Eating for Diabetes

Article by: Readers Digest  |  Picture by: Readers Digest
Eating for Diabetes
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The fact that diet is a key part of managing diabetes is no surprise. After all, glucose comes from food so what you eat affects the level of your blood sugar and at what rate it rises. Food is not the problem in managing diabetes, it's a big part of the solution.

For many years doctors recommended a strict diet for people with diabetes especially when it came to sugar. But now we know that sugar alone is not the villain it was once thought to be. The emphasis now is on controlling blood sugar while getting the right balance of nutrients for great health.

But what to eat?
Information on food from The Glycaemic Index is your best bet for working out what to eat.
What is The Glycaemic Index?
The Glycaemic Index (GI) ranks food according to how fast it breaks down during digestion; therefore how fast your glucose levels will rise. Food that causes a rapid rise in glucose levels has a higher GI rating; food that is digested slowly has a low GI rating. Low GI foods are good; they give you more energy for a longer time and therefore you generally have lower, or more stable, glucose levels.
The glycaemic response is different from one person to another, and even in the same person from day to day – so you will need to listen to your body and find out what works for you.

You can check the GI rating of everything you eat – and/or – you could follow these broad lower GI food guidelines.
  • Where possible avoid processed foods. Making your food yourself means you know exactly how much sugar, salt and fat is going into it
  • Eat wholegrain unprocessed breakfast cereals like porridge and muesli
  • Eat seeded or grainy bread rather than just plain wholemeal or white bread
  • Eat fruit, rather than drink commercial fruit juice
  • Eat lots of veggies, including legumes like lentils and chickpeas
  • Include pasta, noodles, quinoa and basmati or brown rice.
  • But wait, there's more!

    Watching what you eat is one very important factor in managing diabetes but there are also a lot of other factors that come into play like how and when you eat, and your lifestyle.

    You should aim to:
  • Eat more often. Don't go more than 5 hours without eating but keep your light meals and snacks healthy
  • Include protein, carbs and fruit and vegetables at each meal
  • Eat less of everything but vegetables
  • Cut back on your total fat intake, but keep up the "healthy" fats like olive oil, fish, nuts and avocados
  • Be more active. Even 10 minutes more activity a day helps
  • Try to keep stress under control as it does affect your glucose levels.
  • Finding recipes and Cooking Ideas

    You can check out all our Diabetic or Low GI recipes for ideas on what to cook but you can also modify your favourite existing recipes by substituting or omitting ingredients.

    Some substitution suggestions include:
    Instead of...

    Butter on bread
  • Spread your bread with avocado, ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, hummus or low-fat mayonnaise

  • Cream
  • Use low-fat yoghurt or a mix of low fat ricotta and yoghurt. - Add either fruit or savoury seasonings depending what kind of dish you are making

  • Milk
  • Use skim milk or low fat soy milk. Use flavoured soy yoghrt in smoothies

  • Coconut Milk
  • Mix evaporated skim milk with cornflour (a teaspoon to a cup) and coconut essence (a teaspoon to a cup)

  • Cheese
  • Spread less around by using grated cheese where possible or when topping a baked dish mix the cheese with breadcrumbs or oats or yoghurt – depending on the dish
  • Use lower fat versions of cottage cheese, cheese slices and ricotta

  • Meat, Chicken and Fish
  • Always use lean meat and cut off any fat before cooking meat
  • Don't add oil and/or butter when cooking – grilling barbecuing and stir frying make low fat cooking easier
  • Eat more fish – if tinned, only buy it in springwater; if baking, grilling or barbecuing, use lemon juice and herbs, not oil, for flavour
  • For stews and casseroles, let them cool and skim off any solidified fat before re-heating to eat

  • Eggs
  • Boiled are best. If cooking by other methods, use a non stick frypan and low fat extras - like milk

  • Baking
  • Small amounts of sugar can be used in recipes. Look at the overall quantity of sugar in relation to how many serves (e.g. 1/2 cup of sugar in a recipe that serves 10 should have very little effect on blood glucose levels)
  • When baking cakes or muffins, try using fruit, applesauce or fruit juice to sweeten. Avoid using artificial sweeteners in baking as they can become bitter when cooked
  • Use low-fat or reduced fat milk or soy milk
  • Use applesauce in muffins instead of oil
  • Substitute half the flour with wholemeal flour
  • Talk to an Expert
    You may feel better about talking to a diabetes educator or a dietician to help you get through the food maze. Your doctor, diabetes centre or community health centre can refer you to a registered dietitian, who will evaluate your current diet and make suggestions based on what, when, and how much you like to eat.
    Article provided by:
    Readers Digest


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