Healthy Eating | Diabetes Diet
What is a "Diabetes Diet?"
It would almost be easier if diabetes was more like a food allergy and you could completely avoid one type of food, stick to healthy eating, take your meds, and you'd be managing your health. Instead, diabetes means a 24-hour-a-day balancing act between blood sugar levels and an entire category of food (carbohydrates) that you can eat. Not surprisingly, one of the first questions newly diagnosed patients ask is: "What is this diabetes diet I have to follow?" Fortunately, they quickly find out that healthy eating with diabetes is not a life sentence to some rigid, deprivation-oriented menu plan -- and that the concept of a "diabetes diet" is mostly myth. Unlike a diet, nutritional management of diabetes usually involves dietary changes that balance moderation, carbohydrate control, and healthy eating choices.
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For people with diabetes who need to take off some weight, those dietary changes typically involve both calorie and carbohydrate control (and should, of course, be combined with an appropriate exercise plan). A registered dietitian, preferably one who is also a certified diabetes educator (CDE) or is experienced in diabetes care, is an essential resource for learning more about individualized menu planning and good food choices to help you best manage your weight, if necessary, and your diabetes.
The good news is that the best diet for a person with diabetes is really the same kind of healthy eating that is best for everyone. Like the general population, people with diabetes need to focus on whole foods that are high in fiber and nutrient-dense — meaning, natural nourishment that gives you the most health and nutrition "bang" for your calories "buck." This includes virtually all plant foods, most dairy products, lean meat and poultry, and fish. Conversely, we all need to keep highly processed foods, which are often full of refined flour and sugar, to a minimum.
A diagnosis of diabetes presents a unique opportunity to shift your diet and lifestyle choices in a positive direction. Whether you're a regular Emeril-type wiz at the stove or a toast-burning, kitchen klutz, take a stab at preparing some diabetes-friendly dishes, and take the time to learn more about healthy eating. Your body will thank you every which way — how you look, how you test at home and in the doctor's office, and how you feel every day.
Reviewed by Susan Weiner, R.D., M.S., C.D.E., C.D.N. 3/08
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