A healthy diet is a key component of diabetes management. Eating well can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, have fewer glucose spikes after eating, and lower the risks of diabetes-related complications, such as cardiovascular disease and nerve damage. Ms. Riley, as a registered dietician, can you tell us more about choosing a healthy diet to manage diabetes?
Of course, Dr. Hemstad. There are many diet plans out there that can contribute to healthy weight loss, but certain eating habits are especially helpful for people with diabetes. There are several things people with diabetes should be aware of when it comes to their eating habits, and those include:
- What they eat
- How much they eat, and
- When they eat
A good place to start for any diet is by following a healthy plate method. Think of your plate as being divided into three sections. Half of your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, asparagus, or a leafy green salad. One quarter of the plate should have four ounces of lean protein, such as chicken or fish. The last quarter of the plate should contain half a cup of a starchy food item, such as beans, lentils, or sweet potato, or a third of a cup of brown rice or whole wheat pasta. You can also add a serving of fruit and eight ounces of milk or a serving of light yogurt to your meal.
Variety is key in a healthy diet because it ensures that you get all the right nutrients. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and make sure you’re including non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or kale. Also focus on calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt; healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds; and lean protein. Limit the amount of saturated fat and high-sodium and high-sugar foods in your diet. It’s also a good idea to drink fewer sugary and alcoholic beverages, which add calories and sugar to a diet.
When to eat and how often are important considerations for people with diabetes, especially if they are taking insulin or other diabetes medications. Because insulin and other medications lower blood glucose, they can easily cause hypoglycemia for someone who isn’t eating regularly. People with diabetes should work with a Registered Dietician to develop a meal plan that meets their nutritional needs and food preferences.