Planning Your Diabetic Menu

(If you searched for diabetic menu on a search engine, but really wanted recipes for a menu - check the diabetes recipes I'm collecting here.)

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When you are first diagnosed the diabetic menu you adopt is important. It's not just - as so many people think - a case of not eating sugar or cakes or other sweet things.

One of the first puzzles you may come across - especially if you've not taken much interest in what you eat, other than "Do I like the taste of this?" - is understanding what you can and can't eat - and why.

You need to take full control of what you eat; fats, protein, sugars and carbohydrate.

Carbohydrates are one of the most important things you need to understand as a diabetic. Your nutrionist may well tell you "You need to watch your carbohydrate intake in your diabetic menu".

So what is a carbohydrate?

Carbohydrate - in Brief:

Carbohydrates give your body the energy, or fuel, it needs to function properly. They supply essential vitamins and minerals as well as fiber and sugars.

There are two types of carbohydrates; simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are in foods such as fruit sugar, corn or grape sugar and table sugar. They are single-sugar molecules. Complex carbohydrates are the foods that contain three or more linked sugars.

When I was first diagnosed as a diabetic I used to check the labels on food I was buying to see what amount of the total carbohydrate content had the simple sugars. They were easy to count and check and gave a way of avoiding too much sugar in my blood. Research has now shown that it is far more complicated than that though.

This is because the carbohydrate is broken down, as far as possible, by your digestive system into its most simple form - single-molecule sugars. These are then converted into glucose in your bloodstream and absorbed into the body's cells to create energy.

(That's the job of the insulin produced by your pancreas - or at least it would be if our pancreas was working properly!). The only exception to this process is fiber - which cannot be digested at all.

Foods containing carbohydrates that are easily digested - such as white bread - convert almost straight away into blood sugar - creating spikes in your blood sugar levels.

This is not good news for you, as a diabetic.

Apart from sending your blood sugar through crazy peaks and troughs they are unlikely to help you with any weight loss you are trying to achieve.

Remember a consistent-carbohydrate diabetes meal plan, taking into account the glycemic index, is probably best for you - but do check with your personal diabetes nutritionists before settling on your diabetic menu.

The Glycemic Index...

The latest thinking in how carbohydrates are used by your body has resulted in what is known as the Glycemic Index (GI). This is a system that measures how fast and how far your blood sugars rise after you've eaten anything containing carbohydrate.

This is good news for you, as a diabetic, because it means you can have better control over what is happening with your blood-sugars.

To give you an example; I said that white bread releases the simple carbohydrate (the single sugar molecule) very quickly. It has a high glycemic index because it spikes your blood-sugar so rapidly. On the other hand, brown rice releases the sugar molecules very steadily because it is digested more slowly. So this has a low GI, creating a gradual increase in blood sugars which is safer. If you'd like to know what the GI is for food you are eating in your diabetic diet, you can check the searchable database maintained by the University of Sydney. And the good news - it's completely free to access. Click here to check the Glycemic Index of your favorite food.

Your Diabetic Menu Plan

Resist the temptation to ignore warnings about what you eat. A healthy diabetic menu plan is crucial to your well-being. Here are some pointers to think about when planning your diabetic menu:

  • Make sure you have a healthy eating plan, which includes grains, vegetables, fruit and moderate portions of meat, sweets and fats.

  • Be careful about going overboard on fruits. Some fruits have a high glycemic index - they are high in natural sugar - and this could affect your blood sugars adversely.

  • Eat a variety of foods. Variety is good for you and it means you wont get bored with eating the same thing day-in day-out. You don't want your diabetic menu to become tedious. (Check the diabetes recipes I've gathered together from various sources. And if you share your favorite recipe you'll be entered in my monthly prize draw).

  • Drink plenty of water. The recommendation is at least 8 glasses of water every day. That may seem a awful lot of water, but if you have a glass or bottle of water to hand and just sip constantly throughout the day, you'll be surprised how much you do drink.

  • Reduce the amount of fat you eat; choose fewer high-fat foods and avoid cooking in fat. Grilling or baking is healthier.

  • Avoid high sugar content foods such as fruit juices, fruit flavored drinks and sugar to sweeten hot drinks.

  • Aim to eat smaller portions - especially if you are overweight. But don't skip meals as a way to reduce your weight. You'll throw your sugar levels all over the place.

  • Be sparing with the alcohol you drink, and if you do have a drink, have it with a meal. It's not a good idea to drink on an empty stomach. And that applies whether or not you are a diabetic.

You can find out more about creating a healthy diabetic menu plan and learn about the Diabetes Food Pyramid that shows you the proportions of different foods you should include in your diabetic menu - just click here

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