Following a strict diet plan is very important for a person with diabetes. Learn how to help them do it in this caregivers’ guide to diabetes nutrition.
A diabetic patient is advised to follow a strict diet plan and maintain the sugar level. But it is no wonder that a diet plan which promotes fiber-rich food and removes carbohydrates is difficult to follow.
It might be possible that a diabetic patient would struggle with unavailable supplies or food allergies. Some might want to keep a distance from the taste of broccoli or low-fat milk. Or, there can be cases when some cannot resist the sweet cravings at an odd hour.
The Harvard School of Public Health claims that a healthy diet plan and a healthy lifestyle can help 9 out of 10 diabetic patients in the US. However, having a diet that helps one take everything on the plate without compromising on taste will definitely make the diet plan easy both for patients and the caregiver.
This article will guide you with a few tips which will help someone maintain a healthy diet in the right quantity, make lifestyle changes and adopt precautions for successfully fighting diabetes.
How Important is Nutrition for Diabetes?
Nutrition is an important aspect of managing a diabetic treatment. There are various types of nutrition, and some have their own advantages and disadvantages. But as a caregiver, it is important to know how much a diabetic patient eats and at what frequency.
Healthy nutrition affects the body positively. Our body is able to fight the harm caused by diabetes if we take in the right foods.
How Our Body Processes Glucose
Our body builds up glucose (also known as sugar) from the food we eat, which is then transmitted to the bloodstream.
For regular transmission of glucose, the body produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps break down the glucose so that it can go into various cells of the body and supply energy.
When our body fails to produce insulin, the glucose level increases, and this is known as high blood sugar or diabetes. The American Diabetes Association identifies how our blood sugar level fluctuates in a normal state to that of the range that occurs before and after eating.
Normally, the sugar readings remain at 100 mg. In comparison, the blood glucose level can fluctuate anywhere from 70-100 mg before a meal and 100-140 mg after a meal.
For this reason, it is important to be aware of the right foods to direct your services as a caregiver. However, you cannot directly persuade someone to follow a diet plan.
In most cases, either the person will do just the opposite or may become hesitant to be open with you. Following are some of the nutrition advantages that you must understand and explain to your diabetic patient.
Without proper nutrition, diabetes can wreak havoc on the body.
Diabetes has an adverse impact on your body irrespective of age, gender, and weight. From cardiovascular diseases like a heart attack or stroke to painful infections in the feet, the loss of blood flow can hamper your daily activities to the extreme.
For this reason, it is important to serve a well-balanced diet combined with good portions of proteins, fiber, and vitamins to help the body react strongly to adverse health problems.
The right diet plan helps manage blood glucose levels.
For a caregiver, the most important step to managing diabetes treatment is to check on fluctuating blood sugar levels.
You can help your patient recover quickly as the body receives a good amount of nutrients with good nutrition. This will automatically control the increased blood sugar and improve the circulation to a normal range.
Achieve ideal weight
Diabetes exists in two types: Type 1 and Type 2. Both have a different impact on the weight of the individual
In Type1 diabetes, the body fails to produce insulin hormone at all, which disturbs glucose circulation. Thus, the body reacts differently to the unwanted sugar, and this makes a person pass urine frequently. As a result, the body gets dehydrated to a level that causes a person to lose weight.
On the other hand, in Type 2 diabetes, your pancreas produces insulin, but the body is unable to use it properly to convert glucose to energy. This condition is known as insulin resistance.
In this case, the higher the glucose level, the harder the pancreas works to produce insulin. But glucose still continues to build up, and this is what causes weight gain. By taking in the right amount of sugar in your diet and through regular exercise, you can stop the build-up of glucose in your bloodstream.
In both cases, taking a healthy diet will help one achieve ideal weight.
Planning Before a Meal
A well-planned diet is one of the most important steps to fight diabetes to the core. Unfortunately, it is often overlooked as people assume that a person with diabetes will always follow the said diet advice, with or without the choice.
As a matter of precaution, a caregiver must follow a pre-planned diet to manage things easier: to be aware of patients’ needs and allergies and be confident of passing the right knowledge to their patients.
Talk to a dietary specialist.
As a caregiver, you must be aware of the three most important things beforehand: Knowledge about a dietary expert, the services, and the diet plan.
With easy and effective communication and the right nutritionist advice, you will be able to deliver your best services without compromising on your patients’ choices.
- Consult a registered dietician or any nutrition expert of your choice.
- Have a discussion regarding the meeting in advance. This can be done either online or in person, whichever looks convenient for both of you.
- Gain knowledge about your patient in terms of current sugar level and specific food allergies to avoid being numb during the appointment.
- Ask your doctor to suggest a specific diet plan as per the age, weight, and diabetic disease. Also, make sure that you keep a note of their daily eating habits. This will ensure that the doctor plans a list of meals in terms of how much nutrients are needed and what needs to be avoided.
Perform your role as a caregiver
When you are finally accustomed to the diet plan, it is important to make your client understand everything about the diet.
- Know the right foods to eat. We will mention some of these in later sections.
- Check for food labels. They contain the total amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fibers, or fats. This will be helpful if you know how much nutrients your client needs.
- Please talk about the benefits of consuming a particular nutrient and try to make some healthy (but tasty) dishes out of them.
- Know the importance of each nutrient and make your client aware of the benefits. For example, you can say that broccoli has 300 grams of protein and 200 grams of fiber, which is helpful to treat diabetes.
Schedule a Diet plan
If you are sure that a specific diet plan will work best for your clients’ needs, it is important to understand how to schedule a diabetes diet. Check on the number of days, time, and frequency that goes well to your client’s needs.
