How a dietitian can support you in diabetes management
An individualized assessment by a registered dietitian will take into account your food preferences, eating schedule and cultural background.
- A dietitian will meet with you for a shared conversation about opportunities to enhance your eating habits to help improve your blood sugar control, and/or improve other diet related health issues like high blood cholesterol or high blood pressure.
- By the end of the visit, one or more food-related goals will be agreed upon, and if appropriate, a follow-up visit will be scheduled to continue the conversation about reaching desired health goals.
Learn more about some of the basics of diabetes nutrition below.
An easy way to think about meal planning for diabetes is to follow the “plate method.” At lunch and dinner try to eat off of a plate that is nine inches or less in diameter and divide the plate as follows:
- Fill one-half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables
- Use one-quarter of the plate for your portion of protein about the size of the palm of your hand
- Finally, balance out one-quarter of the plate with your serving(s) of carbohydrate
Starches and sugars are examples of carbohydrates and have the most significant impact on your blood sugar. Blood sugar raising carbohydrates include starches in bread, rice, potatoes, and beans, and sugars in fruits, milk, candies, and sweet desserts. Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli and spinach minimally raise blood sugar, so eat these liberally! Eating moderate amounts of carbohydrate at meals and snacks is an important part of good blood sugar control. When you meet with a registered dietitian you will be provided with advice on how much carbohydrate you should be eating at meals and snacks.
Dietary protein provides the building blocks for muscles, blood, new tissue and is part of a healthy eating plan for someone with diabetes. Foods that are considered proteins include: fish, poultry, beef, pork, eggs, cheese and cottage cheese. Choose lean meats like poultry with no skin. If you like fish/seafood, try to eat it twice a week or more. Try to limit your protein portions to about 3-4 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards) at lunch and dinner.
Fat in a diet provides food with flavor and texture and helps you to feel full when you eat. Examples of fats include: vegetable oils, avocado, nuts, mayonnaise, butter and cream. In general, fats that are solid at room temperature (stick margarine, butter, lard, vegetable shortening, chicken skin, coconut oil) are not good for your blood cholesterol levels. Healthy fats include soft tub and liquid margarines, salad dressings, vegetable oils, avocados and nuts. Be careful not to overdo fats. Even healthy fats can cause weight gain, if too much is consumed.
All sugars whether they are natural: fruit, fruit juice, milk, or processed sugars: soda pop, hard candy, raise blood sugar. People with diabetes do not have to avoid sugar, but they need to factor sugar into how much carbohydrate they are having. For example, a 12 ounce can of regular soda pop has almost as much carbohydrate as three slices of whole wheat bread.
Sugar free foods
The words “sugar free” do not always mean “carbohydrate free.” While a stick of sugar free gum won’t raise anyone’s blood sugar, a serving of sugar free cookies or sugar free pudding will probably raise one’s blood sugar. This is because sugar free cookies are made from flour, and sugar free pudding is made from milk, which are both blood sugar raising carbohydrates.
Liquors like vodka or whiskey do not have any carbohydrate. A serving of dry wine has very little carbohydrate, while regular beer does have carbohydrate, for example a 12 ounce bottle of regular beer has about the same amount of carbohydrate as one slice of bread. Although, beer can raise blood sugar, the tricky thing about alcohol is that it can make it harder to come out of a low blood sugar reaction compared to the same situation when no alcohol has been consumed. To be safe, when consuming alcohol, try to have it with food.