Co-Author: Fatima Tariq
Some people are born with diabetes that is the type-1 but others develop it over time due to an unhealthy lifestyle. Although the latter i.e. known as type-2 diabetes mellitus can also be gifted due to faulty genes from parents but mostly it is the fruit of the unhealthy life choices that a person takes on.
There are many examples of the cases in which bad food options and binge eating results in the diabetes. But don’t be scared because if you eat reasonably and exercise daily-even for a few minutes-then you are saving yourself from embracing the curse-which in common language is known as diabetes.
Let’s have a quick scientific check on the type of diabetes that is totally controllable otherwise, but is not completely curable once developed- the type-2 Diabetes mellitus. It is a condition in which the body faces problems in secreting enough amounts of insulin to keep the blood glucose levels under control.
As a result a hyperglycemic state prevails in the body and the blood sugar levels stay high. Under circumstances, a diabetic person is advised to get a special meal plan from a registered dietitian for the management of an individual’s blood sugar levels.
General Nutritional Considerations For Type 2 Diabetes
Some basic nutritional considerations are same for every type-2 Diabetic. For instance:
- Meals should be taken on a schedule to avoid unnecessary binge eating.
- Foods that are nutrient rich but low in calories count should be consumed.
- Overeating should be controlled.
- Food labels should be read carefully to calculate the amount of different nutrients and calories.
Weight Gain — The Major Risk Factor For Diabetes Type 2
In addition to many other factors, the major cause of diabetes type-2 is obesity or weight gain. In order to avoid it, proper meal planning that encourages a low caloric intake along with increased physical activity can help in achieving weight loss in a safe way. Choosing nutrient rich foods that are low in calories is the golden key to managing a desirable weight for diabetics. Making healthy food choices can also help to achieve the goal of maintaining a healthy weight.
Diabetic Meal Plan For Diabetes Type 2 Patients: Healthy Food Choices For Diabetics
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends diabetics should be eating healthy foods such as:
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Unsweetened whole grain cereal or oatmeal
- Lean proteins like fish (twice a week)
- Plant based proteins such as beans and soy-based products
- Fresh fruits
- Low-fat milk and dairy
Weight Loss In Diabetes By Controlling Carb Content
A diet containing good carbs with a low glycemic index which do not increase the blood glucose levels abruptly are good for diabetics. Some of such healthy carb options are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat milk. Diabetics have been recommended to consume less than 100 g per day of carb containing foods to keep their weight under control rather than completely excluding them from diet.
Some diabetics take up calorie restricted diets which preach the complete exclusion of carbs from their diet as a way to shed the extra pounds. Sadly, many follow such diets without knowing about the adverse health benefits associated with these practices.
It should be noted that the calorie-restricted diets are effective for short term weight loss and the lost weight usually comes back mostly after a period of one year. Moreover, following such diets for prolonged time can lead to severe health complications, even including damage to the brain.
Diabetic Meal Plan
Another way to achieve a manageable weight for diabetics is to plan meals according to the principle of glycemic index and glycemic load of the foods.
The Concept Of Glycemic Index
Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of the rate at which foods raise the blood sugar level. Some foods have high glycemic index meaning their consumption can spike up the blood sugar levels immediately. Therefore, foods having lower GI are more suitable for diabetics because sudden shooting of blood sugar levels is adverse and can lead to complications in the absence of insulin.
American Diabetes association has divided the foods according to the glycemic index. These include:
- Low GI Foods (55 or less)
- Medium GI (56-69)
- High GI (70 or more)
Low GI Foods
The low Glycemic index foods which raise the glycemic index up to 55 or less are stone-ground are: whole wheat or pumpernickel bread oatmeal , oat bran, muesli pasta, converted rice, barley, bulgar, sweet potato, corn, yam, lima or butter beans, peas, legumes , lentils, fruits, non-starchy vegetables and carrots etc.
Medium GI Foods
The foods which raise blood glucose level up to 56 to 69 are whole wheat, rye, pita bread, oats or rice (brown, wild or basmati).
High GI Foods
The foods which are considered as high glycemic index foods are white bread, bagel, corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal, white rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese, pumpkin pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers melons and pineapple etc. All of these foods have been seen to elevate blood glucose to 70 or higher.
