Diabetic Diet – is there such a thing?
Oftentimes, when people are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin. Diet sounds almost like a swear word. Oh no, another chronic condition on my hands, and it comes with some planning to boot.
I firmly believe that diabetic diet exists although most sources will tell you the opposite. They tell you that you can eat EVERYTHING. Obviously not exactly everything as I for example, don’t touch things like table sugar ever since I was diagnosed, and believe this is true across the board. No longer can I have a cup of tea or coffee with two sugars. Let alone strawberry shortcake or a boston cream pie. From now on, all my drinks are unsweetened. Besides, I had to cut down on the portions of everything else; if this isn’t a diet, then what is?
Another word for said diet is Meal Planning; there’s a number of ways to do this. I will discuss a few.
l. THE PLATE METHOD
- Put a line on your dinner plate, dividing it in half. Then on one side, cut it again, so now we have 3 sections to work with.
- Fill the largest section with non-starchy vegetables such as:
- bok choy
- green beans
- vegetable juice
- In one of the small sections, put grains and starchy foods. This will take about 1/4 of the plate.
- whole grain breads such as whole wheat or rye
- whole-grain, high-fiber cereal
- cooked cereal such as oatmeal, grits, hominy or cream of wheat
- rice, pastas, tortillas
- cooked beans and peas such as pinto beans or black-eyed peas
- potatoes, green beans, corn, lima beans, sweet potatoes, winter squash
- low-fat crackers, snack chips, pretzels and light popcorn
- In the other small section, put your protein that takes yet another ¼ of the plate.
- chicken or turkey, skinless
- fish such as tuna, salmon, cod or catfish
- other seafood such as shrimp, clams, oysters, crab or mussels
- lean cuts of beef or pork such as sirloin or pork loin
- tofu, eggs, low-fat cheese
- Add a serving of fruit or dairy
- Add your favorite low-calorie drink such as water or unsweetened tea. You’re done.
ll. CARBS COUNTING.
Carbs is an abbreviation for the carbohydrates. In a nutshell, there are bad and good carbs aka simple and complex, respectively. The problem with the bad carbs is that they get digested quickly resulting is a blood sugar spike. The good carbs don’t do that; they get digested rather slowly.
Fiber belongs to the group of good carbs. Soluble fiber (oatmeal) helps control blood glucose levels, while insoluble (whole wheat bran) keeps your digestive tract working well. Another benefit of fiber is that it adds bulk to help make you feel full.
An example of bad carbs is sugar of all sorts as well as any dessert containing sugar or cane. The good carbs include whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, beans, oats, buckwheat, whole rye, and whole-grain barley, to name a few.
The whole idea behind this method is to deliver a steady supply of carbs every a couple of hours. For those wondering what I’m talking about, 1 carb = about 15 grams. We’re talking about breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and snack again. Carbs allowance is 3-4 per meal and 1-2 per snack. After a while of the hands-on carbs counting it becomes a second nature. For those wondering what I’m talking about, 1 carb = 15 g. Measuring cups help tremendously. For example, a quarter cup of cottage cheese represents one carb.
lll. THE GLYCEMIC INDEX
The Glycemic Index or GI for short, is a way to rank carbohydrates based upon how fast they convert into glucose inside a human body. It uses a scale of 0 to 100, with the highest values given to foods that cause the most rapid rise in blood sugar. Pure glucose serves as a reference point, and is given a Glycemic Index (GI) of 100. Foods with an index of 55 or lower are considered low-GI foods; those with an index of 56 to 69 are medium; those scored 70 or higher are considered high-GI. While planning your diet according to the Glycemic Index, low-GI foods are favorable; medium-GI foods are acceptable; and high-GI foods are to be used sparingly.
A high GI means that the carb is quickly digested and can send your blood sugar soaring. A lower GI means that the carb has a slower digestion rate. It enters the blood more gradually, which means that blood glucose rises at a slower rate and does not spike as high. Lower Glycemic Index foods include fruits and vegetables, and whole grain breads and pastas.
Glycemic Index for more than 100 common foods can be found here: Glycemic Index for 100 foods. This however is only a starting point on paper. It could be different on your plate depending on several things such as preparation, ripeness, and other food eaten at the same time; your age, how active you are and how fast you digest food.
For example, if you have diabetes complication called gastroparesis which delays your stomach from emptying, your body will absorb food much slower. The longer you cook pasta, the higher the GI will be. Fat, fiber, and acid such as lemon juice will lower the GI. The GI of bananas goes higher as they ripen.
The Glycemic Load of a food tells how much eating a particular food raises blood glucose. This is a similar concept as the GI except it takes serving sizes into account. The formula is to take the number of grams of carbohydrate in the serving, multiply by the Glycemic Index, and divide by 100. Theoretically, if a food has GI of 1 point, it would raise the blood sugar as much as 1 gram of glucose. As a rule of thumb, Glycemic Loads below 10 are considered low and above 20, high. Because Glycemic Load is related to the food’s effect on blood sugar, low Glycemic Load meals are often recommended for diabetic control.
The GI shouldn’t be the only thing to consider when making choices what to eat. The fact a food has a low GI doesn’t mean it’s super-healthy, or that you should eat a lot of it. For example, potato chips have a lower Glycemic Index than oatmeal and about the same as green peas. But oatmeal and green peas have more nutrients.
The general rule of thumb when using the Glycemic Index (GI) is to select foods that are closer to nature or less processed; they have the lower GI. For example, whole rolled oats have a lower GI than instant oatmeal. Dried beans, lentils and starchy vegetables all have lower GI values. Potatoes are an exception but a small serving can still fit into your meal plan.
In the U.S., I haven’t noticed GI or GL listed on the Nutrition Facts Panels so had to google it. I used this approach with a product that I received in the Spark Reviewer Program. Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain breakfast bars have a fairly low sugar content, 12g per bar that is even less than one carb, and an estimated Glycemic Load of 18 which places it in the medium group. So far so good but most of the calories come from the simple carbs. Still I indulged in one half of a bar. A box of 36 will likely last a few months.
The bottom line: whichever method or a combination of the methods you use or is highly subjective. All of them come down to the same end result. Living in the U.S., I haven’t noticed any GI reference on the Nutrition Panels of the products, so I’m going with the Carbs Counting, and a little bit with the Plate Method.
YMMV (your mileage may vary). In other words, everything posted on my blog reflects my opinion and my own layperson experiences. I am not a health care pro. I am not saying that you have to follow everything that I’m posting on my blog to the letter. The results are not guaranteed. Always consult with your doctor.
Low-carb Smoothie recipe
- 1 cup strawberries, cut up
- 1/4 cup of an apple, chopped
- 1/2 cup of a ripe banana, sliced
PLEASE NOTE: Add less water, and you have a variation of an applesauce. Add more water, and you have a smoothie. Enjoy!
This smoothie has a low carb count as well as low GI and GL which makes it suitable for a diabetic snack.
- Total calories count: 130
- Carbs: 2
- Glycemic Index: Low (average up to 50)
- Servings: 1