What Should I Be Eating?
If you've had diabetes for a while or are newly diagnosed, you probably know that what you eat affects your blood sugars. And you may have been told that people with diabetes go on a special diet. But you may have questions regarding exactly what you should eat.
The good news is that the diet for diabetes is more flexible than ever. It can be tailored to your individual needs, and can include your favorite foods. In fact, there is no one diabetes diet. You can follow some simple guidelines to help control your blood sugars:
- Limit your intake of simple sugars and concentrated sweets
- Eat regular meals
- Include more fiber in the diet
- Eat balanced meals
- Eat a wide variety of foods (in moderation)
- Follow heart-healthy guidelines
Sometimes these basics aren't enough to control blood sugar levels. For those of you that need more structure to reach your goals, Carb Counting 101 has been designed to help you.
Limit your intake of simple sugars and concentrated sweets
Of all the foods in your diet, carbohydrates affect blood sugars the most. Carbohydrate-containing foods include starches (breads, cereals, grains and starchy vegetables) and simple sugars like table sugar, honey, the sugar naturally found in fruit and lactose, the sugar in milk.
Some foods that are high in simple sugars contain so much sugar, they are called concentrated sweets. Candy, cakes, pies and cookies are examples of concentrated sweets.
Simple sugars and concentrated sweets are digested and absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream. They can cause a rapid and high increase, or spike in blood sugar, especially if they are eaten by themselves on an empty stomach.
So for optimal blood sugar control, excessive intake of simple sugars should be avoided. Ideally sweets and desserts should be limited to 1 serving per day. Some tips to help you cut down on your simple sugar intake include:
- Choose fresh fruit or canned fruit packed in water or juice rather than fruit canned in syrup.
- Avoid regular soda and other sugar-containing beverages, and replace with sugar-free versions.
- Use sugar substitutes as a sweetener, such as Equal®, Sweet n Low®, Splenda® to name a few.
Eat regular meals
Eating meals at regular times of the day with consistent amounts of carbohydrates is critical for good blood sugar control, especially if you are taking insulin. Insulin regimens are designed and timed to work with a specific meal pattern, so if you deviate from that pattern, you blood sugars could go too high or too low. You should never skip meals, especially if you are on insulin or oral medications, because your blood sugar could drop too low, resulting in a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) episode. Also, skipping meals could make you so hungry that you overeat later, sending blood sugars skyrocketing.