Managing diabetes? It’s essential to keep your blood sugar level consistent to avoid the big “ups and downs” that can be dangerous. A registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes educator (CDE) can help you make a plan for healthy eating and active living, along with medications, if needed.
When it comes to eating, there’s no single prescription for blood sugar control. What matters is managing your intake of carbohydrate, protein, fat and calories and controlling your weight. Overweight and obesity increase the risk for diabetes and its complications. That said, you don’t have to give up favourite foods; instead keep track of the types of foods you eat and learn how to fit them into your daily meal plan.
Whether you use carbohydrate counting or the Canadian Diabetes Association’s Beyond the Basics choice system, match your eating plan for diabetes management to your food preferences and lifestyle. If you’re overweight, plan for weight loss, too.
Want flexibility or simplicity? Carbohydrate counting lets you adjust your intake of food and insulin (if you take it) to your blood sugar level. The amount of carbohydrate that is right for you will depend on your blood sugar control and your ability to respond to medication and/or insulin.
For many, the Beyond the Basics choice system is the “full-service” meal plan approach for managing diabetes. This system groups foods and beverages according to nutrients and carbohydrate. Each food and beverage is given a serving size that provides about 15 grams of carbohydrate. This is described as one carbohydrate choice. Each group also considers the amount of fat and protein choices that will be contributed to the diet. It’s like a “mix-and-match” system for selecting foods because once you have a meal plan worked out, you can substitute different foods from the same group.
With your health care provider, create a daily meal and snack plan, specifying the number of “choices” per food group. Choose enough food variety while spreading energy-producing foods and drinks throughout your day. Paying attention to portion sizes is a must.
Learn to figure out portion sizes. Misjudging affects not only the carbohydrate, calories and amounts you eat; it also impacts your blood sugar level.
Active living offers many benefits: 1) as active muscles use glucose, blood sugar levels go down; 2) since regular physical activity helps you manage weight, it also helps with blood sugar control and 3) regular aerobic exercise promotes heart health (important because diabetes significantly increases cardiovascular risk).
Managing your diabetes with prescribed medication, diet and exercise is essential for your good health. Healthy eating and physical activity can benefit everyone in your family, so get them on board, too.