October 2, 2023
Morning alarms wake us up and we run like hamsters on the wheel. Life’s demands are relentless—work, family, and more.
Can a healthy diet and effective blood glucose control be integrated seamlessly into a fast-paced lifestyle?
Meal planning holds the answer. It’s a method of mindfully planning your daily food decisions in advance. This saves you from impulsive, unhealthy decisions and mealtime stress.
Living with diabetes requires that you know what and how much you eat. Diabetes disrupts the body’s ability to efficiently convert glucose from food into energy. However, fret not; I’ve simplified this process into three straightforward steps to get you started. For more personalized meal plans and in-depth guidance, you can explore my book, “Lifestyle Prescriptions for Diabetes and Prediabetes.”
Here I have listed three simple steps to get you started.
Do you recall those school lessons about food groups? Let’s take a moment to revisit the fundamentals. There are five core food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. Think of these groups as the essential building blocks for crafting a nourishing, well-rounded meal.
Each food group includes a variety of similar foods in its nutritional makeup. However, you can rank into two groups: preferred and less preferred.
The less-preferred choices should be refined flour products, white rice, pre-cooked oats, noodles, and commercial bread.
It is less preferred to consume fruits with a high glycemic index, such as bananas, mangos, grapes, and fresh fruit juices.
There is less preference for high-starch vegetables such as potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, squash, corn, plantain, and peas. However, if you replace grains with them as the main source of carbohydrates, you can have them in larger quantities.
A less preferred option is processed red meat, sausages, bacon, and deli meats with medium to high levels of fat.
You can combine grains, vegetables, and protein into your main meals and enjoy fruits and dairy items between meals to ensure that you consume all the food groups.
Dietary carbohydrates (carbs) play a significant role in blood glucose levels as they break down into glucose molecules once consumed. Therefore, they directly affect blood glucose levels. It’s crucial to be aware of which food groups contain a higher percentage of carbohydrates. Once you identify these sources, it’s essential to pay close attention to the portion sizes in your meals and their combinations to help maintain optimal post-meal glucose levels.
Carbohydrate-containing food groups include grains, fruits, milk and yogurt, beans/legumes, and vegetables. To better manage your blood glucose, it’s important to understand the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are swiftly broken down by the body, leading to a rapid spike in blood glucose levels. These are primarily found in fruits and milk and exist in the form of glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose. Additionally, foods rich in simple carbohydrates include processed and refined sugars like candy, table sugar, syrups, and soft drinks.
Complex carbohydrates are prevalent in grains, beans/legumes, and vegetables. These carbohydrates are digested more slowly, resulting in a slower and steadier release of glucose into the bloodstream.
It’s worth noting that the meat and cheese group doesn’t significantly contribute to carbohydrates in your meal, meaning they don’t directly affect blood glucose levels. However, they can indirectly affect blood glucose by increasing insulin resistance due to their saturated fat content.
To gain a clearer understanding of your daily dietary choices, consider keeping a food log where you document the composition of your meal plate. Alternatively, you can take pictures of your plate for at least three days. This practice will help you closely examine the portion and proportion of food groups in your meals.
Grains, vegetables, and protein should all feature on your plate in the correct proportions, ensuring your body receives the necessary energy and nutrients. To gauge the distribution of vegetables, grains, and protein on your plate, aim for an ideal proportion of 2:1:1 (50%, 25%, 25%).
Here’s a breakdown of how to structure your plate for optimal health:
Emphasize Vegetables: Make vegetables the star of your meal, occupying half of your plate.
Choose Whole Grains: Allocate a quarter of your plate to whole grains.
Prioritize Protein: Dedicate another quarter of your plate to protein sources
The portion sizes of the foods you consume not only impact your calorie intake but also your post-meal rise in blood glucose. Establish your calorie target. Are you aiming to lose weight or maintain your current weight? You may use a calorie calculator, such as the Mifflin–St. Jeor formula, to estimate your daily calorie needs. Keep in mind that consuming fewer than 1,200 to 1,500 kcal/day for women and 1,500 to 1,800 kcal/day for men is generally not recommended, as it may lead to inadequate nutrient intake.
Note: The task of understanding what to eat and how much to consume can be challenging. Discuss with your registered dietitian for assistance based on your preferences and eating habits.