The current advice for anyone following a diabetic diet is to base it on the same principles of healthy eating that apply to everyone, whether they suffer from diabetes or not. The difference for people with diabetes is that they need to monitor their blood sugar levels much more carefully.
As our diet plan review explains, until recently there was a special Diabetic diet, but more recent medical research suggests that the previously prescribed Diabetic diet put undue focus on carbohydrates.
Controlling blood sugar levels controls diabetes. Until recently, diet meal plans for people with diabetes revolved around the amount and timing of carbohydrate intake. Every carbohydrate was allocated a value per portion, known as the 'exchange'. Diet meal plans were calculated by the number of 'exchanges' each carbohydrate food contained. A slice of wholemeal bread contains 10g of carbohydrate. This counts as one 'exchange'. So if your daily allowance is 200g of carbohydrate, that means 20 exchanges per day.
However, this exchange system is no longer followed, because carbohydrate is not the only food type that the body breaks down into glucose. Everything you eat has some energy value, and protein and fat are also partly converted to glucose, so any system of calculation needs to take everything you eat into consideration, not just carbohydrate.
It is particularly important for people with diabetes to avoid becoming overweight, because they don't have the ability to counterbalance overeating by producing extra insulin to manage their blood sugar level. Here is a recipe for healthy eating with diabetes:
- Eat regular meals
- Eat little or no high-sugar foods
- Eat less fat
- Eat less salt
- Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day
- Drink alcohol only in moderation