What is diabetic diet?

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Diabetic renal diet: Overview

Your food choices are important when you have diabetes and kidney disease. Planning meals that have the right amount of carbohydrate, protein, and other nutrients can help keep your blood sugar in your target range and help your kidneys work as well as possible.

Your doctor and dietitian will help you make an eating plan. It will be based on your medical condition. For example, you may need to limit salt, fluids, and protein. You also may need to limit minerals such as potassium and phosphorus. It takes planning, but there are plenty of tasty, healthy foods you can eat. Always talk with your doctor or dietitian before you make changes in your diet.

Diabetes: How can you find out what's keeping you from healthy eating?

Many things can get in the way of healthy eating. To get past these barriers, ask yourself what makes healthy eating hard for you. Then think of some possible solutions, and pick one you'd like to try. For example, you may want to find new recipes online or freeze meals you can eat later.

What meal plan is right for you if you have diabetes?

Your dietitian or diabetes educator may suggest that you start with the plate method or carbohydrate counting.

The plate method

The plate method is an easy way to plan meals. You divide your plate into sections for vegetables, proteins, and carbohydrates. This can help you manage the amount of carbohydrate you eat. It can make it easier to keep your blood sugar level within your target range.

To use the plate method, put non-starchy vegetables on half your plate. These include vegetables like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, mushrooms, peppers, salad greens, and tomatoes. Add lean protein foods—such as lean meats and poultry, fish, tofu, nuts, and eggs— on a fourth of the plate. Put carbohydrate foods—such as grains, fruit, yogurt and milk, and starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, and beans—on the final fourth of the plate. Choose water or another low-calorie beverage to drink with your meal.

Here are some tips for using the plate method:

  • Make sure that you are not using an oversized plate. A 9-inch plate is best.
  • Get used to using the plate method at home. Then you can use it when you eat out. Keep in mind that many restaurants use larger plates, so you may need to adjust your portions.
  • Write down your questions about using the plate method. Talk to your doctor, a dietitian, or a diabetes educator about your concerns.

Carbohydrate counting

With carbohydrate counting, you plan meals based on the amount of carbohydrate in each food. Carbohydrate raises blood sugar higher and more quickly than any other nutrient. It is found in desserts, breads and cereals, and fruit. It's also found in starchy vegetables such as potatoes and corn, grains such as rice and pasta, and milk and yogurt. You can help keep your blood sugar levels within your target range by planning how much carbohydrate to have at meals and snacks.

The amount you need depends on several things. These include your weight, how active you are, which diabetes medicines you take, and what your goals are for your blood sugar levels. A registered dietitian or diabetes educator can help you plan how much carbohydrate to include in each meal and snack.

An example of a carbohydrate counting plan is:

  • 45 to 60 grams at each meal. That's about the same as 3 to 4 carbohydrate servings.
  • 15 to 20 grams at each snack. That's about the same as 1 carbohydrate serving.

The Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods tells you how much carbohydrate is in a serving of the food. First, look at the serving size on the food label. Is that the amount you eat in a serving? All of the nutrition information on a food label is based on that serving size. So if you eat more or less than that, you'll need to adjust the other numbers. Total carbohydrate is the next thing you need to look for on the label. If you count carbohydrate servings, one serving of carbohydrate is 15 grams.

For foods that don't come with labels, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, you'll need a guide that lists carbohydrate in these foods. Ask your doctor, dietitian, or diabetes educator about books or other nutrition guides you can use.

If you take insulin, you need to know how many grams of carbohydrate are in a meal. This lets you know how much rapid-acting insulin to take before you eat. If you use an insulin pump, you get a constant rate of insulin during the day. So the pump must be programmed at meals to give you extra insulin to cover the rise in blood sugar after meals.

When you know how much carbohydrate you will eat, you can take the right amount of insulin. Or, if you always use the same amount of insulin, you need to make sure that you eat the same amount of carbohydrate at meals.

If you need more help to understand carbohydrate counting and food labels, ask your doctor, dietitian, or diabetes educator.

How can you plan healthy meals when you have diabetes?

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Plan your meals a week at a time. Don't forget to include snacks too.
  • Use cookbooks or online recipes to plan several main meals. Plan some quick meals for busy nights. You also can double some recipes that freeze well. Then you can save half for other busy nights when you don't have time to cook.
  • Make sure you have the ingredients you need for your recipes. If you're running low on basic items, put these items on your shopping list too.
  • List foods that you use to make breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. List plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Post this list on the refrigerator. Add to it as you think of more things you need.
  • Take the list to the store to do your weekly shopping.

Your doctor or diabetes educator can tell you about resources that can help you get the food you need. Make sure to talk to them if either of the next two statements have ever been “true” or “sometimes true.”

  • "Within the past 12 months, we worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more."
  • "Within the past 12 months, the food we bought just didn't last, and we didn't have money to get more."

Why plan your meals if you have diabetes?

Meal planning can be a key part of managing diabetes. Planning meals and snacks with the right balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat can help you keep your blood sugar at the target level you set with your doctor.

You don't have to eat special foods. You can eat what your family eats, including sweets once in a while. But you do have to pay attention to how often you eat and how much you eat of certain foods.

You may want to work with a dietitian or a diabetes educator. They can give you tips and meal ideas and can answer your questions about meal planning. This health professional can also help you reach a healthy weight if that is one of your goals.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.