DIABETES MEAL PLANNING…WHAT CAN I EAT?
Diabetes meal planning can be challenging and confusing. It seems that everyone has a different idea of what you should or shouldn’t eat. Maybe you’ve been told “you can’t eat pasta” or “rice has too many carbs”. There is much advice and many opinions out there, and while some have merit, others are completely false. So how does one separate the myths from the facts?
Ask an RD or Registered Dietitian! An RD is an expert in the field of nutrition and can help to clear up some of the confusion. Hear what an RD has to say about these myths:
MYTH 1. “PEOPLE WITH DIABETES SHOULD AVOID ALL CARBS”
The fact is, carbs or carbohydrates are a necessary part of a diabetic diet. Choosing the right carbohydrate and serving size is where the difference comes in. And while there is no one recommended way to distribute your daily calories, total carbohydrates should make up about half. This includes the carbohydrates found in fruits, vegetables, and legumes as well as dairy foods and starches.
Look for high fiber carbohydrates such as whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Choose whole-grain bread and cereals that are low in added sugar. Include the skin on a baked potato and eat a whole piece of fruit rather than canned.
On average, the portion size for one carbohydrate serving = 1/2 cup or 1 small or 1 slice and is equal to about 15 grams of carbohydrate. Read nutrition labels to see what the suggested portion size is and how many total carbohydrates a food contains. Keep in mind, that total carbohydrates include any added sugars and fiber. The more grams of fiber per serving, and the fewer grams of added sugars the better, and the more steadily blood glucose will rise.
MYTH 2. “I’LL HAVE TO GIVE UP ALL MY FAVORITE FOODS”
There is no need to give up your favorite foods. It might just mean having a smaller portion and accompanying it with a lower carbohydrate side dish. Start by making a list of your favorite foods and their ingredients. Do many of the ingredients contain carbohydrates? Can this food become a side dish instead of the main entrée?
Think about making a healthy plate. Fill half of the plate with vegetables. Add a moderate portion of protein and your carbohydrate-rich favorite food to fill the other half.
For example, if your favorite food is pasta, make it a side dish and serve it with a large salad topped with seeds or nuts. Consider swapping out whole wheat or legume pasta for traditional.
If you love pizza, load it with veggies, opt for thin crush, and limit yourself to two or three slices. Modify tacos into taco bowls by piling all the fillings on top of a large bowl of salad greens. Add whole wheat or low-carb tortilla on the side.
MYTH 3. “I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO HAVE DESSERTS
Having diabetes doesn’t mean that you can’t have any sugar at all. Desserts don’t have to be a no-no as long as they’re part of a healthy eating plan, and you don’t overindulge. The key is moderation.
Plan ahead. Include your dessert as part of the meal. For example, forgo a high carbohydrate food such as potatoes, pasta, or rice, in place of a cookie or two. Try to keep the total carbohydrate count the same when making swaps.
Read nutrition labels to compare total carbohydrates, paying close attention to the portion size. One- half cup of brown rice has about the same number of carbohydrates as only 1 oatmeal raisin cookie.
MYTH 4. “FRUIT HAS TOO MUCH SUGAR”
It’s true. Fresh fruit has natural sugar, however, it can and should be part of a diabetes meal plan. The vitamins and minerals, as well as the fiber content of fresh fruit, make it a healthy choice, and one that will raise blood glucose more slowly than sweets with added sugar.
Once again, the portion size matters. A serving of fruit is one-half of a banana, one small 2′′ apple, and 15 small grapes. The portion size for dried fruit shrinks to 2 tablespoons of raisins and 7 apricot halves. Just as with desserts and sweets, plan your fruit carbohydrates as part of your meal, in place of another carbohydrate food.
Take it a step further and choose fruit with a low glycemic index (GI). The glycemic index tells how quickly carbohydrate foods raise your blood sugar. Fruits with a low GI (<55) include apples, cherries, pears, and grapefruit. Conversely, pineapple and watermelon have a high GI (>70).
MYTH 5. “PEOPLE WITH DIABETES SHOULD AVOID EATING OUT”
Eating out just takes a little planning and a positive attitude. Take a look at the menu before leaving home and decide what you will order.
Try to stay carb-consistent with your usual diabetes meal plan. No doubt the portions will be larger than you want, so plan on taking some home from the start.
Avoid arriving hungry by having a small snack ahead of time. Consider ordering a salad as an appetizer to curb your appetite, and reduce the temptation for those baskets of chips or bread. Drinking water will also help control hunger.
If you want to order an alcoholic drink stick with dry wine or light beer and have it with food. Never drink on an empty stomach. Talk with your health care provider in advance to see if it is safe for you to drink. and only do so if your blood sugar is well controlled. Drink water before and after your meal and alcoholic beverage.
Diabetes meal planning may seem daunting at first, but with a positive attitude, and given the correct information, it can be achieved. Expect to make some lifestyle changes. Initially, your grocery trips maybe longer, as you take the time to read nutrition labels. And you may need a little extra time with meal prep as you measure portions. Fortunately, with time and repetition, this gets easier and faster.
Think about making a healthy plate, to continue enjoying your favorite foods. And make carb-swaps to include desserts and sweets once in a while. Plan ahead to make dining out a pleasurable experience and one that won’t play havoc with your blood sugar.
If you would like help with preventing or managing diabetes, consider a One-on-one Nutrition Counseling session with one of our experienced registered dietitians or join the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) designed to help you make better food choices and decrease your risk for developing diabetes. Additionally, our Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSME) group helps improve your skills for managing blood sugars to reduce your risk of developing diabetes-related complications. Schedule an Appointment Today! (240) 449-3094. Many of our services are covered by insurance.