Diabetic Diet Meal Plans: Which One Is Best for You?

The so-called "diabetic diet" is not a diet at all. In fact, there are several methods that can be used to create healthful meals that meet the needs of diabetics. A diabetic meal plan is nothing more than a healthful, balanced diet that anyone would benefit from, whether or not the person has diabetes. Rather than a prescriptive diet, where the diabetic is limited to eating certain foods and measured portions, the so-called "diabetic diet" encourages a range of foods with moderation as the key.

Catering to Individual Needs

Because of the range of morbidities that often accompany diabetes – obesity, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, kidney disease – the recommended diet might be geared to address both diabetes and the comorbidity suffered by the patient. For instance, total calorie counts might be lower for someone needing to lose weight, and fats might be lower for the patient with high cholesterol.

Broadly speaking, a healthful diet includes foods from all of the food groups: fruits, vegetables, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates (including sugar). The specific combination of these food groups for each meal can be impacted by insulin dosage, exercise, and general health.

Diabetic Meal Plans

There are a number of methods that can be used to attain a healthful meal plan. The American Diabetes Association website mentions the plate method, glycemic index and counting carbs.

The Plate Method

This method of eating invites the diner to divide a plate visually, first in half, then one half divided into three equal portions. Half of the plate should be full of non-starchy vegetables. Of the three smaller sections, one should be grains and/or starchy foods, one should be protein and the last should be a serving of fruit or dairy.

The Glycemic Index

This diet requires the diner to learn about the glycemic index of different carbohydrates. A high glycemic index (GI) means that the food item is likely to raise blood glucose levels substantially. Sugar has a high GI. A low GI would have a minimal impact on blood glucose levels. An example of a low GI food would be any food with whole grains.

Carb Counting

The experienced diabetic will have an understanding of how many carbs he or she can consume, based on insulin levels and physical activity. Meals can be planned in advance to include a broad array of food types and a measured amount of carbohydrates consumed.

If a diabetic wants to include sugar in his or her diet, he or she can calculate the number of carbs of sugar and subtract that from the total carbs allowed in the meal or snack. This allows a steady carbohydrate load and minimizes blood sugar spikes.

On the other hand, if the diabetic wants to lessen his or her carb load, he or she can substitute something with fewer carbs for the sugar. The best advice for diabetics is to make sure every carb counts, with the best nutrition available attached to each one.

Sources: American Diabetes Association, WebMD
Photo: Pexels

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