Fact: eating foods from each of the main groups (vegetables, grains, lean proteins, dairy foods and fruit, plus small amounts of healthy fat) will do more than provide you with essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids to safeguard your body’s health and vitality. They will also keep your blood glucose humming along at a consistent level – between 4 and 8 millimoles per litre (mmol/L).
While it’s important to speak with your diabetes care team before embarking on a new meal plan, here are a few ideas to help keep you healthy and achieve better blood glucose control, too:
Try this… go for low GI
Have you heard of the glycaemic index (GI)? It rates carbohydrates from 0 to 100, according to how quickly they raise the glucose levels in your blood after eating.
Low-GI foods, which have a ranking of 55 or less (such as wholegrain breads, apples and pasta), produce a gradual rise in insulin and blood glucose levels (BGLs).
High-GI foods, which have a ranking of 70 or above (such as white bread and most potatoes), cause rapid spikes in your blood glucose levels and increase insulin production. These effects make your diabetes more difficult to manage.
Low-GI foods on their own can improve glycaemic control in people with diabetes. This in turn can reduce your risk of developing diabetes-related complications, such as heart disease and stroke.
However, the benefits of going low GI are amplified when you team moderate amounts of low-GI carbs with high-protein foods (lean meats, eggs, fish and tofu) and plenty of vegies.
This style of eating is a great help if you’re trying to lose weight. Why? Because the combo of high protein and low GI means that food is broken down more slowly. You will feel fuller for longer, and temptation to snack heavily between meals will be reduced.
Try this… eat regular meals
If you’re used to grabbing meals at random times, then it’s time to rethink your habits. If you use insulin or take medications that stimulate insulin production, then having regular mealtimes can stabilise your blood glucose levels.
TOP TIP: Don’t feel as if you must follow the old ‘three square meals a day’ mantra. Speak with your dietitian or diabetes educator about building a meal plan that works for you. This might involve eating smaller meals more frequently, or larger meals across the course of the day. The key is to be consistent.
Try this… learn to love veggies
Filling your plate with as many unprocessed or minimally processed foods as possible will give your diabetes management a healthy kick.
Vegetables and whole grains should make up the largest part – more than two-thirds – of your diet. Two to three pieces of fresh fruit should provide another sixth of your daily intake. These are released more slowly into your bloodstream than processed foods, so will cause fewer spikes in your blood glucose levels.
The fibre in whole vegetables and fruit (as opposed to juices) and in grains also slows digestion and promotes a healthy gut. It will also increase your sense of satiety, even when you’re eating smaller portions.
Try this… don’t deprive yourself!
You don't have to ditch that takeaway Thai or give up eating dessert altogether to keep your blood glucose levels balanced and your health on track. That’s not realistic, and will make for some pretty boring mealtimes. Instead, aim to maintain good diabetes management for life by striving to have more balanced meals most of the time.
Check out our food section for tasty, easy and slimming lunch, dinner and dessert ideas.