Estimated time to read 4 min, 761 words (disclaimer)
We are not alone! About 8.9 percent of the US population is diagnosed with type II diabetes and approximately 38 percent are diagnosed with prediabetes based on fasting A1C levels. This involves nearly half of the total population!
Worldwide, it is estimated that 422 million people are diagnosed with diabetes and there are 1.5 deaths that are directed attributed to diabetes per year. Diabetes can increase the risk of other diseases such as heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy, foot ulcers, high cholesterol, and retinopathy. Let’s take control of our lives.
One of the easiest ways to begin a healthy diet to help control diabetes is to find a coach, system, or challange that will last at least a month to get on the right track. Meeting like-minded people by joining a diabetes Facebook groups may also be beneficial. But we must always be careful of incorrect information.
We can also follow the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) “Diabetes Plate Method“. Change is tough, but using this is a simple method that can make a big difference.
“First, grab a 9-inch plate. You want to fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter of the plate of protein foods, and the last quarter of the plate with carbohydrate foods. Top it off with a glass of water or another zero calorie drink and you’ve got yourself a well-balanced plate! This helps take the guess work out of meal planning so you can spend more time doing the things you love.” – The American Diabetes Association
The University of Michigan has a handout in PDF form that lists non-starchy foods on their website to help fill up a healthier plate.
Once we are able to consistently eat healthy meals, blood sugars and A1C levels may improve to a level our physician recommends. But, some of us may need to take steps a little further and may need to count total carbs in our diet. A physician, nutritionist, or dietician is probably the best health care providers to to tell us our target numbers. Some are taking insulin and know the exact carb to insulin ratio needed.
The USDA has a search engine to list nutrients in foods and can be found here. There are also phone apps such as MyFitnessPal, Lifesum, MyNetDiary, Carb Manager, and ControlMyWeight that help with counting carbs. Our physicians will let us know if we need to count total carbs or net carbs which is the total carbs minus the fiber. Fiber is a carb but isn’t broken down in our body so some do not count it as a carb. But, it is usually recommended to count total carbs.
Using the glycemic index and load takes carb counting to another level. It may be helpful to understand the difference.
|Glycemic index (GI):|
The amount of sugar is in a food.
Low GI food ≤55
Medium GI food 56 – 69
High GI food ≥70
|Glycemic load (GL):|
The score given to food to indicate how drastically it will affect blood sugar.
Low GL food ≤10 or less
Medium GL food 11 to 19
High GL food ≥ 20
Let’s compare a banana and a chocolate muffin. Both have a GI of approximately 45. But a banana has a GL of 8 and the muffin has a GL of 14, which means that the sugar from the banana will enter the blood stream more slowly and will most likely not affect blood sugar (BS) and drastically as the muffin. But if we are counting total carbs, they both have about the same amount of carbs.
Of course we are all individuals and foods will affect us differently.
The most recent International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values are published here in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. There are two tables published in this research study and they are uploaded below. They both have search capabilities.
After we find foods that we would like to add to our diet, we can use sites that allow us to search for diabetic friendly recipes such as Yummly.com, allrecipes.com, and the Food Network.
There is no wrong or right way to begin. But some people prefer to start with changing snacks, then portions of meals, total meals, and then desserts. Finding meals that we like that can easily be prepped in bulk is also helpful. Some examples include healthy egg cups using a muffin tin, burrito wraps, and healthy cookies that can be frozen for future meals and snacks. The ADA has some tips on freezing foods here.
Here are some popular recipes:
Breakfast (click on the link for recipes)
Egg Muffin Cups: This site gives variations that we can use based on our preferences.
Overnight Oats: This is a no cook method and sugar can be substituted.
Yogurt bowl Ideas: Variations can be based on the fruit used.
Low carb / keto type of cereals: There are many brands and this is something we all will have our preferences due to the different textures and consistencies that they have.
Lunch or Dinner: Cooking multiple servings may be a good idea to give us the ability to freeze meals to save prep time for the future. Taste of Home has a list of 45 basic recipes and a list of 67 recipes that take about 30 min.
Google is our friend and we can find pretty much any recipe out there. It can take time and sometimes we will fail, but no one is perfect. For those of us who need to measure BS levels after meals, it is important to do so even after a cheat meal to assess how BS increases because we all have different triggers. For some a banana will spike BS but for others, it will not. Some have learned that a cup of pasta will not affect blood sugar, but more than that will.
Other things to keep in mind is to take smaller bites, eat slowly, and savor food rather than scarfing it down. We can enjoy food for a longer time and it may also prevent us from overeating. It is also important to understand that cheat days may not wreck our body if we become consistently healthy. We may also stop craving foods that are not healthy.
Fiona S Atkinson, Jennie C Brand-Miller, Kaye Foster-Powell, Anette E Buyken, Janina Goletzke, International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values 2021: a systematic review, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 114, Issue 5, November 2021, Pages 1625–1632, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqab233