There are a few different approaches to creating a diabetes diet that keeps your blood glucose level within a normal range. With a dietitian’s help, you may find one or a combination of methods that works for you.
Counting carbohydrates. Because carbohydrates break down into glucose, they have the greatest impact on your blood glucose level. It’s important to make sure your timing and amount of carbohydrates are the same each day, especially if you take diabetes medications or insulin. Otherwise, your blood glucose level may fluctuate more.
A dietitian can teach you how to measure food portions and become an educated reader of food labels, paying special attention to serving size and carbohydrate content. If you’re taking insulin, he or she can teach you how to count the amount of carbohydrates in each meal or snack and adjust your insulin dose accordingly.
The exchange system. A dietitian may recommend using the exchange system, which groups foods into categories such as carbohydrates, meats and meat substitutes, and fats.
One serving in a group is called an “exchange.” An exchange has about the same amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat and calories — and the same effect on your blood glucose — as a serving of every other food in that same group. So, for example, you could exchange — or trade — one small apple for 1/3 cup of cooked pasta, for one carbohydrate serving.
Glycemic index. Some people who have diabetes use the glycemic index to select foods, especially carbohydrates. Foods with a high glycemic index are associated with greater increases in blood sugar than are foods with a low glycemic index. But low-index foods aren’t necessarily healthier, as foods that are high in fat tend to have lower glycemic index values than do some healthier options.
A sample menu
Your daily meal plan should take into account your size as well as your physical activity level. The following menu is tailored for someone who needs 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day.
Breakfast. Whole-wheat pancakes or waffles, one piece of fruit, 1 cup of low-fat milk.
Lunch. Chicken kabob, 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli, 1/2 cup of cooked rice, 1/2 cup of juice.
Dinner. Pasta primavera prepared with broccoli, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash and Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of low-fat milk.
Snacks. Six homemade crispy corn tortilla chips, 1/2 cup fresh vegetables with a seasoned garlic sauce.