Diabetes is proving to be one of the most frightening diseases I’ve ever had but easy to manage so far. Over the past 6 years I’ve done very well controlling my Type 2 Diabetes with a healthy diet and exercise, the lack of which having been the cause of my problem in the first place. I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on the internet so don’t do anything in this article without checking with yours. But, because it seems so difficult at first, I want to share with you some things I’ve discovered which simplified the whole diet thing for me.
Diabetes Diet programs are everywhere, but many are so severe or so complicated we can’t follow them. When my doctor diagnosed me, he gave me a copy of a typed diet sheet that really took all the joy out of my life…no sugar, bread, rice, cake, ice cream…etc. Fortunately, he sent me to a diabetes diet class which taught me you don’t have to give up sugar or other carbohydrates…all you have to do is manage them. That’s made all the difference! In fact, to manage Type 2 Diabetes, all we have to do is eat the balanced diet we should have been eating all along.
The American Diabetes Diet recommends we get 50-60% of our calories from carbohydrates, 12-20% from proteins, and less than 30% from fats. In my personal diet, I lean toward 50-30-20% in those groups. As you can see, 50-60% carbohydrates isn’t exactly eating none…is it? We’ll get into easy ways to mange this balance later. I found the biggest dietary adjustment I had to make was taking 3 big meals a day and turning them into 3 small meals and 2-3 snacks. This is necessary to keep a balanced level of blood sugar (glucose). The funny thing was, after about a week, I noticed I had more energy and never felt hungry. Needles to say, I started getting excited.
Eat Generally Healthier: The smallest adjustment was to eat healthier…you know the drill: More fresh fruits and vegetables, more fresh meat, fish and poultry (lean cuts) and less fruit juices and processed foods. More crackers and fewer chips. More whole grain breads and pasta and fewer white, processed flours. More brown rice and less white. Low or non fat milk, cheese, yogurt, salad dressings. Eat cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream, sodas, etc. less often and preferably low fat, sugar free varieties if possible. The amazing thing to me was, there was literally nothing I couldn’t eat…I just had to control the way I ate. This isn’t as hard as people think.
Food Exchanges from the American Diabetes Association [http://www.diabetes.org/nutrition-and-recipes/nutrition/exchangelist.jsp] make it pretty easy to classify your foods and know how much of each you should be eating. Here are some general classifications to get you started. Fats include butter, margarine, oils and nuts. Proteins include meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk and cheese (milk and cheese are high in fat). Carbohydrates include bread, cereal, beans, grains and potatoes. Sugars are refined carbohydrates and should be taken in very small amounts. Almost all fresh vegetables are “free” because they are high in fiber and nutrients without being high in fats, carbs, etc. All packaged foods have labels that tell you how large a serving is and how many carbs, sugars, proteins, fats, calories are in a serving. This is more important to read than the price.
Portion Size is easy to figure for foods. If you learn the exchanges and portion sizes for given foods you never have to count carbs, calories, etc. Just look at what you’re eating. Here’s a little chart to get you started:
Portions From American Diabetes Association [http://www.diabetes.org/youthzone/portion-sizes.jsp]:
A serving of… Measures… And is about as big as…
Cheese – 1 ounce – Four dice.
Rice – ½ cup – Half a baseball.
Bagel – 4 ounces – A hockey puck.
Meat – 3 ounces – A deck of cards.
Peanut butter – 2 Tablespoons – A ping-pong ball.
Pasta – 1 cup – A tennis ball.
A Simple Diabetes Diet Guideline: I manage my diet using exchanges and portion control without measuring anything. I’ve found each day I can balance my diet and keep my blood sugar normal by managing my portions as follows: 5-6 Carbs, 5-6 Proteins, 5-6 fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables), less than 3 fats, and 2-3 quarts water. Make sure to include high fiber foods in your fruits and vegetables to help maintain good blood fat and sugar levels. I lost about 50 pounds in a year and maintained it for 5 years since the onset of my disease. I’m now starting to lose the last 40 pounds toward my goal of 180. That’s really about it! Of course, you’ll want to study as much as you can and ask you doctor to fully manage your diabetes, but I hope this article has removed some of the mystery and given you a good starting point to take control of your diet. You can do this!