Nutrition for Diabetes Mellitus ie: A Healthier Lifestyle
I wish I had a quarter for every time I hear ? My so and so (fill in the blank) said I can't eat bread because it turns to sugar!" Well guess what?
**Everything you eat turns to sugar (AKA glucose).**
It's supposed to. The purpose of food is to give you energy and nutrients so your body can function. Glucose or "sugar" is your body's energy. Without it, you wouldn't survive. Giving up sugar, bread & pasta won't do anything magical except make you feel depressed & deprived. The trick to planning meals for diabetes is balance.
I might as well tell you right from the beginning - I don't believe in "forbidden" foods. Being told you can't have something just makes you want it more. It's human nature. I saw this when my son Alexander was a toddler. If I put 100 toys in the room & pointed to one & said "You can play with any of them except that one." Guess which one he wanted? Yep - the one that's "forbidden". Well, you're no different. No one wants to be told they can't have something - food or otherwise.
What exactly is a well-balanced meal plan for someone with diabetes?
With all the different opinions out there, you're probably confused. I can't say I blame you. There are so many contradictions to muddle through. One says a high protein is best. Another says high carbohydrate. Another one says you can't mix foodstuffs because they won't digest! Oh boy! It's no wonder you're confused.
Believe it or not, eating well for diabetes is really no different than eating for a healthy lifestyle. I truly believe (OR I have always told my clients) that the diagnosis of diabetes is really just a kick in the pants encouraging you to live a healthful lifestyle. Diabetes or not, everyone should eat a well-balanced, nutritious menu, participate in exercise on a regular basis & manage their stress. Having diabetes is nothing but a strong motivator to get you on the road to wellness.
Fact: everything you eat turns to sugar because food has calories & calories provide energy. Remember this simple equation:
Food = calories = energy = glucose = "sugar"
Looking at this in more logical terms:
"The more calories you eat at a meal, the higher your blood sugar will be after the meal.
How Quickly Foods Turn to Blood Sugar
When you have diabetes, it's a good idea to realize that different foods turn to sugar at different rates. This is based on "the glycemic index" - a technique that compares how quickly different foods effect blood glucose. The higher the glycemic index, the faster the food increases your blood sugar.
For example, table sugar & jelly beans have a much higher glycemic index than brown rice. Your blood sugar would increase much more quickly after eating a handful of jelly beans than it would after eating a cup of brown rice.
The key to planning meals is to choose foods which turn to glucose more slowly & to eat a small amount of food from each food group at each meal. The foods which are absorbed more slowly will help slow the digestion of foods which would normally be absorbed more quickly.
But it is also a good idea to avoid as much simple sugar as possible, since these foods (ie: gum drops, pancake syrup & fruit juice) are absorbed very quickly & cause a very big rise in your blood sugar.
This doesn't mean you can never have candy again. It's all a matter of give & take. If you really want a piece of candy & your overall goal is to have the best blood sugar control possible, you must be willing to give up something from another meal to compensate.
Rates of Food Absorption
1. Simple carbohydrates: Pure sugar foods (ie: table sugar, honey, pancake syrup & jelly beans), fruit juice & fat free dairy products (ie: skim milk & fat free yogurt).
3. Protein: Poultry, seafood, pork & beef. Low fat, lean proteins, such as turkey breast, seafood & egg whites are absorbed more quickly than higher fat choices, such as filet mignon & prime rib. Rule of thumb: "The higher the fat content of the food, the slower the absorption."
4. Fat: Butter, margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressings. Condiments which are basically fat contain 100 calories per tablespoon! That means you get 100 extra calories when you add these items to your meals. Remember: The more calories you consume, the higher your blood sugar will be after the meal!
One personal suggestion to help you manage your blood sugar: do not drink fruit juice - unless you're having a low blood sugar reaction! That's right! I suggest that you avoid ALL fruit juice.
Why? Because drinking juice is the same as drinking a regular soda. Both are absorbed very quickly & cause a big spike in your blood sugar. It's much better to eat the fruit. At least then you'll acknowledge you're eating something. If you have been drinking juice with your morning medication, switch to water or a sugar-free drink like Crystal Light.
Not only will you prevent a sudden spike in your blood sugar - you'll save excess calories, too. :-)
Bottom Line on Absorption of Foods for Controlling Blood Sugars
For some reason, whenever we drink something, we ignore the calories of the drink. A small 4 oz. glass of juice has the same calories as a serving of fruit but whole fruit will be digested more slowly. This is because it takes longer to eat it & has more fiber than juice - fiber helps slow digestion. So go ahead and enjoy 2 to 3 pieces of fruit throughout the day.
Fat free diary products, such as skim milk & fat free yogurt, are also absorbed fairly quickly. But you should still have at least 2 servings from this group every day. Dairy foods are the best source of calcium & will help you maintain bone health & prevent osteoporosis.
