Dietary management is important for people with Diabetes Mellitus (DM) for blood glucose control and the prevention or delay of the onset of complications. Some people may have mistaken dietary management as dieting. Instead, the diet for people with DM is based on a balanced diet, which if coupled with the proper modifications, can be full of variety in food selections.
1. Eat Regular Meals and Consistent Portions
Eating regular meals and consistent portions of carbohydrates at each meal and snack can help people with DM to maintain their blood glucose levels at more desirable levels. Excessive food intakes should be avoided as they can lead to hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) and complications associated with elevated blood glucose levels. On the other hand, eating too little can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and cause harmful effects on health.
2. Follow a Balanced Diet
Eating a balanced diet means selecting a variety of foods from different food groups, namely grains, vegetables, fruits, meat and beans, and dairy products every day in appropriate portions, and reducing the intakes of fat, sugar, and sodium, as recommended by the Healthy Eating Food Pyramid.
3. Eat More Fibre-Rich Foods
People with DM should select more fibre-rich foods according to the principle of healthy eating. Dietary fibre can be in the forms of soluble and insoluble fibre. Foods which are rich in soluble fibre include oatmeal, fruits, and dried beans; foods rich in insoluble fibre include whole wheat bread, vegetables, and fruits.
4. Use Healthy Cooking Methods
Using healthy cooking methods can cut down the amount of fat, sugar, and sodium in the diet:
5. Follow Own Meal Plan
All kinds of carbohydrates, including starch, fructose, and lactose, can affect blood glucose levels and should be evenly distributed in meals and snacks for blood glucose control. The common meal planning approaches are as follows:
People with DM can incorporate different kinds of carbohydrate-rich foods into their meal plan using the "Carbohyrate Exchange System". The system emphasizes the importance of the overall nutritional content of foods and encourages consistency in the timing and amount of the meals and snacks. There is the need to understand the concept of "exchanging foods". The advice of dietitians can be sought on ways to use this system. The following examples show how different foods of similar carbohydrate content can be exchanged:
If 10g of carbohydrate is eaten as snack, each of the following
that contains 10 g of carbohydrate can be exchanged:
1 slice of wheat bread (thin cut, crust trimmed)
= 4 soda crackers
= 1 small fruit (e.g. 1 small orange, small pear, kiwifruit)
If 50g of carbohydrate is eaten for a meal, each of the following
that contains 50g of carbohydrate can be exchanged:
1 bowl* of rice, cooked (about 5 Tbsp)
= 12/3 bowl* of spaghetti, cooked
= 1 baked potato, medium (about 240 g)
*1 bowl =300 ml
The following foods are high in carbohydrates and may require the use of carbohydrate exchanges:
The "Carbohydrate Counting System" is another way of incorporating different kinds of carbohydrate-rich foods into the meal plan. To use this system, people with DM need to become familiar with the carbohydrate content of foods. The total carbohydrate allotment for the day must also be known. It is important not to lose sight of the overall nutritional quality of foods when counting the carbohydrates in foods. If no attention is paid to the overall nutritional quality of foods, the diet may end up being high in fat or sodium. People with DM should follow a balanced diet which is low in fat, sugar, sodium, and high in dietary fibre. The advice of dietitians can be sought on ways to use this system.