diabetes survival skills

first steps for diabetes meal planning

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person surrounded by healthy food for proper eating as a diabetic

Diabetes is a disorder in which the body either does not produce insulin (type 1), does not produce enough insulin or cannot efficiently use the insulin that it does produce (type 2).

food, insulin and blood sugars

When you eat and digest food, some of it is broken down into glucose (a form of sugar). Glucose is needed by the body’s cells for energy.

Insulin enables glucose to enter the body’s cells. If insulin is not produced or is not effective, glucose can’t enter the body’s cells and your body will lack energy. When glucose can’t enter the body’s cells, the glucose builds up in your blood stream, causing high blood sugars.

Food raises blood glucose. The more you know about what is in food, the better you will understand how it affects your blood sugar (glucose). This will also help you make decisions about what, when and how much you should eat.

guidelines for making healthier food and lifestyle choices

These guidelines are not only for people with diabetes and for people at risk for diabetes. Everyone can benefit. That means your whole family can eat the same foods.

  • No skipping meals – it will only make you hungrier later in the day and at night.
  • Watch your portion sizes. Is the serving size on the Nutrition Facts label your correct portion size? Or do you need to decrease your portion size to lose weight?
  • Eat a variety of foods every day to ensure adequate intake of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Try a new fruit or vegetable each week. Try different types of whole grains and cereals. Prepare meals featuring fish or beans instead of meat.
  • Eat more high fiber foods. Choose healthy carbohydrates such as whole grain breads and cereals, fresh fruit, whole wheat pasta, dried beans and peas.
  • Choose foods that are baked, broiled, roasted, grilled and boiled instead of fried. Choose foods that are low in saturated fat containing no trans fat.
  • Eat out no more than 2 to 3 times per week. Choose low fat foods when you are eating out. Watch your portion sizes by sharing meals or taking leftovers home.
  • Keep your weight in a normal range for your height.
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. Start slowly and increase your exercise gradually every week. Vary your routine for an optimal workout and to keep you motivated.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. If you smoke, quit.

aim for your target blood sugar

Proper meal planning is basic for the treatment of all types of diabetes, even when medication or insulin needs to be taken. However, many people with type 2 diabetes can keep their blood sugar (glucose) in their target range with proper meal planning alone.

The following chart shows some general target ranges for blood sugar (glucose) levels. However, your target range may be different since it depends on your individual history. If you have gestational diabetes, please consult your physician or diabetes educator for recommendations on a target range for your blood sugar.

what is in food?

In the exchange system for diabetes meal planning, foods are grouped into basic types. You can exchange or trade foods within a group because they have similar nutrients and similar effects on blood sugar.

Your dietitian/nutritionist will recommend a certain number of daily exchanges from each food group based on your individual needs. Together you’ll decide on a meal plan that will help you keep your blood sugars within your target range.

eat right for diabetes

  • Try to eat your meals and snacks at the same time each day.
  • Eat 3 nutritious balanced meals a day, including protein, starch and fat at each meal.
  • Make sure you eat a nutritious, balanced snack at night that includes protein, starch and fat.
  • Don’t eat sugar, sweets, soda and other sweetened beverages. Avoid fried foods. Limit salt intake.

Learn more, including how many calories you need each day by going to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for a personalized Daily Food Plan.

* A1C is measures of a person’s blood glucose levels over 3 months. Estimated Average Glucose (eAG) translates your A1C results to the same units that you see for your routine finger stick blood sugar measurements.


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