With diabetes, proper nutrition is a large part of controlling blood sugar levels. But it can be difficult to achieve both blood sugar control and a feeling of satisfaction with food choices. This section will help address both of these issues. Understanding how meal timing, carbohydrates, proteins and fats can affect your blood sugar can empower you to make better food choices and be satisfied.
Start out by evaluating the timing of your meals. Do you eat breakfast? Are you snacking throughout the day? Your goal should be to eat 3 meals per day. This supports good health and can help regulate fluctuating blood sugars. If your meals are more than 5 hours apart, you should consider adding a snack. Here is an example of when you should add a snack:
The main function of carbohydrates is to provide the body’s cells with energy. Therefore, it is important to include carbohydrates in your meals and snacks. When digested, carbohydrates absorb into the blood stream as glucose (blood sugar). This is why controlling the amount or portion size of carbohydrates is key to blood sugar control in diabetes. Carbohydrate-based foods include:
TIP: For good health, choose high-fiber carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, legumes/lentils more often than other carbohydrates.
- Legumes and lentils
- Starchy vegetables
- Milk and yogurt
- Sugary foods and sweets
Unlike carbohydrates, proteins will not raise your blood sugar. Proteins make muscle and tissue, heal wounds and support other regulatory processes in the body, so they are very important to your overall health. Protein-based foods are:
TIP: For good health, choose lean or low- fat proteins more often. Good examples are: fish, skinless poultry, meats with less marbling, cheese with less than 6 grams of fat per ounce.
- Wild game
- Bean curd
Like proteins, fats will not raise your blood sugar. Fats are necessary for good health, but learn to choose heart healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and nuts rather than less healthy saturated fats such as butter, cream or dressings. In general, you should try to limit the amount of fat in your diet because fats are higher in calories than carbohydrates or proteins. This can cause weight gain if too many fatty foods are eaten. Here are some fat-based foods:
TIP: For good health, try to choose small amounts of heart healthy monounsaturated fats(*), such as olive, canola or peanut oil, avocado and nuts more often than saturated fats, such as butter, margarine and cream.
- Cream and coffee creamers
- Oil (olive*, canola*, nut oils*)
- Nuts and nut butters*
Vegetables are low in calories and contain fiber and many important nutrients that promote good health. In addition, non-starchy vegetables will not raise your blood sugar, which means you may eat them freely.
TIP: For good health, choose frozen or fresh produce more often than canned vegetables.