Does Your Diabetes Diet Give You What You Need?

What you eat makes a big difference when you have diabetes. When you build your diet, four key things to focus on are carbs, fiber, fat, and salt. Here's what you should know about each of them.

 

Carbs

Carbs give you fuel. They affect your blood sugar faster than fats or protein. You’ll mainly get them from:

  • Fruit
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Bread, cereal, rice, pasta
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, and beans

Some carbs are simple, like sugar. Other carbs are complex, like those found in beans, nuts, vegetables, and whole grains.

Complex carbohydrates are better for you because they take longer for your body to digest. They give you steady energy and fiber.

You may have heard of “carbohydrate counting.” That means you keep track of the carbs (sugar and starch) you eat each day. Counting grams of carbohydrate, and splitting them evenly between meals, will help you control your blood sugar.

If you eat more carbohydrates than your insulin supply can handle, your blood sugar level goes up. If you eat too little, your blood sugar level may fall too low. You can manage these shifts by knowing how to count carbs.

One carbohydrate serving equals 15 grams of carbohydrates.

A registered dietitian can help you figure out a carbohydrate counting plan that meets your specific needs. For adults, a typical plan includes two to four carb servings at each meal, and one to two as snacks.

You can pick almost any food product off the shelf, read the label, and use the information about grams of carbohydrates to fit the food into your type 2 diabetes meal plan.

Anyone can use carb counting. It’s most useful for people who take more than one daily injection of insulin, use the insulin pump, or want more flexibility and variety in their food choices.

Fiber

You get fiber from plant foods -- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes. It helps with digestion and blood sugar control. You feel fuller, so you eat less, which is a plus if you need to lose weight.

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People who eat high-fiber diets tend to be less likely to get high blood pressure and heart disease.

Most Americans don't eat enough fiber. So focus on these foods:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Cooked dried beans and peas
  • Whole-grain breads, cereals, and crackers
  • Brown rice
  • Bran foods

It’s best to get fiber from food. But if you can’t get enough, then taking fiber supplements can help. Examples include psyllium, methylcellulose, wheat dextrin, and calcium polycarbophil. If you take a fiber supplement, increase the amount you take slowly. This can help prevent gas and cramping. It’s also important to drink enough liquids when you increase your fiber intake.

Fat

Diabetes makes you more likely to get heart disease. So you’ll want to limit unhealthy fat such as saturated fat and trans fats.

The main sources of saturated fats are cheese, beef, milk, and baked items.

Avoid trans fats, which are bad for your heart. Check the ingredients list for "partially hydrogenated" oils. Also, know that if a product says "0 grams trans fat,"  it may actually have up to half a gram of trans fat per serving.

For a healthy diet:

  • Choose lean cuts of meat.
  • Don't fry foods. Instead, you can bake, broil, grill, roast, or boil.
  • Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy foods. Include them in your daily carbohydrate count.
  • Use vegetable cooking spray or cholesterol-lowering margarine that has stanols or sterols.
  • Pick liquid vegetable oils instead of animal fat.

A registered dietitian can give you more information on how to prepare and choose the right fats for you.

Salt

Diabetes raises your risk of getting high blood pressure. Too much salt can add to that risk. Your doctor or dietitian may ask you to limit or avoid:

  • Salt and seasoned salt (or salt seasonings)
  • Boxed mixes of potatoes, rice, and pasta
  • Canned meats
  • Canned soups and vegetables with salt
  • Cured or processed foods
  • Ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, other spreads, and canned sauces
  • Packaged soups, gravies, and sauces
  • Pickled foods
  • Processed meats: lunch meat, sausage, bacon, and ham
  • Olives
  • Salty snack foods
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Soy and steak sauces

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Low-Salt Cooking Tips

  • Use fresh ingredients and foods with no salt added.
  • For favorite recipes, you may need to use other ingredients and cut out or use less salt.
  • Try orange or pineapple juice as a base for meat marinades.
  • Check the sodium on food labels.
  • Choose frozen entrees that have 600 milligrams or less of sodium. Limit yourself to one of these frozen entrees per day.
  • Use fresh, frozen, no-added-salt canned vegetables. Rinse them first.
  • If you buy canned soup, look for low-sodium ones.

Avoid mixed seasonings and spice blends that include salt, such as garlic salt.

Which Seasonings Can Replace Salt?

Herbs and spices improve the natural flavors in food without using salt. Make these mixtures to use for meats, poultry, fish, vegetables, soups, and salads.

Spicy Blend
2 tablespoons dried savory, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon curry powder

Saltless Surprise
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon powdered lemon rind or dehydrated lemon juice

Herb Seasoning
2 tablespoons dried dill weed or basil leaves, crumbled
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons onion powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crumbled
A pinch of freshly ground pepper

Spicy Seasoning
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon coriander seed (crushed)
1 tablespoon rosemary

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on May 08, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

FDA: "Talking About Trans Fat: What You Need to Know."

American Diabetes Association: “Type 2;” “What Can I Eat?;” “Diabetes and Heart Health--What’s the Connection?;” and “What About Protein?”

Joslin Diabetes Center: “Carb Counting 101.”

California Medical Association.

University of New Hampshire: “Plant Stanols and Sterols.”

Uptodate.com: “Patient information: High-fiber diet (Beyond the Basics),” Arnold Wald, MD.

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