbitol, mannitol, or isomalt, or low-calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose. The “sugar free” and “no sugar added” claims do not mean that these foods contain no carbohydrate or calories. Remember, the most important place to look on the Nutrition Facts label is at the Total Carbohydrate per serving. You will find that some foods that use the claim “sugar free” and “no added sugars” contain similar amounts of carbohydrate and calories as foods with regular sweeteners, such as corn sweeteners and sugar.
6. If you take diabetes medicines you don’t need to worry about what you eat.
False. Taking care of diabetes and controlling blood glucose levels most often requires eating healthy, being active, and taking diabetes medicines. Healthy food choices and a regular eating schedule help your diabetes medicines control your blood glucose levels better.
Eating with diabetes: Three Basics
1. Carbohydrate is key!
It is the carbohydrate in foods that raise blood glucose levels the fastest and the highest after you eat. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat foods with carbohydrate. In fact, foods with carbohydrate are some of the healthiest to eat. They’re packed with energy, vitamins and minerals, and they don’t contain much fat. Most adults need about 4 to 5 carbohydrate servings at each meal. Find a dietitian you learn how much carbohydrate you need to eat. (See the back page to learn how to find a dietitian.) To control your blood glucose levels, your first priority should be to eat a similar number of carbohydrate servings at each meal and eat at the same time each day.
2. Watch those portions!
It’s not just a matter of what foods you eat. How much you eat- your food portions- is important too. You can still eat the foods you enjoy, but you need to eat less of them. If you need to lose weight to help control your blood glucose levels, try simply eating smaller portions. That is an easy way to begin. The chart on the previous page lists the typical serving size for different food groups.
3. Skim the fats!
Fat is loaded with calories. You find fat in meats, salad dressing, margarine, oil, chips, fried foods and more. And too much saturated fat is unhealthy for your heart. You find saturated fat in meats, whole milk, other full-fat dairy foods, butter, and coconut palm and hydrogenated oils. To cut down on calories and eat “ heart healthy,” skim the fats.
One step at a time
Eating right with diabetes is no longer about following a “diet.” It’s about making healthy food choices and eating similar amounts of foods at regular times. To do this you will likely need to slowly change your eating habits. Don’t expect to make quick and drastic changes just because you now have diabetes. First, think about your current eating habits and food choices. Next, think about a few easy changes you can make, like fitting in one more serving of vegetables a day, switching to fat-free milk, or eating smaller portions of the foods that are high in fat or carbohydrate.
Becoming more active is another thing you can do to lower your blood glucose levels. Start by doing a few minutes of activity each day. Walk to the bus stop, work in the garden, clean the house, or ride a bike. Work up to a total of 30 minutes of activity each day. Being active also has other health benefits. It can help control your blood lipids (fats) and blood pressure.