The difference between a diabetes diet and your family’s “normal” diet is this: If you have diabetes, you need to monitor what you eat a little more closely. This includes the total amount of calories you consume and the amounts and types of carbohydrates, fats, and protein you eat. A diabetes educator or dietitian can help you learn how to do this.
Will you need to make changes to what you now eat? Probably. But perhaps not as many as you anticipate.
True or False: Carbohydrates Are Bad for Diabetes
False. In fact, carbohydrates — or “carbs” as most of us refer to them — are good for diabetes. They form the foundation of a healthy diabetes diet — or of any healthy diet.
Carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood sugar levels, which is why you are asked to monitor how many carbohydrates you eat when following a diabetes diet.
However, carbohydrate foods contain many essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. So one diabetes diet tip is to choose those with the most nutrients, like whole-grain breads and baked goods, and high-fiber fruits and vegetables. You may find it easier to select the best carbs if you meet with a dietitian.
True or False: Protein is Better than Carbohydrates for Diabetes.
False. Because carbs affect blood sugar levels so quickly, if you have diabetes, you may be tempted to eat less of them and substitute more protein. But too much protein may lead to problems for people with diabetes.
The main problem is that many foods rich in protein, such as meat, may also be filled with saturated fat. Eating too much of these fats increases your risk of heart disease. Protein should account for about 15% to 20% of the total calories that a diabetic eats each day.
True or False: You’ll Need to Give Up Your Favorite Foods.
False. There is no reason to give up your favorite foods on a diabetes diet. Instead, try:
• Changing the way your favorite foods are prepared.
• Changing the other foods you usually eat along with your favorite foods.
• Reducing the serving sizes of your favorite foods.
• Using your favorite foods as a reward for following your meal plans.
True or False: You Have to Give Up Desserts if You Have Diabetes.
False (thank goodness)! You can develop many strategies for including desserts in a diabetes diet. Here are some examples:
• Use artificial sweeteners in desserts.
• Cut back on the amount of dessert. For example, instead of two scoops of ice cream, have one. Or share a dessert with a friend.
• Use desserts as an occasional reward for following your diabetes diet plan.
• Make desserts more nutritious. For example, use whole grains, fresh fruit, and vegetable oil when preparing desserts. Many times, you can use less sugar than a recipe calls for without sacrificing taste or consistency.
True or False: Artificial Sweeteners Are Dangerous for People with Diabetes.
False. Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter than the equivalent amount of sugar, so it takes less of them to get the same sweetness found in sugar. This can result in eating fewer calories than when you do use sugar.
The American Diabetes Association approves the use of several artificial sweeteners in diabetes diets, including:
• Saccharin (Sweet’N Low)
• Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)
• Acesulfame potassium (Sunett)
• Sucralose (Splenda)
A dietitian can help you determine which sweeteners are best for which uses, whether in coffee, baking, cooking, or other uses.
Diabetes: Beyond The Myths
Now that you know the facts about diabetes diets, you can take steps to learn even more about making wise food choices. Together with exercise and medication, you can use what you eat as an effective tool for keeping your blood sugar levels within normal ranges. That is the best diabetes diet of all.