Where to Start
Contrary to what you may have heard in the past, there is no strict diet you must follow. You will likely need to make some changes in your lifestyle, and sometimes changes can seem very difficult. It is usually not necessary to totally change everything about the way that you eat. Managing diabetes is more about adopting a healthier lifestyle by making small changes one at a time.
The American Association of Diabetes Educators believes that the seven self-care behaviors shown below are effective ways to make positive changes:
Eat healthy: Make healthy food choices, understand portion sizes, and learn the best times to eat.
Be active: Include regular activity for overall fitness, weight management, and blood glucose control.
Monitor: Self-monitor your blood glucose daily to assess how food, physical activity, and medications are working.
Take medication: Understand how medications work, and when to take them.
Problem solve: Know how to problem solve. For example, a high or low blood glucose episode requires the ability to make a quick decision about food, activity, or medication.
Reduce risks: Effective risk-reduction behaviors such as smoking cessation and regular eye exams are examples of self-care that reduce risk of complications.
Healthy coping: Good coping skills that deal with the challenges of diabetes help you stay motivated to keep your diabetes in control.
It's very important to avoid skipping meals. Regular meal times help prevent high or low blood sugar readings. When you skip meals, you run the risk of having an unexpected low blood sugar. Skipping meals can also lead to overeating at the next meal, causing a blood sugar high.
There Is No Diabetic Diet
You may think that having diabetes means giving up everything you like to eat, especially carbohydrates. Nothing could be further from the truth! With the help and advice of a registered dietitian, you can adopt healthy eating habits that fit into your lifestyle.
Here are several suggestions to get you started on your plan:
Eat meals at regular intervals.
Include nutritious snacks in your daily eating plan.
Try new foods and experiment with whole grains, vegetables, or fruits you have never tried before.
Work on maintaining good portion control.
Drink plenty of water every day.
Food portion size is critical for controlling how many calories you eat every day, and of course, for controlling your weight. If you tend to overeat at certain meals, you can start controlling portions by eating ⅓ less than you usually do. Use a smaller plate and put ⅓ less food on your plate.
Snacking is a great way to prevent excessive hunger and keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. When chosen wisely, snacks can help you work in the recommended amounts of healthful foods such as fruit or vegetables.
Trying new foods can expand the options of foods in your eating plan. Today there are many more choices of whole or minimally processed foods available to the consumer.
Shopping in the produce section of the grocery store or visiting your local farmer's market can give you plenty of ideas for including some foods that you may not have used before. Large grocery stores and health food stores carry an array of different whole-grain products that, while not new, may be unfamiliar to you. Using some of the recipes in this book will introduce you to some of the lesser known but healthful whole grains.
Small Steps Every Day = Gradual Lifestyle Changes
Accept that you won't be able to change your eating habits overnight, and adopt the approach of taking small steps every day. Over time, you can make significant changes toward improving your health and reaching consistent near-normal blood glucose levels. Think of changes in your eating habits as goals rather than inflexible rules and regulations.
Start by making an honest review of your current eating habits then list what you'd like to change or improve. Decide exactly how you will work on each change then select one or two changes to work on at a time. Your dietitian can help you with creative ideas for making changes. Here's an example: If you eat a candy bar as a pick-me-up late in the afternoon, try substituting a small piece of fruit and an ounce of low-fat cheese instead.
Once you've mastered a change, you can move on to something new. Some changes will be easy; others will be difficult or take more time. Start off by making easier changes first, then tackle something that would be very difficult for you.