Eating a healthy diet is a massive part of any effective diabetes management strategy. If you have diabetes, your research into dietary health may have led you to the idea that eating more small meals over the course of the day is healthier than the “standard” three large meals.
That sounds logical enough on the surface – after all, many people with diabetes need to eat snacks to keep their blood sugar in check. However, the truth is more complicated than this may suggest. In this article, you’ll find a complete explanation of scheduling your diabetes diet, along with the foods you should make sure to include as part of your everyday meals.
What the Research Says About Meal Scheduling
It’s “common knowledge” that eating a larger number of smaller meals can help you lose weight, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. A University of Ottawa study determined that dividing calories between six meals instead of three doesn’t have any notable impact on weight loss. Instead, it seems like this can make people more likely to overeat.
Another study, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, focused on the relationship between meal frequency and type 2 diabetes. This study found that eating three meals a day is the best option for blood glucose management. When you consider both studies, it’s clear that making significant changes to your dietary schedule probably isn’t the best idea.
Healthy Snacks Can Still Help
While it’s best to stick to the three main meals when managing diabetes, that doesn’t mean you should only eat at these times. Quite a few people with diabetes have found that small snacks help keep their blood sugar in range throughout the day. When you put some thought into your snacking plan, snacks can even lower your likelihood of overeating during meals.
The key to successful snacking is to avoid overindulging in carbohydrates. Your exact needs may vary, but for most people, the ideal diabetes snack contains no more than 15 grams of carbs. That way, you’ll get a quick energy boost without putting yourself at risk of binge-eating.
Putting Your Diabetes Diet Together
Now that you know when to eat, the follow-up question is obvious: what foods should your diabetes diet include, and what foods should it omit? The easiest way to start planning a diabetes diet is to look at foods in terms of the categories they fall into:
Focus on Fruits and Veggies
Though they count as a source of carbs, fresh fruits and raw/cooked vegetables contain lots of fiber and nutrients that can help keep your diabetes in check. Just be sure to include them while counting carbs, and look for options that are high in fiber.
Get the Protein You Need
Most protein sources are fine for people with diabetes, but lean proteins (including meat, fish, poultry, tofu, and dairy) are ideal. Meanwhile, plant-based protein sources contain nutrients and fiber, so add some of these proteins to your diet.
Make Sure to Eat Nutritious Complex Carbs
Instead of avoiding carbohydrates entirely, your best option is to focus on eating controlled portions of carbs that are high in nutritious value. These are often found in whole-grain foods like brown rice and oatmeal.
Steer Clear of These Foods
When you’re planning a diabetes diet, knowing what to avoid is just as important as knowing what you should eat. Unhealthy fats, oils, and sweets are at the top of the list when it comes to foods you shouldn’t normally bother with, but processed grains aren’t far behind. And while produce is usually a great option, salty canned vegetables, fruit juice, fast food and other products in this vein can cause more trouble than you might expect.
Some Good Snack Ideas from the American Diabetes Association
(Include about 15-20 grams of carbohydrates)
- ⅓ cup of hummus and 1 cup raw fresh cut vegetables
- 1 small apple and 1 slice reduced fat cheese
- 3 cups light popcorn
- ½ turkey sandwich made with 1 slice whole wheat bread and 2 slices of lean turkey
- ¼ cup of low fat cottage cheese and ½ cup light canned fruit or fresh fruit
ADS Can Help You Manage Diabetes
The process of planning a diabetes diet can be overwhelming, but you don’t need to follow fad diets or make massive changes to your meal schedule to stay healthy. Instead, eat three balanced meals a day, along with small, healthy snacks when you need them. Finally, don’t make any significant changes to your diet without talking to your healthcare team first! You can also contact Halle Elbling, ADS’s Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist with any questions.
Creating a healthy diet is an essential part of diabetes management, but it isn’t enough to control diabetes on its own. You’ll also need reliable access to high-quality diabetes supplies like insulin, glucose meters, and testing supplies. Advanced Diabetes Supply is a leading national supplier of all diabetes testing supplies – take a look at everything we can send to you today!