Diabetes can seem like a prison sentence—especially when you start to think about all the things you aren’t supposed to eat any more. But instead of focusing on the negative aspects, think about all the things you can do. And one of those things is learning to eat healthy and help your body get stronger. Here’s five tips for planning the perfect diabetic meal.
Get to know your body.
Don’t expect to find that a single meal plan works for everyone. Everyone’s body is different and has different triggers and responses to certain foods. Take time at the outset to try different foods and see what your body responds best to.
Choose a meal planning tool.
Experts have developed several different meal planning tools that can help people with diabetes choose the best options for their body. The plate method is probably one of the easiest approaches. There’s no counting or computation involved. You simply keep a mental or pictorial representation of what your plate should look like—half non-starchy vegetables, one quarter protein, and one quarter grains or starches. Add a healthy beverage and a side of fruit, and you’ve just gotten yourself settled.
Alternatively, counting carbohydrates may be more effective for you—simply find the number of carbohydrates in the dish you're eating, and keep a running total. Different amounts of carbohydrates are appropriate for different people, based on activity, medication, and other factors. The glycemic index ranks foods based on the amount of carbohydrates they contain, so that high and low ranking foods can be paired for better choices with less counting.
Get the whole family involved.
A diabetic diet isn’t just for people with the condition. It’s not only good for people with diabetes risk factors, but also for the general population. Don’t try to make a special meal for yourself while the rest of the family lives on cake and cheeseburgers. Opt for good, nutritious foods that the whole family can get involved in.
Since diabetes comes with a familial risk factor, teaching younger members of your clan how to eat well may postpone or prevent their development of the disease.
Eat a variety of foods.
While fish, broccoli, and rice are healthy choices with relatively few bad carbohydrates, eating the same meal three times a day, seven days a week severely limits the vitamins and minerals you’re receiving. There are a ton of different vegetables, fruits, proteins—each with their own array of nutrients. When you stick to the same options on a regular basis, you miss out on all kinds of good stuff that keeps your body healthy and happy.
Don’t forget portion sizes.
While there’s a lot to be said for choosing healthier foods with lower carbohydrate counts, you have to remember all the other bad stuff that can be hiding in there too. Trans fats, calories, and other things can sneak up on you.
So, it’s important to remember to eat an appropriate amount of food. While you might think you can’t have too many peas (and it’s true they’re chock full of vitamins, low in fat, and low in calories), you can actually get quite a few carbohydrates out of them— including sugars. So no matter what you choose, remember to choose a healthy amount of it.