Healthy food choices
A diabetes diet is actually a healthy approach to eating that would benefit anyone concerned about health.
When diagnosed with diabetes, was one of your first thoughts that you’d never be allowed to have sweets again? If so, you’re not alone! The thought that diabetes means you have to eliminate your favourite foods – especially the sugary ones – can stop you in your tracks and keep you from learning about healthy food choices.
Fortunately, foods containing sugar can be part of a healthy meal or snack. Moderation is the key. Today, much of the focus in choosing meals revolves around balancing the four food groups and controlling portion sizes.
Choosing Your Food
Whether you have diabetes or not, the best approach for healthy nutrition is to follow Canada’s Guide for Healthy Eating. Eat a variety of foods as outlined in this food guide.
● Have whole grain cereals and, breads, fruits and vegetables more often.
● Choose dairy products that are lower fat, lean meats and foods prepared with little or no fat.
● Achieve a healthy body weight through physical activity and healthy eating.
● Limit salt, caffeine and alcohol.
Portion Size Matters
As they say, too much of a good thing is not always a ‘good thing’. A simple approach to keeping an eye on portions and making sure you have a variety of food is to use the plate method. It is easy and can help you manage any meal, anywhere.
First, divide your plate in half. Fill one half with vegetables, preferably with more than one colour. Divide the remaining half into two, fill one quarter with a starch such as potatoes, rice, whole wheat pasta or whole grain bread, and the remaining quarter with lean meat or meat alternative. Add a fruit and a serving of milk and you are on your way to healthy portions and balanced meals.
Having diabetes doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy restaurants. Follow the same approach you do at home. More and more restaurants are including heart healthy choices on their menu. Ask about ingredients and preparation when you’re unsure. If portions are too large, share a serving or arrange to have some boxed as takeout. Avoid fried and battered foods.
Have sauces, gravies and dressing served on the side so that you can control the quantity.
Eating out can often mean eating later than usual. If you take insulin or diabetes pills, talk to a member of your diabetes team about how to manage a delay in mealtime. Eating a small snack may help prevent a drop in your blood glucose.
Discuss safe use of alcohol with a member of your diabetes team.
The Canadian Diabetes Association 2013 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada note the recommendation for alcohol consumption for people with type 2 diabetes is the same as for any other adult:
● for women, no more than two standard drinks a day or 10 drinks a week;
● for men, no more than three standard drinks a day or 15 drinks a week.
One standard drink contains 10 g alcohol as described:
● 341 mL beer (5% alcohol)
● 43 mL spirits (40% alcohol)
● 142 mL wine (12% alcohol) (Note: standard sizes may be smaller than typical serving.)
Alcohol is not recommended if you have high triglycerides, high blood pressure, liver problems or you are pregnant or breast feeding.
Eat a carbohydratecontaining snack when you drink alcohol. Alcohol can also mask the usual symptoms of low blood glucose. Speak to your educators about the safe use of alcohol.
If you take medications, check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure it is safe to drink alcohol.
For a nutritional assessment and help with your individual nutritional requirements, book an appointment with your dietitian. You can also find helpful resources and detailed nutrition information on the Dietitians of Canada website at dietitians.ca.
Recommendations for drinking alcohol are the same as for an adult without diabetes.