It is no secret the lifestyles of many Americans restrict regular exercise and encourage calorie-rich foods. All too often we ignore health messages that could save our lives until a serious complication arises.
Probably one of the first things you will be asked to do is to see a hospital dietitian. She will take your individual needs into account, as well as the principles of good eating, in deciding the diet to suggest for you.
The diabetes diet
Consultant Dietitian to Diabetes Australia Victoria, Robyn Compton, says preventing or at least delaying dangerous conditions such as diabetes and obesity doesn’t mean restrictive eating and bland recipes.
It’s a matter of understanding the role of food in achieving good health and making informed choices to include healthy food. It’s also important to make an effort to be physically active daily.
The first step is to reduce the intake of foods high in fat, especially saturated fat. Fatty foods are serious offenders in contributing to obesity, heart disease, and high levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood – all of which are risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
Foods to avoid with diabetes
- fatty meats
- full-cream dairy foods
- many take away and fried foods
- commercially baked goods like biscuits, cakes, and pies.
The second step is to eat more of the foods that help our bodies work properly.
What foods can a diabetic eat freely?
Certain foods may be eaten freely by a diabetic at any time:
- vegetables: lettuce, cabbage, spinach, tomato, zucchini, mushrooms.
- legumes: bean, chickpea, lentil, kidney bean, peanut, soybean, pea.
- fruits: apples, bananas, berries, cherries, grapefruit, grapes, kiwi fruit.
- wholegrain bread and cereals: sprouted bread, rye bread, sourdough.
- fish: salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, and mackerel.
- lean meat: beef, pork, veal, lamb.
- nuts: almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, and peanuts.
- condiments and spreads: yeast extracts, fish pastes, artificial sweeteners.
- drinks that provide hardly any calories: water, unsweetened black tea or coffee, and clear broths.
- Breakfast cereal preferably wholegrain such as porridge, plain untoasted muesli – with low-fat milk.
- Bread or toast, preferably wholegrain, wholemeal or high fiber white – with thinly spread margarine, peanut butter, jam, or try with baked beans, grilled tomato, or sardines.
- Tea, coffee or water.
- Soup (if desired, preferably containing vegetables and legumes).
- Sandwich made with bread, roll or crackers – preferably wholegrain or wholemeal – with thinly spread margarine or avocado.
- Salad vegetables.
- A small serve of lean meat, skinless poultry, seafood, egg, fat-reduced cheese or a more generous serve of legumes (such as beans or lentils).
- Water, tea or coffee.
- Starchy vegetables, pasta, rice.
- Other vegetables (include freely).
- A small serve of lean meat, skinless poultry, seafood, egg, fat-reduced cheese or a more generous serve of legume (such as beans or lentils).
- Bread, roll or cracker – preferably wholegrain or wholemeal – with thinly spread margarine or avocado.
- Fruit or low-fat milk pudding, yogurt or ice cream.
- Water, tea or coffee.
- A healthy snack can be included between meals to keep the body going during the day.
How do you control weight loss with diabetes?
A child or teenage diabetic will need enough energy from food for growth as well as activities, and recommended diets will allow for this.
Many of the people who become diabetics in their later years will be overweight, however, and correcting this is of great importance in treating their diabetes.
If you are overweight you can reduce successfully by:
- Having regular meals, including a wide variety of the foods recommended in your diet.
- Choosing the minimum number of recommended servings and taking small servings.
- Avoiding sugar and other things listed under “foods to avoid”.
- Avoiding foods cooked in or containing large amounts of fat or oil.
- Resisting second helpings.
- Eating slowly and enjoying the quality of your food.
- Being active and walking for at least half an hour each day.
Can diabetes be managed with diet and exercise?
Carbohydrate foods are energy – we wouldn’t be able to function without them.
All carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which is then transferred to cells in the muscles, where it is stored until it is used for energy in our daily lives.
Choosing the right types of carbohydrates and fats in the diet and exercising regularly can delay the development of type 2 diabetes and help to control it once diagnosed.
These kinds of foods can meet your nutrient and energy needs. By combining healthy eating with regular physical activity you can celebrate good health and prevent or delay the onset of obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
To use a favorite analogy, you wouldn’t fuel your car with dirty petrol or oil so why to do it to your body – your most important engine.
The next step is to be physically active. Aim to do 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day.
What should diabetics eat before exercise?
Exercise is a splendid thing for diabetics and there is no reason why they should not enjoy active sports. Physical activity burns up energy, so when you are more active than usual you will need to provide extra energy from food beforehand.
If you neglect this, there is the possibility that the fall in blood sugar during exercise will bring on a “hypo” (hypoglycemic reaction, when the blood sugar falls too low). This particularly applies to those on insulin treatment, as once a dose of insulin has been injected, its sugar-reducing activity cannot be reduced.
Before exercise, therefore, you should have either a piece of fresh fruit (or glass of fruit juice), or a sandwich (whole or half), or a buttered plain biscuit and a glass of milk.
Hypoglycemia during exercise
If symptoms of hypoglycemia occur (dizziness, tremors, weakness, confusion) take some honey, suck a sweet such as barley sugar, or have a sweet drink immediately.
Frequent “hypos” usually indicate that either your dieter’s insulin dosage needs adjusting and you should report them to your doctor.
Any diabetic on tablets who notices symptoms of hypoglycemia during exercise should also report them to the doctor immediately. A reduction in the tablet dose may be advised.
If you are diabetic, discuss exercise with your doctor. The chances are that you are doing too little, not too much.
Exercise is an important part of your daily routine, and you should try to take about the same amount each day, not suddenly have a bout of violent activity once a week or at irregular intervals.