Healthy Eating for People with Diabetes: You’re Guide to Healthy Meal Planning
Enjoying balanced and nutritious meals are crucial to continued good health for those living with diabetes. Diet not only plays a major role in managing diabetes; but also determines how well one feels and how much energy one has each day.
When excess calories and fatty foods are consumed, the body responds with a surge in blood sugar. If this is not managed, it can lead to high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), heart disease and long-term complications, such as nerve, and kidney damage.
Although there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ plan, here are a few basic rules of thumb that can help create a successful blue print for healthy meal times. 
Good nutrition is an important part of leading a healthy lifestyle. For pre diabetics and those living with type 2 diabetes, the importance of a varied and balanced diet cannot be overlooked. Foods containing carbohydrates, particularly from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, and fat are essential in forging a balanced meal plan.
The ‘plate method’3 is a great place to start, regardless of whether you’re cooking at home or eating out with friends and family.
How does it work?
Step 1: Imagine a line drawn down the centre of the plate. On one side draw a horizontal line in the middle splitting the half in two3.
Step 2: Fill half of the plate with vegetables such as spinach, carrots, lettuce, baby corn and broccoli; and fruits such as apples, grapes and bananas3
Step 3: Fill one quarter of your plate with whole grains and starchy carbohydrates like bread, pasta and rice.
Step 4: Fill the last quarter of your plate with a protein such as fish, poultry, meat, egg and legumes.
Step 5: Complete the meal with a glass of unsweetened beverage. Eg. Water or milk.
Protein and Fibre
Food containing fibre and protein help you feel full faster, and has a minimal effect on your blood sugar level9,10. Protein helps to break down your food slowly, thus supporting a balanced blood sugar level8.
Whey protein, is widely known to for its high protein content which effectively reduces blood sugar spikes after meals compared to other protein sources such as eggs, soy or tuna15. Whey protein essentially helps release specific types of hormones in your body, GLP-1 and GIP, to stimulate insulin after a meal. Taken over a period of time, whey protein even helps to reduce your HbA1c.
Meanwhile, fibre is beneficial to diabetics because of its role in decreasing blood glucose and lipid levels. 11,12 Also known as roughage or bulk, dietary fibre can slow down the absorption of sugar by increasing the thickness of the intestinal contents after a meal. Additionally, soluble fibers produces short-chain fatty acids that help to prevent your liver from secreting too much glucose into your blood during overnight fasting.
Most complex carbohydrate foods contain fiber, and generally take longer to digest. Due to its slow-releasing nature, complex carbohydrate, have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, thus help improve glycaemic response and regulate blood sugar level.
The Glycemic Index or GI, measures the speed of which a carbohydrate-containing food raises the blood sugar in our body.The faster the conversion, the higher the GI number. Foods with a high glycemic index can cause spikes in blood glucose levels, while foods with a low glycemic index results in a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels4.
As a general rule of thumb, look for foods that have a low to medium GI. Eating foods with a low GI not only confers the added benefit of keeping blood sugar level balanced, and prevent against heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but it can also aid with weight management by curbing your appetite6.
Carbohydrates provide an essential source of energy, which in turn fuels the body. However, carbohydrates can cause a rise in blood sugar levels.
Carbohydrate counting7 is a meal planning method to manage your blood sugar level. It keeps track of how much carbohydrates you eat by effectively measuring the grams of carbohydrates consumed, and its subsequent effect on your blood sugar.
Generally, aim to have about 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrate for each main meal7. However, some individuals may need more or less, depending on their lifestyle. Coupled with exercise and diabetes medication (if needed), this method can effectively help you to keep your blood sugar levels within range7.
If you’re worried that you may not be receiving enough nutrition from your current meal plan, consider supplementing it with a specialised diabetes nutritional beverage. Specialised diabetes nutritional beverage are a great source of nourishment, as they provide the right balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins while offering a slow-release of energy to balance blood sugar. They can even be enjoyed as a meal replacement.
A good specialized diabetes nutritional beverage that can play a role, and support you in managing your blood sugar level should contain whey protein, 100% soluble fibre, and slow digesting complex carbohydrate. It should also be low in GI, and meets the latest recommendations by the American Diabetes Association.
Meal planning is an integral part of diabetes management. It serves as a guide to ensure that you have all the nutrition you need to lead a healthy life while balancing blood sugar level. So, get the ball rolling and bring the benefits of meal planning to your family table.
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 Complications of diabetes. 2015 International Diabetes Federation. Retrieved Nov 1, 2016, from http://www.idf.org/complications-diabetes
2 Diabetes diet: Create your healthy-eating plan (2016, September 9). In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-diet/art-2004429
3 Pinggan Sihat Malaysia: Suku Suku Separuh. Bahagian Pemakanan Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia. Retrieved Nov 8, 2016 from https://www.facebook.com/bahagianpemakanankkm/photos
4 Carbohydrates & Blood Sugar. The Nutrition Source – Harvard TH Chan. Retrieved on 28 Oct 2016 from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/carbohydrates-and-blood-sugar/
5 Glycemic Index and Diabetes: What Affects the GI of a Food? (May 14, 2014). In American Diabetes Organisation. Retrieved Nov 1, 2016 from http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
6 Lewin, Jo. Spotlight on ….low GI. Retrieved Nov 8, 2016 from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/spotlight-low-gi
7 Carbohydrate Counting (n.d.). In American Diabetes Association. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from
http://www.diabetes.org/food-and- fitness/food/what-can- i-eat/understanding- carbohydrates/carbohydrate-counting.html
8 Carbohydrate Counting and Diabetes (n.d.). In National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved October 7, 2016, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/diabetes-diet-eating/carbohydrate-counting
9 Less Sodium, Just as Much Flavour! American Diabetes Association. Retrieved Nov 9, 2016 from http://www.diabetes.org/mfa-recipes/tips/2013-05/less-sodium-just-as-much-2013-5.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/