- By Dana Sparks
Planning Meals to Help Manage and Maybe Prevent Diabetes
A healthy approach to eating is important for everyone but for people with diabetes and prediabetes – having a higher than normal blood sugar level – appropriate monitoring and management of diet is crucial. Mayo Clinic Health System registered dietitian Sue Seykora offers these meal-planning tips to help keep diabetes under control or maybe avoid it all together.
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Carbohydrate counting is a meal-planning approach that focuses on the total number of carbs consumed. This is an easy method to follow and allows variety in food choices that fit your preferences and lifestyle.
Most of the foods you eat contain carbs: breads, crackers, pasta, rice, potatoes, milk and many more. Carbs are often thought of as bad foods. In reality, your body needs carbs to create energy. The problem is that many people don’t choose healthy types and amounts of carbs.
People should consume healthier carbs like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods. All foods – even healthy foods – need portion control. There is no universal amount of carbs you should ingest; everyone is different. However, the following guidelines serve as a good starting point and can be adjusted as needed (note that one serving of carbs is considered 15 grams):
- Women: Three to four carb servings per meal; one serving for a snack
- Men: Four to five carb servings per meal; one to two for a snack
Although carb counting is the initial focus for a diabetic diet, protein and fat levels cannot be ignored. Work with your dietitian to discover how to limit excessive protein and fat in your diet.
The plate method
Another meal-planning system is the plate method. Not only is this good for people with diabetes and prediabetes, it’s a healthy option for anyone. Some basic principles exist for the plate method:
- Balance calories. Enjoy foods, but eat less. Avoid oversized portions.
- Increase your plate’s health. Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. At least 50 percent of your grains should be whole grains, such as brown rice, whole wheat flour and quinoa. Limit proteins and grains/starches to ¼ of your plate each. Additionally, switch to fat-free or low-fat (1 percent) milk.
- Reduce sodium and sugar. Many breads, frozen meals and soups have a high sodium content. Compare these foods and choose their low-sodium counterparts. Throw out the sugary drinks and pick water instead.
Actions for people with prediabetes
It’s amazing what health-conscious eating and physical activity can do for preventing the progression of diabetes. Try these tactics to improve your health:
- Work with your health care provider to reduce 5 to 10 percent of your baseline body weight.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains while significantly reducing fats, sodium and sugars.
- Strive for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. This can be a walk around the neighborhood, playing with your kids or even gardening.