Healthy Diabetic Menus: The Basics of Diabetic Meal Planning
If you have recently been diagnosed with type II diabetes, you probably have a lot of questions about how this complex disorder will affect your life. You may be particularly concerned about the necessity of following a restrictive diet that prevents you from eating many of the foods you enjoy.
While it is true that you will most likely need to make some changes to your eating habits, the good news is that
you do not necessarily have to purchase special diabetic meals or follow a specific “diabetic” diet. By learning to eat a wide variety of healthy foods and limiting food items that are really not good for you, you will be well on your way to getting your diabetes under control.
Maintain a Balanced Diet
The American Diabetes Association recommends that individuals with type II diabetes follow the FDA food pyramid guidelines for nutrition. Try to incorporate the foods listed here into your daily meal planning:
- Whole grains, beans, and starches – 6 servings
- Fresh vegetables – 3 to 5 servings
- Fresh fruits – 2 to 4 servings
- Proteins (such as fish, chicken, lean red meats, cheese, and tofu) – 2 to 3 servings
- Low-fat milk or yogurt – 2 to 3 servings
- Fats and sweets – only consume in small amounts.
Avoid foods containing refined flour or sugar; stick to whole grain breads and pasta, and use brown rice instead of white. Use heart-healthy oils like olive or canola oil for cooking, and try a vegetable oil spread instead of butter on your bread. Limit or eliminate sugary drinks, and learn to drink your tea or coffee with low-fat milk instead of cream and sugar. While an occasional glass of wine or a mixed drink won’t hurt, it is best to limit your consumption of alcohol.
Monitor Your Carbohydrate Intake
Despite the current popularity of low-carb diets, severely limiting your carbohydrate consumption is rarely a good idea. Glucose (blood sugar), which comes from foods containing carbohydrates, is the body’s primary source of fuel. We need carbs for energy, as well as the important vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers they provide.
The best way to control your glucose levels is to consume similar amounts of carbohydrates every day. Your doctor can help you to determine what is the right amount for you. Carbs can be found in a wide variety of foods, including whole grains, cereal, pasta, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and fruits such as apples, bananas, and oranges.
Remember to avoid foods that are high in sugar or contain refined, white flour – these are lacking in any nutritional value and only add empty calories to your diet.
Practice Portion Control
Knowing how much of a particular food item constitutes a “serving” can be tricky. While some people do strictly monitor their portions by weighing and measuring, there is an easier (and more convenient) way to decide how much of an item you should eat. The following visual example should help you to eat healthy foods in appropriate amounts.
Non-starchy vegetables should take up 1/2 of a round dinner or luncheon plate. Non-starchy vegetables
include things like:
- Salad greens
Starches and grains should fill up about 1/4 of your plate. These include:
- Whole wheat bread
- Peas and beans
Proteins should fill up the remaining 1/4 of your plate. Try lean proteins such as:
- Lean beef or pork
- Chicken or turkey breast (with the skin removed)
- Broiled fish
Fruits can be included in any meal; a serving of whole fresh fruit equals about 1/2 cup, or about the size of a
Now that you have a basic idea of what you should be eating to keep your blood sugar in check, here is a sample menu for a day.
- 1 or 2 slices of whole grain toast with margarine
- Sliced tomato with salt and pepper
- 1 egg, boiled or poached
- Orange juice or fresh fruit
- Fresh vegetable slices or fruit
- 1/2 whole grain bagel
- Glass of milk
- 2 oz portion of grilled or broiled tuna
- Green salad with low-fat dressing
- Brown rice
- Fresh fruit
- Peanut butter or cheese with whole grain crackers
- Lean broiled beef
- Steamed kale with lemon juice
- Baked potato with low-fat sour cream
- Fresh fruit with low-fat yogurt
In the beginning, all of this may seem overwhelming, especially if you have been used to eating fast food meals and processed, prepackaged meals. But with a little bit of practice, eating healthy will seem like second nature to you. Add regular exercise to your daily routine, and you will soon have your blood sugar – and your weight – under control. Chances are that you will feel better and healthier than you ever have before.