A good rule of thumb for absorption rates is: "The lower the fat content, the faster the foods is absorbed." This does not in any way, shape or form mean that I am suggesting you go on a high fat kick. In fact, you will soon see I advocate just the opposite. I am merely trying to explain food absorption in the easiest way I know how.
The trick to planning a meal is to make it "well-balanced". This means having foods from the different food groups at the same time. When you do this, the combination of foods will give a slower rise to your blood sugar.
Think of the colors blue & red. When you use each color separately, you get 2 distinct colors. When you combine them, the overall effect is purple. The same is true with food.
If you eat an orange & a chicken breast separately, they will effect your blood sugar differently - the orange will cause your glucose level to rise much faster than the chicken breast. Then eaten together, the protein & fat in the chicken slows the absorption of the sugar in the orange.
The result: a slower, smaller rise in blood sugar.
What does Nutrition for a Healthier Lifestyle actually mean?
1. Protein - In general, we usually eat too much protein. You only need 4 to 8 ounces of protein a day. Any excess protein you eat will either be used as expensive glucose or get stored as adipose tissue (AKA fat).
The trick is to use meat, chicken & fish as a condiment within a meal, instead of the main attraction.
Instead of an overstuffed deli sandwich, which typically has enough meat in it to feed the entire city of Miami (!!) have 2 or 3 thin slices of turkey breast, lean roast beef or boiled ham & add as much tomato, lettuce, onions, sprouts & any other vegetable you can find. This way you can satisfy your protein urge at lunch & still have 4 or 5 ounces of protein left for dinner.
Now, if you can't fathom a meal without a nice, large piece of meat, then eat like a vegetarian would for breakfast & lunch and save the 6 oz of protein for dinner. Eat cereal or toast & fruit for breakfast and then eat pasta & vegetables or a baked potato & chili for lunch. Believe me, if you make your alternatives tasty, you won't miss the meat a bit.
Use meat as a condiment at your meal, not the main attraction.
2. Carbohydrates - About half of your daily calories should come from complex carbohydrate foods. If you follow this tip, you will be able to satisfy your hunger & cut back on your protein intake without feeling deprived because these foods add bulk to your meals. If you eat a large portion of vegetables with lunch & dinner, you can help satisfy your hunger with less calories. 1 cup of vegetables is only 25 calories, whereas a cup of pasta or rice about 200 calories. If I asked you to eat 200 calories worth of vegetables - or 8 cups!! - you can bet you'd be FULL! Not to mention it would probably take you a good hour or so to eat them. Heck, you'd probably get tired half way through!
Nearly half your daily calories should come from complex carbohydrate foods.
3. Fat - Fat should be the smallest part of your daily diet. The major health organizations recommend we eat <30% of our total calories as fat. I usually recommend <25% for optimal health. This doesn't sound like much of a sacrifice until you realize that a regular hamburger contains more than 50% fat.
The easiest way to eat less fat is to be selective. Limit fried foods, use less high fat condiments on your food and less oil in your cooking. When you use butter, margarine or oil to cook, the food soaks up the fat like a sponge.
Every Tablespoon of fat the food soaks up adds 100 calories to the food. You may not see the fat but it's in there!
The smallest part of your diet should be fat - eat it selectively.
Monitoring the amount of fat added to foods is especially important when you go out to eat.
Restaurants are very generous when it comes to giving you fat because, whether we like it or not, the truth is fat makes food taste good.
A few good things to practice when you eat out are:
• asking for the dressing and sauces on the side • asking for things broiled dry • asking for vegetables, potatoes and noodles without butter or sauce
Notice I didn't say avoid the sauce. Instead, get the sauce on the side. When you do this, you will have control over how much fat you actually eat
Whenever I think about this, I am reminded of a colleague of mine. One day when we went out to lunch, she figured she would be "good" and order a salad - with blue cheese dressing. Well, it came out with about 6 tablespoons worth of dressing, about 200 calories worth of croutons & about 100 calories worth of lettuce, tomato & onion.
When I told her she was eating a 900 calorie bowl of salad, she almost died! (Luckily she was a nurse!) She would have been better off - and probably more satisfied - by ordering the cheeseburger & french fries she really wanted!
The point is, it's actually pretty easy to eat healthfully. All it takes is a little time & effort on your part to think about the portion size, the preparation technique & the fat content. Once you've made the right selection......Enjoy!
Well, hopefully I have given you a few suggestions to use on your road to a healthier lifestyle. Just be patient with yourself and don't expect miracles tomorrow. Instead, make small, gradual changes to allow yourself to adopt the habits necessary for healthful living.
If an individualized personal approach is more your style, contact me directly. I will get back with you ASAP to arrange a personalized consultation convenient for you. Together we will design a personalized wellness program to fit YOUR lifestyle.