You should also ask them if a certain variety of food needs to be changed, added, or removed from the diet chart.
Ideal Food for Diabetes
Certain foods and drink supplements do wonders to the body, irrespective of any disease. But for diabetes treatment, it is important to acknowledge the importance of every food in your diet plan.
While some foods are rich in nutrients and vitamins, you can cut down the other varieties of foods for unwanted sugars and unhealthy fats.
It is often said that proteins are one of the most important nutrients to maintain a healthy body. Having protein-rich foods is a key to living a life free of diseases for both diabetic and non-diabetic people.
In the context of diabetes and other serious health diseases, it is important to have foods that maximize the lost energy. You can have proteins from the following foods:
- Chicken without skin: It has less fat and improves cholesterol.
- Fish: Particularly the ones with high omega-three fatty acids, which offer healthy fat to keep your sugar to a low level.
- Cheese and other Dairy products: Look for less-saturated fat in cheese or try not to eat too much of it. For the other dairy products like milk, avoid full-fat milk and opt for the one with no or mild fat.
- Soy products: Unarguably, a great option for protein-rich foods is tempeh, tofu, and soybeans, amongst others.
Apart from proteins, it would be best if you opted for fiber-rich foods, especially for those who struggle with serious cardiovascular diseases.
Since diabetes increases cholesterol and blood pressure at the same time, there is evidence that suggests that adding a few kilograms of fiber is essential. Fiber slows down the processing of sugar, making sure that the body is able to absorb most of it in the bloodstream.
Apart from that, both soluble and insoluble fiber helps the body absorb healthy fats without adding weight. For diabetes, it is advisable to get fiber from the foods listed below:
- Oats: Whether you are opting for whole-grain oats or oat bran, try to have at least a quarter-size portion regularly.
- Lentils and Wholegrain Cereals: Lentils and whole-grain cereals are major soluble and insoluble fiber sources. Have them regularly for an energetic start to the day.
- Whole Grain Bread: Avoid starchy bread that can hamper the cholesterol level.
- Fruits and Vegetables: For fruit intake, offer oranges, apples, and bananas. Although being a carbohydrate food, you can consume it within a limit.
People think that carbohydrates are harmful to diabetic patients as they contain sugar and starch, which can make one gain weight. Fortunately, there are some good carbs that will boost your health to fight heart diseases.
As per the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, almost 95% of Americans fail to receive proper nutrients. Food items that are rich in carbs from monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats or low in sugar are the key.
- Any kind of fruit will be helpful to treat Type1 or Type2 diabetes. Fruits contain a high amount of fiber when eaten raw, which helps to absorb the sugar in them.
- There are foods like broccoli, cauliflower, green peas, corn, or sweet potatoes, etc., which have healthy carbohydrates with less starch for fresh veggies.
- Whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain barley, or whole-grain rice like brown rice are good options for healthy carbohydrates. Make sure to avoid refined or fried foods that can trigger the body to react differently.
- As a matter of precaution, it is best to keep a count on daily carbohydrates and plan for the next day. This will minimize the chances of over-consumption of sugar-enriched carbs.
Sugary drinks and sodas have given most drinks a bad name as far as people with diabetes are concerned. However, these are some things that you can consume:
- As far as healthy drinks are concerned, water is one of the major sources to get your body all the essential nutrients. Start with plain mineral water or add lemon, herbs, or raspberries for a flavorful taste.
- One can try sugar-free green or black tea in beverages and sip over herbal tea made of chamomile, peppermint, or even ginger, for safe options.
Some Key Precautions
There are a few precautions to consider for eating a healthy diet. Some of the most important aspects are:
- No matter what you consume, it is important to take note of the portion size. Having proteins and fibers in good portions is a good start, but you should avoid bad carbohydrates and sodium at all costs.
- Drink plenty of water after each meal.
- Restrain from eating fried junk, full-fat dishes, sugars, or anything that contains sugar and refined grains.
- Apart from the healthy diabetes meal plan, take some effort to exercise regularly.
Portion control is another very important aspect of ensuring the right amount of nutrition in the right quantity so that you can manage your blood sugar levels. One important method for diet control is the “Plate method.” A sample meal plan in this method looks like this:
- Add low-starch vegetables to half your plate.
- Add lean proteins (such as skinless chicken) to a quarter of your plate
- Add carb-rich foods to the remaining quarter
- Top it off with water or any other drink with low sugar content
Understanding GI/GL for Food Items
Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load are indicators of the glucose content of foods.
People use these indicators to assess whether a food item will spike up their blood sugar levels or not.
Glycemic Index divides foods into three categories on a scale of 1-100:
- Low: <55.
- Medium: 56–69
- High: 70+
Ideally, it would be best if you tried to consume foods only from the low and medium categories.
Glycemic Load is another indicator that focuses on the sugar content in a food item and how easily the sugar is absorbed in the blood. Thus food items with higher fiber content will have a low GL even if they have a high GI because the sugar will not be easily absorbed.
Glycemic load considers portion size as well as GI. For example, watermelon may have a high GI overall, but one single serving of it does not usually have a lot of carbs (watermelon is 90% water), so it has a comparatively low GL.
A diabetes meal plan not only helps in managing diabetes but also avoids other serious health risks. If proteins and fibers help people recover from cardiovascular or heart disease, carbohydrates and vitamins help strengthen bones and muscles and posture problems.
We hope you found this diabetes nutrition guide useful for your service as a caregiver. Please don’t hesitate to spread the word among your peers and friends if you like the guide.