The term glycemic load is the practical estimation of the glycemic index of certain foods to check the extent of the increment in the blood-sugar levels after consumption of a specific food. It can easily be calculated by the help of a simple equation which works by multiplying a food’s Glycemic Index in percentage by the number of net carbohydrates in a given serving. It can be mathematically indicated by the following equation:
GL = GI/100 x Net Carbs
It should be noted that the net carbs are equal to the total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber.
For diabetics who want to lose weight their meals should be planned with the inclusion of foods having a low glycemic index. Mostly nutritionists consider a glycemic index to be less than 10 suitable and above 20 as high for diabetics.
Keeping Macronutrients In Check
Proteins, fats and carbs are the major biomolecules which affect the blood glucose level differently.
Monitoring Fat Content
One of the major risk factors for diabetes is the increased fat content that causes cardiac diseases. The dietary guidelines from ADA suggest that the saturated fat consumed from foods daily should be less than 7 percent of calories and the trans-fat should also be taken in minimal quantities. The exact quantities of every nutrient and compound are mentioned on the nutrition fact labels of the packed food products. Similarly, the total cholesterol should be consumed less than 200 mg daily to ensure a healthy heart for diabetics or pre-diabetics.
For diabetics who do not suffer from a major kidney dysfunction, a usual dietary protein of 15 to 20 percent of total calories is prudent. High protein diets are not recommended for diabetics interested in reducing weight, as diets containing more than 20 percent of calories from proteins can lead to renal problems in the long term. Reduction of protein intake to 0.8 to 1.0 g per kg body weight per day in diabetics with early states of chronic kidney disease can improve renal function.
Some of the healthy lean protein sources that are also good for heart include: sardines, salmon, mackerel, halibut and cod in addition to other proteins from plant sources.
The fiber-rich foods provide an excellent option for diabetics by improving the glycemic control. ADA recommends taking at least 14 grams per 1000 calories daily from fiber containing foods.
A fiber-rich meal is digested more slowly, which makes you feel full by promoting satiety. Such foods hold low calories and fats and that’s why are good for making sure to avoid getting extra pounds on. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fiber are the commonly known fibrous food options.
If you are a type-2 diabetic then non-starchy vegetables such as; broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, mustard, artichoke, asparagus, baby corn, beans, brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, celery, kale, turnip, green salads, onions and tomatoes along with the starchy vegetables like potatoes, pumpkins, parsnips, acorn squash, butternut squash, green peas and corn are good for you.
Similarly grains including bulgur-cracked wheat, whole wheat flour, whole oats, whole-grain corn, popcorn, brown rice, whole rye, whole-grain barley, whole faro, wild rice, buckwheat, buckwheat flour, triticale millet, quinoa and sorghum are high fibre options.
Last but not the least, fruits having low glycemic index like melon and pineapple are best for diabetics. Other fruit options mentioned by the ADA include; apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, berries, cantaloupes, dates, dried fruit, figs, grapefruit, grapes, melons, kiwis, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapples, plums, tangerines and watermelons.
Limiting Sugar Content
Foods loaded with sucrose are not recommended for diabetics and should be swapped with other carbohydrates. Although sugar, alcohols, and non-nutritive sweeteners should be kept to a minimum they are not harmful when consumed within daily levels established by the FDA. When calculating carbohydrate content of foods, one half of the sugar alcohol content should be counted in the total carbohydrate content of the food.
Sugary beverages and drinks can contribute to weight gain that is not good for diabetes. However, sugar free drinks can be enjoyed occasionally as long as you drink them in moderation along with food.
According to ADA, the salt content consumed on daily basis by diabetics should fall in a healthy range i.e. 1500 mg per day. A reduced salt intake along with carefully planned diet according to the blood sugar levels can help in avoiding the risk of hypertension in type-2 diabetics.
Alcohol consumption in moderate quantities does not effects blood glucose levels significantly. Women can drink up to one serving per day whereas men can take two servings per day along with right kind of foods. However, it is suggested to monitor blood glucose response to alcohol to check if any changes in medication or insulin doses are required.
The gist of living a pleasant life with serious conditions like diabetes is to keep the blood sugar levels in a safe limit, which can be achieved by balancing food intake with activity and medications or insulin. Moreover, the dietary advice and professional meal planning should be acquired only by a registered dietitian. Other than that keeping the caloric content low by eating healthy foods in moderate quantities can help in living a normal life even with type-2 diabetes.