What Is a Diabetic Diet?

What is a diabetic diet?

Dictionary.com defines it as:

A diet for a diabetic person, with the aim of maintaining normal blood sugar levels.

The American Diabetes association takes it a step further:

A diabetes meal plan is a guide that tells you how much and what kinds of food (a diabetic) can choose to eat at meals and snack times.

When I was diagnosed I was told not to eat sugar. I was given a points system that helped me manage calories and portions. I was told how protein, fats and carbs worked. I was encouraged to eat vegetables and fruits.  But the basic gist was don’t eat sugar.

Times have changed. Most diabetic meal plans are aimed at Type 2 diabetics, although Type 1’s need to manage their food too. Sugar is allowed because all carbs affect the body the same, right? (Umm, wrong but I am parroting what I hear from newly diagnosed diabetics and some diabetes educators.)

Here’s a daily plan recommended for a diabetic from MayoClinic.com.

  • Breakfast. Whole-wheat pancakes or waffles, one piece of fruit, 1 cup of low-fat milk.
  • Lunch. Chicken kabob, 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli, 1/2 cup of cooked rice, 1/2 cup of juice.
  • Dinner. Pasta primavera prepared with broccoli, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash and Parmesan cheese, 1 cup of low-fat milk.
  • Snacks. Six homemade crispy corn tortilla chips, 1/2 cup fresh vegetables with a seasoned garlic sauce.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Where’s the protein? What’s up with all the carbs? I’m not anti-carb. Your body needs them. Your body just needs the right ones. A diabetic, and anyone else concerned about stable blood sugar levels, does not need frequent servings of rice, juice, chips or pasta.

Here’s what this diabetic chooses to eat instead. This is what I actually ate last week, on a normal Wednesday.

  • Breakfast: 1 cup Kashi Go Lean and ¼ cup dry roasted edamame.
  • Morning Snack: Luna Mini Smores (downed in 3 bites between training sessions. This snack is all about keeping my blood sugar up till lunch).
  • Lunch: Apricot Coconut Protein bar (Oxygen Magazine recipe), apple, Primal Strips Seitan Jerky (again eating quickly between training sessions).
  • Afternoon snack: 3 egg whites, 1 whole egg, 2 fistfuls of baby spinach, 1 slice homemade spelt bread and ½ Tbsp natural peanut butter.
  • Post workout shake: water and True Vitality protein powder
  • Dinner: Tempeh Tacos on whole wheat low carb tortillas, spinach, shredded red cabbage and salsa.
  • Evening Snack: Pumpkin Pie oatmeal (made with oats, pumpkin, almond milk, almonds, milled flax and protein powder) and 3 hard boiled egg whites.

I am going to say it again – I am not perfect. But I know my body. As a Person With Diabetes (PWD) I know that protein, healthy fats and carbs from high fiber sources makes my blood sugar easier to control. Sugar and starch can wreak havoc on my system. Even sweet potatoes, which I love, will cause an unplanned blood sugar spike if I spend the rest of the evening on the couch. The MayoClinic suggested meal plan, with its starch at every meal, would leave my glucose rolling up and down all day. The lower amount of protein would leave me hangry (hungry AND angry), which no one wants.

I’m no doctor but I know how a diabetic’s body works. Don’t make it work harder with too starch and sugar. Give it the best fuel you can.

  • http://primefitnessforwomen.com/ Mary C. Weaver, CSCS

    Thanks for posting this. I cannot comprehend why mainstream nutrition experts are so anti-protein. I’m with you—I love my carbs! Everyone who exercises needs plenty of them. But protein is absolutely vital for 1. satiety, 2. preservation of lean mass (especially when dieting), and 3. tissue repair (not to mention the extra calories burned through the thermic effect of digesting protein). Even the CDC acknowledges that a *normal* protein intake is as much as 30 percent of daily calories. What’s outlined in the Mayo program sounds like 10 percent protein or less. Fail!

  • http://twitter.com/ThriveFit Pamela Hernandez

    I agree. My normal days is about 25% protein, not even that top end 30% you mentioned. I still get about 50% of my calories from carbs. But all that rice and juice? No way!