Balanced Diet: A Key For Diabetes Management

Balanced Diet: A Key For Diabetes Management
Diabetes is a medical condition caused by a lack of or insufficient use of insulin. Either body produces NO insulin or it is unable to use the insulin it makes.

It is shown that an estimated 25.8 million Americans suffer from diabetes. On average, a person with diabetes expends nearly four times as much money on healthcare as someone who does not have diabetes. Unfortunately diabetes is not curable and, hence diabetes management is extremely important.

Signs and Symptoms
A typical sign of diabetes is high blood sugar. After food gets digested, some of it ends up as glucose in our blood. The glucose is an energy source for several activities. Our body cells cannot use glucose unless there is insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by pancreas. The hormone insulin is like a key that unlocks the door to your cells so that glucose can enter in to the cells. Insufficient amount of insulin, results in elevated blood glucose which makes one tired and dehydrated, may make eyesight blurry, and one may have wounds that do not heal.

The most common forms of diabetes are:

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually gets diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can occur at any time. To survive, people with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every single day.

  • Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adulthood, although it is now occurring frequently in young adults and even children. It is the most common form of diabetes. Several studies have shown that initial stages of Type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet, life style modifications and regular exercise. Weight management is also an integral part of the controlling diabetes.

  • Gestational diabetes is typically diagnosed during pregnancy in 2-10% of pregnant women. Research has revealed that about 50% of the women who have had gestational diabetes will develop Type 2 diabetes within 15-20 years.

The most challenging piece of Diabetes Management is making smart food choices. This includes knowing which foods to eat, and how much to eat. It also includes knowing how to adjust food intake when blood glucose is high or low and before or after physically activity.

Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT) is a crucial component of any comprehensive diabetes management program, and it should be individualized for each person, which is best provided by a Registered Dietitian (RD). An RD is a nutrition expert and can help you recognize the relationship between food and diabetes to have a healthy lifestyle.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) states that factors to take into consideration while developing a right nutrition plan include food intake/preferences, lifestyle, medication schedule, metabolic control, blood sugar values and anthropometric measurements. The Academy further notes that nutrition counseling should be customized per person's needs, and readiness to change.

Meal Planning Basics
A diabetes meal plan is basically a healthy, all-around eating plan that helps you meet your diabetes nutrition goals. It is based on the foods you like to eat and your preferred daily schedule. Keeping a food diary is a good place to start. The food diary helps you understand how your body responds to certain foods and review your blood glucose records and monitor decisions about how to alter your diabetes management to better control your blood glucose.

Carbohydrate counting is a meal planning tool that can help you to make superior food choices. When you have diabetes, eating too much carbohydrates can raise your blood glucose too high. Carbohydrate counting is an easy way to keep track of the carbohydrate you eat and drink at all meals and snacks. Whether you are traveling, or eating at home or dining out, you can use carb counting to help you manage your blood sugar and diabetes.

Reading food labels is another essential tool for diabetes meal planning. It is important for people with diabetes to be able to interpret food labels to estimate how much quantity of food will be allowed to fit within a carbohydrate budget for a particular meal.

During one on one nutrition counseling, a registered dietitian can teach you what information to look for when reading a food label.

The Academy also recommends a minimum 30 minutes per day (5 days/week) of physical activity for individuals with diabetes to improve glycemic control, as well as resistance/strength training three times per week.

Overall, exercise and weight loss (if you are overweight) can help control your diabetes and can help you achieve your diabetes goals.

Guidelines for planning diabetic meals:

  • Eat meals/snacks every 3-4 hours
  • Eat meals and snacks at regular times every day.
  • Eat about the same amount of food each day.
  • Do not fast (No skipping meals) and Do not feast.
  • Eat a wide variety of foods each day by trying new foods.
  • Read food labels and make healthy food choices.

To achieve an excellent blood sugar control with healthy diabetic diet requires thorough understanding and knowledge of the disease and patient motivation, supported by a diabetes care team. Registered Dietitian is one of the members of diabetes care team who can help you feel comfortable with many foods and diabetes decisions.

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