Food for Diabetics – What You Need to Know
The most important part of planning a meal for a person with diabetes is to ensure that you have the correct goal for carbohydrates, starches, and sugars. We’ll show you how.
We have great news. There is not a single food that people who have diabetes must 100% avoid. As long as the right portion and frequency of certain foods is correct – then you can incorporate your favorite foods every now and then. On the other hand, donuts in the morning, cookies at lunch, and a large serving of dessert every night are certainly not the right type of food for diabetics.
What You Need to Know about Food for Diabetics
The most important part of planning a meal for a person with diabetes is to ensure that you have the correct goal for carbohydrates, starches, and sugars. After that, it'[s just a matter of choosing your protein (lean cuts like skinless chicken, turkey, fish, shrimp, lean beef and lean pork) and if there is a food that contains fat, then making sure this comes from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – like olive oil and corn oil – is the best type of food for diabetics.
If the person is on a regular diabetic meal plan, then they need 130g of carbohydrates, starches, and sugars every day. When you divide this up between 3-5 meals and snacks through the day, then at each sitting the meal should contain between 25-40g of carbohydrates.
Planning for Carbohydrates
When you are planning food for diabetics and you start to look up how many carbohydrates and sugars are in various meals – you might be surprised at how difficult sticking to 40g of carbohydrates for a single meal can be. For example, one cup of cooked white rice contains 53g of starchy carbohydrates. In order to make it a meal full of food for diabetics, making sure that you serve ½ cup of rice can help reduce the starch for that meal. If this looks a little meager – try using a 9" dinner plate. This will help create the impression that there is more food on the plate.
The general rule of thumb is that for every 1g of carbohydrates, starch, or sugars consumed, internal blood sugars will increase approximately between 3-5 points in a person with diabetes. This can vary depending on the type of food, the amount of fiber, and if starchy or sweet foods that are consumed alongside other foods like meat or oils. So in general, estimating that for each 10 grams of carbohydrate, blood glucose will rise about 20 points is general guideline.
So if a person with diabetes consumes a food – let'[s say 1 bowl of pasta, which contains about 2 ½ cups of pasta noodles – then they have just eaten approximately 100g of carbohydrates. This would cause their blood glucose levels to increase by around 200 points. This portion would then be a very unsafe food for diabetics. Here'[s why this type of food for diabetics is something to avoid.
Blood Sugar Levels for Diabetics
For most diabetics, a fasting blood sugar level (before eating) needs to be between 90-130mg/dLfor well-controlled diabetes. After eating, the target for blood glucose for a person with diabetes is to ensure blood sugar levels do not increase above 180mg/dL during the 2-hour time frame after eating. So if a person with diabetes consumes a food that contains 100g of carbohydrates – then even if their blood glucose was 90 before they ate, their blood glucose could rise up to 290mg/dL – which is certainly too high and dangerous for their long-term health.
Each person responds different to carbohydrate foods – and blood sugar increases based upon grams of carbohydrate are very unique to each individual. Whether or not that individual has some or adequate internal insulin production, for example, can change their personal glucose response to a certain intake of carbohydrate.
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Because each individual's carbohydrate and resulting glucose levels can be different, it's important to measure and test your blood glucose levels about 2 hours after eating to ensure your levels are not rising above 180mg/dL. If they are, then you will want to reduce the amount of carbohydrates, starches, and sugars at that meal. A good idea is to cut your serving of carbohydrates in half if your blood glucose rises too high.
US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27 (slightly revised). Version Current: May 2015. Internet: http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl, http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods
Bernstein, Richard K. Dr. Bernstein'[s Diabetes Solution: A Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars. 201. ISBN 0-316-09344-0.