A common misconception of diabetes is that in order to control your blood sugar, you have to completely overhaul your diet and give up all of the foods you love. Although you do have to be conscious of the foods you eat and make some small changes in your diet, you can still enjoy a wide variety of delicious foods without feeling deprived.
Protein is an important component of any diet and especially a diabetic diet. Protein helps build muscle, helps keep you feeling satisfied longer and controls blood sugar levels. When eaten in combination with carbohydrates, protein prolongs the inevitable rise in your blood sugar. Good sources of protein include lean meats like chicken and turkey, fish, nuts, nut butters, eggs and low-fat cheeses and yogurt.
Foods that contain carbohydrates raise your blood sugar because they break down to sugars when digested. The three main types of carbohydrates are starches, sugars and fiber. Starches include starchy vegetables like peas, corn and potatoes, beans and grains like barley and rice. Sugars include naturally occurring sugar found in milk and fruits and added sugars in items such as cookies, cakes and processed foods. Fiber is found in plant foods and whole grains. As a diabetic you can still enjoy carbohydrates, you simply need to be conscious of what you are eating and set a maximum carbohydrate limit for the day. A registered dietitian can help you decide the best limit for you. Choosing whole-grain carbohydrates instead of enriched ones is also important. For example, choose brown rice instead of white, whole wheat pasta instead of regular and whole-grain bread instead of white.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables should be a large part of your diet. They do contain natural sugar, so they can affect your blood sugar levels, but when eaten in moderation they are a healthy addition to your diet. The glycemic index is an excellent method to help monitor the sugar content of the fruits you choose. The glycemic index is a measure of how a specific food will affect your blood sugar level. The lower a food ranks on the glycemic index, the less it will affect your blood sugar, so be sure to choose fruits and vegetables that are low more often and limit those that rank higher on the index. Grapefruit, apples, strawberries, grapes, carrots and sweet potatoes are some examples of low-glycemic fruits and vegetables.
Sweets in Moderation
Everyone loves sweet treats like cakes, cookies and ice cream, and this is usually the first thing that comes to mind when diabetics think about giving up parts of their diet. The good news is that you can still enjoy treats within moderation with a few simple swaps. Choose low-sugar or no-sugar-added versions of your favorites when available, or opt for making them yourself. You can substitute unsweetened applesauce or a sugar substitute such as sucralose or stevia to cut down on the sugar content in your favorite recipes. The key to including sweets in your diet is to pay close attention to portion sizes and have them only occasionally.