Diabetic Diets – Consistency and Variety

It may sound like a hard thing to do – be consistent and have variety in your diet at the
same time.  But it is possible and it is the best way to control your diabetes with your
diet.  The consistency comes in at specific meal times and the same servings from the
different food groups.  And the variety refers to trying as many different foods in the food
groups as you can.

It can be easy to find a few meals that work well with your blood sugars and are easy to
prepare and just stick with them.  You are more than likely to get bored with this and you
probably aren’t getting all of the nutrients you need from a set amount of foods.

Whether you are on the carbohydrate counting diet or the exchange diet, you have a lot of
room for flexibility.  You can combine different foods together for something new or try
foods you have never had before.  You can meet with your dietician to get additional
ideas for recipes and other foods that you can eat to add more variety to your diet.

There will be times that you try a new food and your blood sugars are higher as a result. 
Think back about anything else that you had done differently that day – less activity or
taking your insulin later than usual.  If the new food is the only change you experienced
talk to your dietician.  You may be able to prepare the food differently or eat it with
something else or you may have to avoid that food if it doesn’t work for your diabetic
diet.

Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean that you can’ be adventurous and try
something new, just do it at regular meal times and within the recommended portion
sizes.
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Carbohydrate Counting Diet

Carbohydrates a very big impact on blood glucose levels as they are converted to sugar
by the body in the process of turning the food into energy.  Too many carbohydrate
servings can increase blood sugar levels.  It is important for a diabetic to control the
number of carbohydrates that are eaten at each meal and balance the carbohydrates with
protein while limiting fat intake.

In this type of meal plan foods are grouped into three different categories:  carbohydrates,
proteins, and fats.  The majority of foods that you eat contain carbohydrates and this will
be the largest food group.  Foods in this group include:

*    Grains – breads, crackers, rice, cereal, pasta
*    Dairy – milk, yogurt
*    Vegetables that are considered starchy – corn, peas, and potatoes
*    The rest of the vegetable family
*    Fruit, including fruit juices
*    Desserts and other treats – chosen in limited amounts

This diet will require you to measure your foods for serving sizes and read food labels to
determine how many servings are carbohydrates it should be counted as.  It is standard to
consider 15 grams of carbohydrates as one serving.  For instance, if you are having
crackers as a snack and are allowed one serving of carbohydrates you would look at the
food label to figure out how many crackers you can have.  If the serving size is 20
crackers and that equals 30 grams of carbohydrates, for a diabetic that would be
considered two servings.  In this example, you would half the serving size and eat 10
crackers to equal 15 grams of carbohydrates.

After some time and experience you will become adept at counting carbohydrates and
knowing what foods work well with your blood glucose levels and what ones don’t.  No
two diabetics respond the same way to every food, you will need to learn what your own
ideal diabetic diet is.
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Benefits of the Exchange Diet

The exchange diet is one that allows you to pick and choose the foods you eat from each
of the six food groups based on portion sizes.  When you begin eating with this diet, it
may seem like a lot of work but as you get used to the portions sizes and the common
substitutions that you make it will get easier.

One of the benefits of the exchange diet it the flexibility you have in your meal planning. 
As long as you are eating the correct number of exchanges from each food group you will
maintain better control of your blood glucose levels. 

If you get bored quite easily by eating the same food day in and day out, the exchange
diet might be for you.  There are endless possibilities to combine different foods together
at meal times.  You can have broccoli for dinner three nights in a row but make it a
completely different meal each time.  One night you can have one small potato, ½ cup of
steamed broccoli and a one ounce pork chop; the second night have ½ cup of cooked
pasta tossed with ½ cup of broccoli and one ounce of cooked chicken; and the third night
try 1/3 cup of rice mixed with ½ cup of broccoli and one ounce of lean ground beef. 

The exchange diet also takes the guess work out of meal planning for diabetics.  It is laid
out in a very straight forward and easy to understand manner.  If there are foods that you
cannot find on the exchange list given to you by your dietician, call and find out which
group it belongs too and what a proper portion size is. 

At first you should weigh and measure your foods to ensure you are using the proper
amounts but as time passes you will be able to do this by sight.
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