How to manage your Diabetes with food

A diabetic person cannot make insulin and/or properly use insulin. This leads to high blood glucose levels. It is critical to control your blood sugar otherwise it can lead to complication like neuropathy (nerve damage), retinopathy (eye damage), nephropathy (kidney damage), foot damage and many more. Healthy eating is very important to keep your blood sugar in your target range.

Some important parameters for diabetics:

  • In order to keep healthy before meals blood glucose levels should be 90 to 130. 1 to 2 hours after the start of a meal levels should be less than 180.
  • What you eat and when you eat affect how your diabetes medicines work.
  • Low blood sugar can make you feel shaky, weak, confused, irritable, hungry, or tired. You may sweat a lot or get a headache.
  • Aim for about 1,200 to 1,600 calories daily for women, and 1,600 to 2,000 calories daily for men.

Meal planning

Meal planning is important for a diabetic so that you get adequate nutrition as well as keep blood sugar in control. A diabetes meal plan is a guide that tells you how much and what kinds of food you can choose to eat at meals and snack times. There are several meal planning tools:

Some meal planning tools include:

  • Carbohydrate counting
  • The plate method
  • Glycemic index.


When carbohydrate grams are evenly distributed at meals and snacks, it helps you keep your blood sugars under better control. Carbohydrate counting helps you to keep track of how much carbohydrate you are eating.

How much carb to take:

Carbohydrate grams should be within the ranges of 45 to 60 grams at meals and at least 15 grams at snacks. The higher or lower limit depends upon how active you are and what, if any, medicines you take.

What foods have Carbohydrate?

Foods that contain carbohydrate or “carbs” are:

  • Grains like wheat, rice, oatmeal, barley
  • Grain-based foods like bread, chapatti, breakfast cereal, pasta, and crackers
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes, peas and corn
  • Fruits and juice
  • Milk and yogurt
  • Dried beans and soy products
  • Sweets and snack foods like sodas, juice drinks, cake, cookies, candy, and chips

Non-starchy vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, and cauliflower have a little bit of carbohydrate but in general are very low. 

Reading food labels:

Reading labels is a great way to know how much carbohydrate is in a food.

How to read labels:

Always compare the serving size listed to your actual portion.

Example of a food label:

  1. Find the serving size
  2. Locate the total carbohydrate in one serving. (Sugars are included in this number, so you do not need to count them separately
  3. Compare the serving size listed to your actual portion.
  4. Count the grams of carbohydrate or the number of carbohydrate choices. In this example, 1 cup would have about 31 grams of carb and equal 2 carb choice.


Separate your plate into three zones.

  • First, divide it in half. Fill one side with veggies like spinach, broccoli, carrots, or green beans.
  • Next, split the empty side into two halves.
  • Use one for starchy foods such as potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, or whole-grain bread or pasta.
  • In the last section, add protein like meat, eggs and lentils(pulses, peas, beans). On top of that, you can also have an 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk and a half-cup of fruit.

Glycemic Index

The glycemic index measures how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose. Foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food — either glucose or white bread. A food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI.

Meal planning with the GI involves choosing foods that have a low or medium GI. If eating a food with a high GI, you can combine it with low GI foods to help balance the meal.

The glycemic index range is as follows:Low GI = 55 or less
Medium GI = 56 – 69
High GI = 70 or more

Low GI Foods (55 or less)

  • Most fruits
  • Non starchy vegetables
  • Pulses, peas and beans like (white, black, pink, kidney, lentil, soy, almonds, peanut, walnut, chickpea)
  • Most whole intact grains like wheat, millet, oat, rye, rice, barley)
  • Small seeds(sunflower, flax, pumpkin, poppy, sesame, hemp)
  • Nuts like walnut, almond, cashewnut, peanuts
  • Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran
  • Whole wheat Pasta
  • products

Medium GI Foods (56-69)

  • Whole wheat, rye and pita bread
  • Quick oats
  • Brown and basmati rice.
  • White sugar or sucrose,
  • Unpeeled boiled potato,
  • Grape juice, cranberry juice
  • Raisins, prunes,
  • Banana
  • Figs
  • Pineapple
  • Muesli

High GI (70 or more)

  • White bread or bagel
  • Corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal
  • Short grain white rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese from mix
  • Pumpkin
  • Pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers
  • Glucose(dextrose, grape sugar), high fructose corn syrup,
  • Extruded breakfast cereals
  • Maltose, maltodextrins
  • White potato
  • Pretzels
  • Dates

Your body will digest low GI foods slowly leaving you feeling full for longer and allowing you to eat less calories without feeling hungry. Adding a low GI food to a meal will lower the glycemic index of the whole meal.

As you know the most important thing for health in a diabetic person in what you eat and when you eat. Whatever method you choose planning meals ahead will help you to live a happier and healthier life.

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Rithika Rajgopal

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