Creating a Balanced Diabetes Diet

Nutrition expert Heather Reese outlines the basic elements of a healthy diet for diabetics.

A healthy well-balanced diet is an essential part of glucose control for people who have diabetes. However, having diabetes does not mean that you have to eat special foods or feel deprived. But you do need to plan ahead and be more thoughtful when it comes to what and when you eat.

Carbohydrates serve as the main energy source for the body. During digestion they are broken down into blood sugar and so too many or too few carbohydrates can cause your blood glucose levels to spike or drop. It is important to include them in your diet, in fact 50 to 60 percent of your daily calories should come from carbohydrate sources. For optimal blood sugar control, most of your carbohydrate should come from:

  • Fruits

  • Vegetables

  • Whole grains

  • Legumes

  • Low-fat dairy products

Eating the same amount of carbohydrates each day helps control blood sugar. It is also important to spread your carbohydrate-rich foods throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels consistent. If you have diabetes, you should not skip any meals and should eat at regular intervals throughout the day. This will help prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low.

It is also important to avoid eating high sugar foods like cakes, cookies and regular soda. These foods are filled with added sugars and have virtually no nutritional value. High sugar foods will cause your blood sugars to spike and then fall rapidly and inhibit good glucose control

Many doctors and dietitians recommend that people who have diabetes eat six small meals a day to maintain blood sugar levels. If you are unable to meet this recommendation, than I suggest including at least one snack during the day. You should eat this snack whenever you have the longest time between meals. It is also good to have something small before bed to prevent blood sugar levels from dropping too low during the night. A small glass of skim milk is a healthy bedtime snack.

Planning ahead is an important step in maintaining regular mealtimes and consistent carbohydrate intake. By being prepared, you can avoid making snap decisions that lead to unhealthy eating. Packing your lunch or scheduling lunch at a restaurant that you know serves healthy options will help you avoid a fast food restaurant drive-thru. Consider keeping healthy snacks like nuts, seeds and dried fruit in your briefcase or purse to have on hand when a meeting runs over.