Diet Guide & Principles
Living with type 2 diabetes is not an easy feat. Add to that the hype around ‘Clean Eating’ which can easily overwhelm any diabetic with all the restrictions it poses. It’s true that living well with diabetes type 2 starts with the right diet plan. However, it doesn’t have to be an everyday challenge to figure out what to eat to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Let’s look at what should be a good diet plan for diabetics.
Let me simplify this. A good type 2 diabetes diet plan ensures that you get:
It’s imperative that you understand it’s not just sugars that are responsible for elevated blood sugar. All carbohydrates get broken down into sugars. For this reason, choosing the right source of carb is an essential part of your diabetes diet plan. Vegetables and fruits are the right sources of carbs for any diabetic. Refined carbohydrates with a high glycemic index are best avoided, as the body readily transforms them into simple sugars. When choosing grains, complex carbohydrates are better choices. Brown rice, quinoa, barley, steel-cut oats, whole-wheat breads, buckwheat, and millets are some examples of complex carbohydrates.
Here at Sepalika, we highly recommend a LCHF or Low Carb-High Fat diet to reverse diabetes, coupled with intermittent fasting. Together, these help increase insulin sensitivity and keep blood sugar stable all through the day.
We cannot stress on this point enough. Stick to three meals a day at the most, and aim for a 10-12 hour fasting period between dinner and breakfast. Forget that hogwash about eating frequently to keep your blood sugar in check. Your body NEEDS a break between the three meals of the day, so it can get sensitive to insulin again. Let your body burn fat for energy between meals.
At this point, we would like to add that changing your diet to reverse diabetes is a lifelong commitment, and it’s not as difficult as it may sound. We get it — we all have been eating way too many carbs for decades (probably the main reason Diabetes Type 2 is a global epidemic now!). And so we cannot imagine a life that asks us to cut back on these. But it can be done. It takes a little getting used to. But if you make sure that your diabetes diet has the good fats your body needs, it will respond by learning to use fats, instead of craving sugar.
Now that we have run through the basics of a good diabetes diet plan, let’s discuss how you can start eating the right way. Once you understand the basic rules, there are 3 ways you can make the transition to a healthier eating style. Do consult a dietician to discuss your specific health conditions and arrive at the best eating strategy for you.
This is a simple strategy that will ensure you fill up your plate with the right kind of carbohydrates. Recommended by the American Diabetes Association, it revolves around designing your plate by:
We don’t support the idea of calorie counting at all. Not all calories are designed equal. You cannot equate 200 calories coming from a grilled chicken breast to those coming from a bag of chips. Period.
But for those who are new to eating a low-carb diet, the idea of counting carbohydrates does make sense. Why? Because all carbs break down into glucose, so they have the greatest impact on your blood glucose level.
So it makes sense to keep a close eye on your carbohydrate intake to keep your blood sugar at healthy levels.
While the American Diabetes Association still recommends 135–230 grams of carbs per day for diabetics, we believe this number is way too high. Limiting your carbohydrate intake to 30-50gm per day is a good way to stabilize blood sugar and help lose weight, which highly benefits diabetics. It also helps improve heart health markers in people with diabetes, and forms the basis of a LCHF diet.
A study following a small group of obese patients with type 2 diabetes found that a low-carbohydrate diet (only 21grams/day) followed for 2 weeks resulted in much improved 24-hour blood glucose profiles, insulin sensitivity, and hemoglobin A1c. It also led to decreased plasma triglyceride and cholesterol levels. So low-carb diets do make A LOT of sense.
While carbohydrate counting may sound tricky in the beginning, soon you will get a hang of it. When starting this method, you will need to invest in kitchen weighing scales to get the portions right. Once you do this for a few weeks to months, you will intuitively be able to eat the right amounts of carbohydrates (from good, fiber-rich sources!) without having to measure out portions for every meal.
Following the Glycemic Index (GI) is another method to stabilize blood sugar levels through the right diabetes diet. What this method does is that it ranks all carbohydrates based on the way it affects blood sugar levels. Foods with low GI will not cause a spike in blood sugar, while those that are high on the GI list will. For your reference, a GI value of 70 or higher is considered high, 56—69 is considered medium, and 55 or lower is considered low.
While the GI method may sound easy in theory, it is not without its flaws. It fails to consider all variables that raise blood sugar, such as portion sizes and the cooking method. It also doesn’t pay any mind to the nutritional content of the foods. Many foods that are low in GI may not be the healthiest choice (hello potato chips!), whereas fruits which are high in GI (like watermelon) can easily be incorporated into a healthy diabetic diet plan.
A better idea is to instead check the Glycemic Load — which takes into consideration both the GI of a food and the amount of carbohydrate/portion size.
Read this article on choosing good carbs with the glycemic index by Harvard Health Publications if you’re interested in following the GI method.
Still wondering where to get started? To begin with, we highly recommend that you take into account your activity level. We have pre-designed 7 Day Diabetes Meal Plans for Sedentary, Moderately Active and Highly Active Lifestyles.
But for those who are already feeling overwhelmed with their diabetes diagnosis and don’t want to try on too much too soon — here is a simple, basic 3-day sample diabetic diet plan. It offers around 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day. Once you get started on the right track, you can delve further into activity levels and eating right for your activity level.
1 portion Oven Baked Eggs with Tomato Salsa
1 cup unsweetened Tea/Coffee
1 portion Easy Greek Salad
1 Apple, with peel
1 portion One-Pan Baked Chicken with Vegetables
1 slice Whole-Wheat Bread
1 portion Oatmeal with Chia Seeds
1 cup Coffee/Tea, unsweetened
1 portion Grilled Eggplant Panini
1 glass freshly-made Lemonade
1 portion Vegetable Stir Fry
1 cup Brown Rice, cooked
1 portion Courgette, Carrot & Tomato Frittata
1 cup of 1% Milk
1 portion Stuffed Peppers
1 cup Blueberries
1 portion Sole Fillets With Oranges
1 cup Tossed Mixed Green Salad with lettuce, spinach, cucumbers and tomatoes
Choose between a piece of fruit, a cup of carrot sticks or a handful of nuts if you must snack.
If you have Diabetes Type 2, it’s time to begin your journey towards a healthier YOU by changing the way you eat. Remember – incorporating a versatile variety of ‘foods found in nature’ is the most healthy and sustainable approach to managing diabetes.
Effect of a low-carbohydrate diet on appetite, blood glucose levels, and insulin resistance in obese patients with type 2 diabetes – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15767618
Choosing good carbs with the glycemic index – https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/choosing-good-carbs-with-the-glycemic-index