Easy Diabetes Diet Management Tips for Living Life to the Fullest

Dietary tips to help Manage Diabetes

Dietary tips to help Manage Diabetes
Dietary tips to help Manage Diabetes
Dietary tips to help Manage Diabetes

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Lifestyle modifications can help keep your type 2 diabetes in control. An easy way to get your blood sugar levels in check is by eating the right foods. Here’s what you need to know before getting started.

Why are consuming carbohydrates sometimes problematic?

For those with type 2 diabetes, the body doesn't respond effectively to the hormone insulin (responsible for metabolizing carbohydrates), which can increase blood sugar levels. This is why those with the condition are advised to control their intake of carbohydrates. You can use two approaches for carbohydrate control – carbohydrate counting and the glycemic index.

1. Carbohydrate counting

Carbohydrate counting simply calculates the amount of carbohydrates you consume per meal and per day. On average, people with type 2 diabetes should get approximately half their calories from carbohydrates1. If your daily diet is approximately 1,500 calories, carbohydrates should account for no more than 700 to 800 calories. This would work out 175 to 200 grams of carbohydrates (4 calories per gram) a day. Here’s a sample meal to give you some perspective on this:

Breakfast

1 slice of wholemeal bread

Carbs = 12 grams

1 tablespoon of legumes

Carbs = 8 grams

½ cup of oatmeal

Carbs = 27.4 grams

150 grams of Greek yogurt

½ cup of berries

Carbs = 13.5 grams

Total carbs for breakfast: 60.9 grams

By consuming approximately the same amount of carbohydrates for each meal, you’ll find it much easier to keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day.

 

2. Glycemic index

Some carbohydrates provide a slower and more sustained release of glucose into the bloodstream. Others release glucose rapidly, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. The glycemic index (GI) is a number assigned to each food which shows how quickly it causes an increase in blood glucose levels. Including more low GI foods in your diet can help you gain tighter control over your blood sugar levels2

Carb counting and selection of low GI foods are helpful tools in helping to control blood sugar levels. Both methods can be combined to optimize blood glucose management via good dietary choices.

What do others who live with diabetes have to say? Hello Health Group conducted a survey across the Southeast Asian region to understand the general practices of those who live with type 2 diabetes^. 

82% of those living with diabetes believe that diet is the most important area in diabetes management, but choosing the right foods is still challenging for them^.

So how can you create and stick to a meal plan that works for you? 

What to eat and what to avoid

Consuming foods high in refined carbohydrates (processed carbs found in sodas, white bread, and pasta) can significantly increase blood sugar levels. However, you can substitute them with foods containing unrefined complex carbohydrates (minimally processed carbs) such as peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables. 

Eating a variety of foods from different food groups is advisable for optimum health. Here are the recommended amount for these food groups3:

Fruits and vegetables
2-3 servings a day of a variety of colorful fresh or cooked vegetables provides you with a variety of vitamins and minerals for good health.

Protein
Consume 140-200 grams a day of a variety of proteins like unsalted nuts or seeds, seafood, beans, peas, seafood, and eggs. (1 ounce = 28 grams of meat, 1 egg, ¼ cooked peas or beans, or 1 tablespoon peanut butter).

Grains
Consume 5 servings a day: wheat pita bread, whole grain tortillas, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice.

Dairy
Consume 3 servings of low fat dairy foods and beverages.

Here are some healthier food options for a diabetes-friendly diet:

1. Fruits

Whole fruits contain less sugar than fruit juice and dried fruit.

  • All fresh fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, melon mango) 

  • Canned fruit in water or their own juice (pears, peaches, mixed fruit) 

  • Frozen fruit (berries, mangoes)

2. Vegetables

A wide range of nutrients is available from a variety of vegetables. 

  • All fresh vegetables (lettuce, broccoli, bok choy) 

  • Canned vegetables with low sodium (green beans, corn, tomatoes) 

  • Frozen vegetables (peas, carrots, mixed vegetables)

3. Protein

Remove the skin and trim the fat from meat to lower saturated fats.

  • Chicken breast 

  • Canned tuna (in water) or fresh fish 

  • Lean beef or pork 

  • Eggs 

  • Beans 

  • Nuts

  • Tofu 

4. Grains

Whole wheat or whole-grain options contain more fiber than refined grains. 

  • Wholemeal Bread  

  • Wholemeal crackers 

  • Whole Grain noodles  

  • Brown rice 

  • Wholemeal pasta

5. Dairy

Low-fat options have a low amount of added sugar or salt. 

  • Low-fat milk 

  • Cottage cheese 

  • Cheese 

  • Yogurt

Specific food choices with deliberate portion sizes

Now that you know which foods to avoid and include in your regular diet, you’ll find it easy to tailor your meal plan. Controlling the portion size of your meals can also minimize spikes in blood sugar levels. 

However, drastically reducing the size of your meals overnight will likely not satisfy your hunger. It can even increase the risk of binging on snacks if your meals are too small to make you feel full. A simple way to enjoy a satisfying but portion-controlled meal is to increase the fiber (i.e., wholegrain bread, oats, berries, broccoli, beans) content of your meals.

Lentils, beans, green peas, and turnip greens are a few foods that have the highest fiber content and can be included in your daily meals. Protein increases satiety (your feeling of ‘fullness’) more than carbohydrates or fat as it takes more energy to digest and keeps you feeling full for more extended periods. 

Include grilled or baked fish, stir-fried skinless poultry, or lean beef or pork with no visible fat in your meals. In addition, make sure that every meal in your meal plan contains non-starchy vegetables (i.e., asparagus, baby corn, bean sprouts), lean protein, and healthy low GI carbohydrates. 

Grocery shopping and eating during and post-lockdown

We all know it’s important to exercise caution in the new normal. With contactless shopping and payments, you can opt for home delivery for your groceries. 

Preparing meals for the week ahead of time will reduce the time and effort it takes to cook your daily meals. You’ll find it easier to stay the course and resist the temptation to order takeaway even when you’re slightly rushed with work, family, or chores!

While the pandemic has made life challenging for all of us, you’ll emerge from it stronger and more disciplined, having cultivated a more refined approach to eating without taking the joy out of your mealtimes. 

1 Better Health Channel. Diabetes. Available at: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/diabetes

2 Diabetes Australia. Managing type 2 diabetes. Available at: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/managing-type-2.

3 National Diabetes Services Scheme. Blood glucose monitoring. Available at: https://static.diabetesaustralia.com.au/s/fileassets/diabetes-australia/73993018-8019-43fc-9ec3-2b4d6380af47.pdf.

4 Diabetes Australia. Smoking, pre-diabetes and diabetes. Available at: https://static.diabetesaustralia.com.au/s/fileassets/diabetes-australia/575c27fe-ca55-43c4-afea-88c8150a613e.pdf.

5 Diabetes Australia. Health Care Team. Available at: https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/living-with-diabetes/just-been-diagnosed/health-care-team/

6 National Diabetes Services Scheme. Diabetes health checks. Available at: https://www.ndss.com.au/living-with-diabetes/health-management/diabetes-health-checks/

7 National Diabetes Services Scheme. Your diabetes annual cycle of care fact sheet. Available at: https://www.ndss.com.au/about-diabetes/resources/find-a-resource/your-diabetes-annual-cycle-of-care-fact-sheet/

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