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Diabetes Nutrition

When you have diabetes, nutrition is crucial in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Although it can be challenging to come up with well balanced diabetic meals, you should still be able to enjoy a wide variety of foods, without eliminating too many of your favourites.

Choosing the right food is important for diabetics, as it can help to control blood sugar levels, regulate blood pressure, and manage blood fats such as cholesterol and triglycerides.

Many people need to lose weight to reduce their chances of a stroke or heart disease, when they are diagnosed with diabetes, and nutrition plays a large part in this.  

There is a huge amount of information available about diabetes nutrition; check out menu ideas on websites or pick up a diabetic cooking magazine to get some inspiration.    

Ten tips for well balanced diabetic meals

  1. When you’re putting together your diabetic meal plan, make sure you eat three regular meals a day, and be sure not to skip breakfast.
  2. Try to include beans and lentils in your diet. These are great foods for diabetics as they control blood sugar levels and blood fats.
  3. Each meal should include a starchy carbohydrate such as bread, pasta, rice or cereal. These are absorbed slowly and do not affect blood sugar dramatically.
  4. Try to reduce the saturated fat in your diet by limiting the butter, cheese and processed foods you eat.
  5. Unsaturated fats such as olive or rapeseed oils are healthier alternatives.  Check out tomato and vegetable based sauces rather than opting for a creamy variety.
  6. Oily fish is a good food for diabetics as it is high in the polyunsaturated fat omega 3. Try to include two portions a week of mackerel, sardines, salmon or pilchards in your diabetic meal plan.     
  7. Limit your alcohol intake to two units per day for women and three units per day for men.  Drinking less than this is recommended, particularly if you are trying to lose weight. Diabetics should avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach.
  8. Reduce your salt intake to less than six grams per day.  Check out the labels on any processed food you buy. You might be surprised by the high salt content.
  9. Although you do not need to cut out sugar altogether, you should look for foods with no added sugar’. If you want to drink fizzy drinks you should opt for the low sugar varieties.
  10. There are very few benefits to special foods for diabetics. Generally they have the same effect on your blood sugar as regular foods, they may have a laxative effect, and they are expensive. The exception may be diabetic alternatives to very sugary foods such as diabetic chocolates, which may be worth investigating if you have a sweet tooth.   

Gestational diabetes nutrition

Some pregnant women suffer from a temporary form of diabetes caused by pregnancy hormones that cause insulin resistance. This is more common in older mums and is known as gestational diabetes. Nutrition is crucial in controlling gestational diabetes, and most women will see a dietician to develop a diabetic meal plan when they are first diagnosed.

In many ways a meal plan for a gestational diabetic is similar to a regular diabetic meal plan, but it can be quite different to the recommended diet for other expectant mothers. For example, women with gestational diabetes should only drink two glasses of milk per day, and need to find an alternative source of calcium to supplement this. They should also limit their intake of simple sugars, which may involve eliminating fruit juices, soda, flavoured teas and desserts from their diet. 

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