When you have diabetes, your diet plays a key role in controlling your blood sugar levels. SparkPeople strongly encourages everyone with diabetes to meet with a Registered Dietitian or a Certified Diabetes Educator in their area. These health professionals can assess your individual nutritional needs and develop a specific plan to meet your physical needs, work schedule and activities, medication schedule, health goals, tastes and lifestyle. You should not alter your diabetes management plan without discussing your options with your health care provider. With all this in mind, SparkPeople will still be a great resource for you. Use this article to review key points for eating with type 2 diabetes. Note: SparkPeople does offer meal plans designed for people with diabetes. Click here to learn more.|
Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source. During digestion, sugar (simple carbohydrates) and starches (complex carbohydrates) break down into blood sugar (glucose). If you consume too much carbohydrate-rich foods at one time, your blood sugar levels may raise too high, which can be problematic.
Carbohydrates are found in cereals and grains, fruits and fruit juices, milk and yogurt, and sweets. Because they are important sources of energy, it's important to include nutritious carbohydrates at each meal and snack. But keep in mind that the healthiest carbohydrate choices are whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, and low-fat dairy products.
Portion control is a problem for many people, but for individuals with type 2 diabetes it becomes even more important—especially when concerning carbohydrates. About half (50%) of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates--even when you have diabetes. A general recommendation is to eat about 2-3 carbohydrate servings (30-45 grams) at each meal for women and 3-4 carbohydrate servings (45-60 grams) at each meal for men. Both men and women should limit carbohydrates at snacks to 1-2 carbohydrate servings (15-30 grams). Click here for a detailed, printable chart that shows single (15-gram) servings of carbohydrate-containing foods.
Your health care professional will help you determine the exact amount of grams of carbohydrates that are right for you each day. If this number differs from SparkPeople's recommendations, you'll need to adjust your Nutrition Tracker to help you better monitor your intake. To make necessary changes follow these easy steps:
When it comes to controlling your blood sugar, when and what you eat with your carbohydrates is just as important as the type and amount of carbohydrates you consume. Here are some other important eating strategies for type 2 diabetics:
1. Space your meals evenly. Evenly spacing out your meals and snacks throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar levels stable. General guidelines say to wait at least 2 hours (but no more than 5 hours) between meals and snacks during the day. Eating at regular intervals will help to prevent your blood sugar level from going either too high or too low. You can set-up your SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker with as many meals and snacks as you'd like, using the eating schedule provided by your health care professional. When you track your foods, you'll see your carbohydrate totals (plus calorie, protein and fat) for each meal and snack you eat throughout the day.
2. Consider adding a little lean protein to every meal and snack. Small portions of protein do not raise blood sugar levels. They may help slow down the rate at which carbohydrates are digested, and typically help you feel full longer. The amount of protein you need should be determined by your health care professional. Protein sources include foods like meat (such as beef, pork, chicken, fish and seafood, deli meats, ham, hot dogs, sausage, and turkey) and meat alternatives (such as eggs, egg substitutes, peanut butter, nuts and tofu). Cheeses and cottage cheese are also protein sources but are sometimes categorized as calcium sources. When evaluating your SparkDiet for protein and carbohydrate balance, just remember that meat, meat alternatives and cheese all count as protein sources.
Your health care professional will help you determine how many grams of protein are right for you each day. If this number differs from SparkPeople's recommendations, you'll need to adjust your Nutrition Tracker to help you better monitor your intake. To make necessary changes follow these easy steps:
5. Take advantage of “free foods.”Certain foods do not tend to raise blood sugar levels and can be used to help “fill in” your meal plan with little worry about their blood sugar affects. Examples of these foods include:
If you have diabetes, SparkPeople highly recommends that you work directly with a Registered Dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator to receive personalized nutrition guidelines and meal plans. Together you can develop a diabetes meal plan, based on your health goals, tastes, and lifestyle—as well as the latest guidelines for healthy eating. Click here for examples of two different meal planning systems.
For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Amy Poetker, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator.