One of the first things you have to do if you are diagnosed with diabetes—or any number of other chronic conditions—is to modify your diet.
If you’re like me, you’re probably picturing one or more of your favorite guilty pleasures, flying off into the sunset, buoyed by gigantic, slowly flapping wings. I saw entire flocks of food choices making that journey, because just about everything I enjoyed was not carb-friendly: bread, pizza, cookies, cake, assorted types of crackers, key lime pie…
It is true: you will no longer be able to gorge on any of those things. But you don’t have to entirely give them up, either. You will learn an important concept as you manage your diabetes or heart health or try to reduce your risk of cancer: moderation. You just have to plan for departures from your diet and generally eat a lot smarter on a daily basis.
You will also learned there are a lot of similarities between what nutritionists suggest for a diabetic-friendly diet and a heart healthy diet, or a diet generally designed to help you lose weight. The difference will be on the emphasis. It will also vary for the individual.
For our purposes here, we’ll concentrate on the carbohydrate/protein balance. I was advised to shoot for a diet of about 1,800-2,000 calories that included 72 grams of protein daily.
“The goal,” said my Oakwood-affiliated nutritionist, “is to not get that much from animals.”
Dietary fiber is also important; it helps fill you up and it takes longer to break down, which leads to only a gradual increase in blood glucose levels.
The first step is to pay attention to nutrition labels. Consider a serving of carbohydrates to be about 15 grams and shoot for two servings at breakfast, three-to-four at lunch and dinner and a snack with one serving of carbohydrates between major meals. Don’t bother with anything with a gram or less of dietary fiber and remember to add a protein source with all meals—even snacks. Eat a piece of low-fat string cheese with your three cups of popcorn at night, for example.
For your larger meals, you may think the best way to go is to load up on the protein and reduce—or eliminate—carbohydrates all together, but that’s not the case. Remember, you’re trying to find the right balance and moderation. Try to limit yourself to 3-4 ounces of meat, preferably something lean like fish or poultry, and make up the balance with vegetables or a small piece of fruit (or both).
I would be more specific, but I didn’t want to make this entry too long. Besides, what works for me may not work for you and what doesn’t work for me may work for you. You can also, by the way, find some meal planning tips here.
The second step is to be patient. It will take plenty of experimenting to find the right mix for you. This is, in fact, the second time I’ve tried to follow these recommendations. The first time my body had a completely adverse reaction to it. But I’m doing things differently now, exercising more and paying more attention to the amount of dietary fiber I combine with my meals. Perhaps this time it’ll be different. It’s a complex carbohydrate world out there, and it’ll take time to find your way.