What is a Diabetic Diet Plan?

Malcolm Tatum

A diabetic diet plan is an approach to nutrition that seeks to provide individuals living with diabetes an ability to consume the vitamins and minerals they need each day, while avoiding an excessive amount of carbohydrates. While there are a number of diabetic diets on the market today, the best plans focus on the nutritional needs of the individual. This means that the most successful diabetic diet plan not only helps to limit carbohydrates, but also makes sure the right type of carbohydrates are included in the daily diet, while also taking addressing other health issues and dietary needs that the individual may experience.

The type 1 diabetes diet must be carefully planned around the amount of insulin that is being used.
The type 1 diabetes diet must be carefully planned around the amount of insulin that is being used.

There are three broad categories for the diabetic diet plan. One category is focused on structuring a diet plan that meets the needs of patients who have Type 1 diabetes, and must find the ideal balance between the foods they eat and the insulin they take to regulate blood sugar levels. With a Type 2 diabetes diet plan, the idea is to limit the number of carbohydrates consumed at each meal, help the individual maintain a healthy weight, and combine the dieting with a healthy exercise program as a means of controlling the disease. A gestational diabetic diet plan often has the goal of helping the mother maintain an adequate energy level while also supplying the growing baby with the nutrients needed for proper development. At the same time, the gestational diet will include foods that help to maintain a reasonable blood glucose level in both the mother and the child.

Kale is often recommended for a diabetes diet.
Kale is often recommended for a diabetes diet.

While foods that work fine in one diabetic diet plan may not be appropriate in a different plan, there are a few essentials that tend to apply across the board. One of these basics involves the consumption of green leafy vegetables. A general rule of thumb for many diabetics is that the darker the color, the less effect the food will have on blood glucose levels. This means that including kale, collards, turnip greens, fresh green beans, and similar vegetables is often recommended. Not only do these foods make it easier to prevent glucose spikes after meals, they also provide many of the nutrients diabetics need for energy.

When many people first learn they are diabetics, the first thought is they cannot have any more carbohydrates. This is a fallacy that is still sometimes promoted by healthcare professionals. The truth is that even diabetics need some carbohydrates in order to maintain a healthy nervous system. In order to ensure the right amount of carbohydrates are consumed to keep the nerves functioning properly, many diabetic diet plan approaches call for the inclusion of foods that contain complex carbohydrates while minimizing or even eliminating foods that contain simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates do cause some spikes in glucose levels, but they tend to be less severe than with simple carbohydrates. For example, instead of having a slice of cornbread, consuming a slice of whole grain bread still provides the necessary carbs, fiber, and nutrients needed for a healthy balance, while avoiding the sugar and starch found in many cornbread mixes.

A diabetic diet plan will also attempt to provide nutrition that helps with other physical ailments. For example, diabetics are more likely to develop high levels of bad cholesterol and triglycerides than other people. Part of the reason for this is that foods lacking carbohydrates often have significant amounts of cholesterol. When this is the case, the diet plan is likely to include meats that are trimmed of excess fat, are broiled rather than fried, and provide plenty of protein for energy without the presence of massive amounts of cholesterol.

Having diabetes does not mean the end of enjoying good food. In a way the condition creates the opportunity to try foods that are beyond the usual meat and two starches that many people think they must have every meal. For some diabetics, especially those living with Type 2 diabetes, it is even possible to have an old favorite now and then, such as a slice of pie or cake. Many physicians recommend that the diabetic follow the structured diet six days of the week, then allow themselves to have something they miss on that seventh day, taking care to keep the portions within reason and not return for seconds.

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