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A Healthy Diabetic Diet

November is American Diabetes Month.

Did you know that, in the past 20 years, the death rate due to diabetes has increased by 45% and is the 7th leading cause of death, while the death rates due to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer have decreased? The prevalence of diabetes in the American population has increased significantly to its rate of nearly 8%, with an additional 19% of the population having pre-diabetes, according to the Center for Disease Control’s most current reports (June 2008).

What are the diet recommendations for persons with diabetes?

Although the Diabetes Food Pyramid uses the former graphic of the USDA pyramid, it clearly conveys the message that persons with diabetes should include a variety of nutrient-dense, low fat foods in their diet. An individualized lifestyle plan is recommended, with an appropriate balance of food and physical activity for the management of diabetes and its complications, such as cardiovascular disease. Weight management is essential since type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, can be prevented or delayed through weight control.

Watch below to learn more about a healthy diet!

Does the timing of meals and snacks really matter?

Yes, to maintain normal levels of blood glucose, it’s important to eat at regular intervals. Since carbohydrates have the largest impact on blood glucose levels, carbohydrate-containing foods should be distributed throughout the day. Persons using insulin must coordinate their injections with food intake and adjust their dosages to the amount of carbohydrate consumed. Carbohydrate counting is a simple method of planning meals used by health care professionals. Based on your daily caloric needs, you are given a carbohydrate allowance for the day, divided into meals and snacks. You then select carbohydrate-rich foods, such as grains, fruits, starchy vegetables, and milk, in specific portions to fit your prescribed meal plan.

Do persons with diabetes need to eat special “dietetic” foods?

No, the recommendations for carbohydrate, protein, and fat for persons with diabetes are the same as those for all healthy Americans. In the past, persons with diabetes were told to completely avoid all sugary foods. Today, we know that the amount of carbohydrate is the most important influence on blood glucose levels. So, to control blood glucose while still having an occasional sweet, you can

  • Substitute small portions of sweets for other carbohydrate-rich foods in your meal plan, or
  • Use a low-calorie sweetener (such as SPLENDA ®) instead of sugar in your beverages and recipes.

Remember that a certified diabetes educator or registered dietitian can help you develop a tailored diet plan that meets your nutrient needs and your food preferences. For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association website.

This article originally appeared in Nutri-bytes (November 2007), a service of the College of Nursing and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.

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Go to the Diet and Nutrition health topic.