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The good news is that diabetes doesn't mean giving up all your favourite foods or avoiding sugar entirely. The nutrition basics for people with diabetes apply to everyone, so practicing the tips below can benefit you and your family too. Consult a registered dietitian (RD) or certified diabetes educator (CDE) who can help you create a meal plan with a number of food choices from each food group everyday.
Here are some basics to get you started:
Choose mostly foods from the four food groups. Make sure your meals have lots of variety and include vegetables & fruit, lean meats, fish & poultry, beans, legumes, whole grains and low fat dairy. Try to eat the same amount of food at the same time each day and choose sensible portions. To help you visualize appropriate portion sizes, check out Canada’s latest Food Guide or use the plate rule. Divide your dinner plate into four quarters with half the plate full of veggies, one quarter with starch such as mashed potatoes or rice, and the last quarter with protein such as lean meat or fish.
Select nutrient rich carbohydrates like whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans and other legumes. These foods have fibre, which is useful in helping to keep blood sugar in control. Select foods that help you get the 25-35 g dietary fibre each day as recommended by dietitians and Health Canada.
Eating less fat overall is important for maintaining a healthy weight and in reducing your risk of heart disease. Most importantly, choose foods that are low in saturated fat and are trans fat free. It is easier than ever to cut back on fat with the growing variety of great-tasting food choices in grocery stores. By making lower fat food choices, you not only limit total fat intake, but also saturated and trans fat, cholesterol and often calories. Read Nutrition Facts Panels and watch out for “low-fat” foods that replace fat with added sugar.
Even though foods with sugar and other sweeteners can fit into a well-balanced diet, foods and beverages with no added sugar are great choices for managing diabetes. They generally have fewer carbohydrates per serving and some are also lower in calories. It is important to note that products with no added sugar may contain naturally occurring sugars that will still affect your blood sugar. For example, “100% fruit juice with no added sugar” will still contain sugar from the fruit that it’s made with.
Having diabetes does not mean having to avoid any particular food – especially dessert! To have good blood sugar control, you may need to limit the amount of total carbohydrates you eat, but the good news is that you can still eat sweet foods in moderation. This is because it is the amount of carbohydrate that has more of an impact on blood glucose rather than the type of carbohydrate (sugar vs. starches). An RD or CDE can help you plan the amount of carbohydrate that is right for you.