Planning a Diabetic Meal
Meals need to be carefully planned if you have diabetes. It does not have to restrictive to the point that you can no longer enjoy your favorite foods. As long as you work with your doctor and dietician to create a meal plan that is tailored to your schedule, maintains your weight and more importantly improves your blood glucose, cholesterol and blood pressure.
There are several ways to guide you in planning your meal. One way is to count the carbohydrates in your meals. Called “carb counting”, it helps you keep track of your carbohydrate intake. Food containing carbohydrates raise blood glucose level. Your ideal daily carbohydrate intake depends on many things like age and level of physical activity. You should be able to establish this with the help of your doctors. Once this is established, you will now have a guide in choosing foods and portion sizes. Carbohydrate content of foods is listed in nutrition tables or you can ask your dietician for a listing. Carb counting also becomes easier with food labels now being very commonplace. This is important for diabetics on insulin pumps as the food calorie which is related to carb content of a meal or a snack determines the bolus insulin shot. Just be sure to balance out your meals with protein and fat contents.
With carb counting the key is control of serving size or portion control. Another guide you can use for easier portion control is the “plate method”. The principle is simple and what you need to do is divide your plate with an imaginary line right down its middle. The other half is to be divided again into two giving you 3 subdivisions. The largest portion should be filled with non-starchy vegetables while the other two smaller subdivisions with meat and starchy vegetables. Change first your portion sizes using the plate method then refine later by choosing healthier foods for each portion.
Another method of meal planning involves what is known as glycemic index or GI. Glycemic index measures how fast carbohydrate-containing foods can raise blood glucose levels. The higher the GI, the higher it is able to raise blood glucose. The goal in meal planning using GI is to choosing medium GI foods and balancing with low GI foods. GI of foods is affected by several factors and generally increases the more processed the food is. Other factors that increase a food’s GI is ripeness and storage time with the riper the food and the longer it has been stored, the higher is its GI. Cooking method also affects a food’s GI; softly cooked pasta for example has higher GI compared when cooked al dente. Food variety also affects GI. Brown rice has lower GI compared to short-grained white rice.
Whatever method is used to plan a meal, you need to closely coordinate with your dietician and monitor blood glucose religiously. Only with continuously monitoring blood glucose will you be able to see if your meal plan is working for you.