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Diet Plans for Type 1 Diabetes

written by: Ms Lisa • edited by: lrohner • updated: 1/18/2011

When a person is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, their physician or nutritionist can help with the planning of a diet for type 1 diabetes. Let us take a look at what that diet may consist of.

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    Changing Eating Habits

    When a person is diagnosed with type I diabetes, it is essential for that person to follow a specific diet plan as explained by their physician or a professional dietitian. A diet for type 1 diabetes is designed to create a balance with the amount of insulin that is prescribed by a physician so that the blood sugar levels can stay within normal range.

    Most people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes usually find that they will have to change the eating habits from what they are used to. However, with making the recommended changes to their diet, their diabetes can be kept under control and they can continue to live normal, healthier lives.

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    What Factors Should Be Considered When Planning a Diet for Type 1 Diabetes?

    The diet for type 1 diabetes helps diabetics maintain more stable blood sugar levels by monitoring and managing their carbohydrate intake. Carbohydrates are the main source of sugar in the bloodstream. A hormone called insulin works with the blood sugar to provide food for the brain and energy to the body's cells and organs. Too much or too little blood sugar can cause serious medical complications.

    The body processes most simple carbohydrates, like sugar or white bread, quickly, resulting in severe spikes in blood sugar levels. Most complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, take longer to process, resulting in more stable blood sugar levels. It is important to not only monitor the amount of carbohydrates you consume and when you consume them, but also the types of carbohydrates that you choose. It is important to monitor the blood sugar levels several time throughout the day to help you decide what you should or should not consume at your next meal.

    The other two factors to keep in mind are how much exercise and the amount of insulin that you take. Since all three of these factors have an impact on blood sugar levels, leaving one out of the equation can result in an unhealthy swing, causing your blood sugar to reach dangerous levels.

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    Types of Diet Plans for Type 1 Diabetics

    There are three basic types of diet planning techniques used by type 1 diabetics. The exchange meal plan divides food into six groups, including vegetables, proteins, fat, starches fruit and milk. The diet plan sets serving sizes, or exchanges, for each of these groups at ever meal, leaving you with some flexibility in the types of foods you eat and when you eat them. This diet plan works well for diabetics who are trying to achieve weight loss.

    If you have a fairly set schedule of meals and exercise and don't want to be calculcating different insulin dosages every day, you may choose the constant carbohydrate diet plan. With this plan, you would eat a certain amount of carbohydrates at each meal or snack.

    The carbohydrate counting diet plan is a hybrid of the exchange plan and the constant carbohydrate technique. This diet planning technique works best for type 1 diabetics that take a dose of insulin prior to each meal. Before eating, you simply count the carbohydrates included in that meal and calculate your insulin dose accordingly, giving you the ultimate flexibility with your meals.

    Read about the types of foods you should include in your diet plan on the next page.

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    What Type of Foods Should Be Included In the Diet?

    As a rough guideline, diabetics should aim to have 10 to 20 percent of their daily caloric intake from lean protein, 25 to 30 percent from fats (avoiding trans and saturated fats), and 50 to 60 percent from carbohydrates. Consult your dietitian or nutritionist to determine the best amounts for your particular medical situation.

    Use the diabetes food pyramid when planning your meals. This is similar to the USDA food pyramid guide. Foods are broken into groups which are then split up in a fashion that the sweet and fatty foods are on the top of the pyramid where as the vegetable, beans and grains are at the bottom of the pyramid. A person with type 1 diabetes should focus on the foods at the bottom of the pyramid, like beans, grains, and starchy vegetables. They are rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and healthy carbohydrates. Foods from this group of foods should be consumed in six or more servings a day.

    You should consume at least 3 to 5 servings per day of fresh or frozen vegetables. Dark yellow and green vegetables such, as broccoli, carrots, peppers, romaine and spinach, should be included in the diet for type 1 diabetes. Be careful of added sauces, salt, and fats, and be sure to add foods with fiber.

    Eat 2 to 4 servings per day of fruit. Fresh fruits are better than fruit juices, since the processing of fruit juices removes some of the healthy fiber and nutrients. Also, some juices tends to have sugar added to them.

    Milk or nonfat yogurt is recommended in 2 to 3 servings a day. Meat and fish are also recommended in the 2 to 3 servings a day portion. Because type 1 diabetics are at risk for heart disease, it is important to remove as much fat as possible from the meat and stay away from fried foods. Instead, eat meat that is boiled, grilled, roasted or baked.

    It is important to note that on a diet for type 1 diabetes, a person should limit their intake of fats, cheese, bacon and butter because they are all high in saturated fat and diabetics are prone to heart disease. Diabetics should also limit their consumption of sweets and alcohol, as both can cause blood sugar levels to spike or dip outside of normal levels.

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    On a Special Note

    It is very important for a person with type 1 diabetes to monitor their blood sugar levels so that the intake of carbohydrates in each meal can be adjusted so that a balance can be maintained to keep the blood sugar levels within normal range.

    References

    U.S National Library Of Medicine

    MayoClinic

    American Diabetes Association and American Dietetic Association