It is important to remember you are not alone in this battle. In the United States alone, 1.5 million people are diagnosed with diabetes every single year. (1) That comes to about 34.2 million individuals living with diabetes in the country. This number is only expected to continually rise every subsequent year. Keep in mind that you are not sorting through this new life on your own but instead imagine all the support stemming from the other individuals who are in the same situation. As you read through our helpful tips and tricks, keep reminding yourself of your own personal strength and the power of those in a similar situation cheering for you.
While it may be best to eventually meet with a dietician who can help you create a unique diet plant crafted especially for your needs, you can still make some immediate changes to help kickstart your new lifestyle. As you probably already know, your diet plays an enormous role in controlling your blood sugar levels. What you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat all factor into maintaining your health with diabetes. We know, it seems like a lot but you will quickly get the hang of it.
The goal here is to learn about meal planning for diabetes in a way that will nourish your body yet still offer some amazing flavors, right? Well, you have come to the right blog for just that! Ease your stress and learn exactly how you can traverse this new world of cooking by discovering the foods you should focus on, those you should avoid, and peruse a weekly meal-plan jam-packed with mouth-watering recipes.
A Day In the Life With Diabetes
Keeping your blood glucose levels stable, also known as blood sugar, involves a steady intake of healthy foods into your body to properly nourish it. If you get hungry, you don’t have to wait for the next meal. You are free to incorporate snacks into your day as long as you stay around your calories limit. Always make sure to listen to your body above all else. If you feel your blood sugar is low, then don’t limit yourself as you start meal planning for diabetes. Staying in tune with your body’s needs is the best thing you can do for yourself and health.
According to the American Diabetes Organization, a low carbohydrate diet is one of the best ways to achieve a healthy lifestyle with diabetes. (2) This is because the body digests carbs and breaks them down into glucose. In turn, your blood sugar level will rise as well.
There are other foods that rapidly increase a person’s blood glucose levels and this can be determined by their glycemic index. Foods with a higher glycemic index will cause your blood sugar to spike and those with lower numbers will keep you relatively stable. You may want to become familiar with the foods and their respective index numbers. This way your meal planning for diabetes can become even smoother as you balance out what to eat throughout the day. We recommend using Harvard’s glycemic index resource covering 60+ foods. (3)
On top of planning out your meals (which will become second nature in no time), you also will have to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A quick, 30-minute aerobic exercise every day will help you easily achieve this goal! In summary, the CDC recommends about 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This can include going for a nice morning or evening walk, whichever you prefer. Exercise does not have to be boring either. Swimming or going for a bike ride are both considered moderate exercise as well! However, before you set off you should make sure to check your blood sugar levels. If they are below 100 mg/dL, that is too low and you may need to fuel up before setting out. On the flip side, if your blood sugar is resting above 240 mg/dL, you should avoid exercise until it returns to normal. (4)
The Best Diabetes Foods List
1. Fatty Fish
Your heart will stay healthy if you keep these in mind as you are meal planning for diabetes. This is especially important to keep in mind because those diagnosed with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease or suffer from a stroke.
2. Fiber-Rich Foods
A couple fiber-packed foods you can choose from include:
In general, lots of fruits and veggies will do wonders. You should always choose fresh over canned when possible. Canned foods typically have high levels of sodium, which should be avoided. If you are a fan of artichokes, they are luckily jam-packed in fiber. Check out our four simple methods to cook a tasty artichoke.
3. Healthy Carbs
According to the American Diabetes Association, you will want to really put your energy into incorporating non-starchy vegetables such as leafy greens (spinach, kale, etc), cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans. Next, you can indulge in the fruit-derived carbs occasionally. These come from all the fruits ranging from apples, blueberries, strawberries. It is because their sugar is natural rather than processed.
Don’t fret too much, the ADA also says you can still eat pasta, rice, and bread in small amounts. Just try to get whole grain/wheat instead!
4. Healthy Fats
Out of the four different types, you will want to focus on monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
- Monounsaturated fats are shown to lower your LDL cholesterol and promote heart health. Some sources include avocados, nuts, olive oil, and nut butters.
- Polyunsaturated fats function the same way and also include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
- Some invaluable sources of omega-3 are fatty fish, flax seeds, canola oil, and chia seeds.
- For omega-6, try out some tofu, eggs, sunflower seeds, and walnuts.
Foods to Avoid for Diabetes
Since those with type 2 diabetes are four times more likely to develop heart disease, the American Diabetes Association recommends a limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day. This is, in fact, no different from the general population. Sodium can raise blood pressure if consumed in excess, so it is important to keep an eye on how much salt you are adding to your dishes.
2. Processed Carbohydrates
Packaged snacks are filled with carbs that are fast releasing. These cause sudden blood sugar spikes which can be dangerous for a person with diabetes.
This means you should greatly reduce the amount of white bread, pasta, and rice you cook with. These foods are high in processed carbs and low in fiber.
3. Refined Sugar
Refined sugars are another food you have to add to your “do not eat” list. These are the processed, added sugars that are hidden in many baked goods, sweetened juices/jams, and packaged snacks. These sugars have a direct impact on your liver and can cause indirect weight gain.
According to the American Heart Association, women should have only 24 grams while men can have 36 grams per day.
4. Unhealthy Fats
These guys are the counterparts to what we listed above. You absolutely must avoid both saturated and trans fats while meal planning for diabetes. Saturated fats will increase your cholesterol and subsequently, your risk for heart disease. Some foods with saturated fats include lard, ground beef, butter, poultry skin, and high-fat dairy products (ice cream, sour cream, 2% milk). Surprisingly, coconut oil should also be limited due to its content of saturated fats.
Trans fats are created when a liquid fat is made into a solid fat. These are even more damaging than saturated fats and should be avoided as much as possible. These include processed snacks such as crackers and chips. It also means traditional baked goods such as muffins, cakes, and cookies made with hydrogenated oils. You should also swap your margarine for olive oil instead. Of course, fast food must be limited too.
The Plate Method
Tasty and Time-saving Diabetes Weekly Menus
It is Time to Jump Into This New Life!
Be sure to share this article with anyone you know who may be in a similar situation and could use some extra guidance with meal planning for diabetes.