Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, how you manage the condition remains the same: take medications as prescribed, follow a heart-healthy diet and add a regimen of physical activity into your day.
Carbohydrates, both the type and the portion size, play the biggest role in how high or low your blood sugar will go. Learning a few diabetic meal planning techniques will help to make tracking your foods easier, resulting in better blood glucose control.
Use the Glycemic Index
Different types of carbohydrates will have a drastically different effect on your blood glucose. Simple carbohydrates, like sugar or white bread, are absorbed by the body quickly, resulting in high spikes in your blood glucose levels. Complex carbohydrates, like those found in vegetables and whole grains, take longer for the body to absorb, resulting in more stable blood glucose levels.
The glycemic index rates carbohydrates on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being glucose, as to the impact that food will have on your blood glucose levels. Any carbohydrate with a rating of 55 or lower is considered a low GI-rated food having the least impact on blood glucose, and foods rated 70 or higher have a high GI-rating and should be avoided or eaten only in moderation.
Diabetics should get 50 to 60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrates. Choosing the right carbs to add to your meals will go a long way in keeping a tight control on your blood glucose levels.
Choose a Plan
Diabetic meal planning should be an integral part of your diabetes management. Work with your nutritionist or dietitian to set up a meal plan that will fit your lifestyle and your particular medical condition. The three basic types of plans are the exchange plan, the constant carbohyrate plan and counting carbs.
The exchange plan is similar to Weight Watchers in that foods are divided into food groups, serving sizes are broken down into "exchanges," and a certain number of exchanges from each of the food groups are allowed at each meal and snack. This meal planning technique allows a lot of flexibility and is the best choice if losing weight is a goal since all food groups, including protein and fat, are controlled.
The constant carbohydrate meal planning technique involves eating the same amount of the same type of carbohydrates at the same time each day. This type of diabetic meal planning works well for those who want tight control of their blood glucose levels but don't want to spend too much time worrying about meals.
Counting carbohydrates is very popular, particularly among type 1 diabetics who inject insulin before each meal. It involves calculating the total amount of carbohydrates to be consumed at a meal, and planning the proper amount of insulin to counteract their effect.
Learn How to Read Food Labels
No matter what diabetic meal planning technique you choose, you must have a good grasp of how to read food labels to make it work. The most important thing to understand is what a serving size is for that particular food, as food labels reflect the contents of one individual serving size.
When reading the carbohydrate content, pay particular attention to whether more of the carbs are from sugar or fiber. Those that are mainly from sugar will raise blood glucose levels more than those that contain a higher amount of fiber.
Since diabetics are prone to heart disease, also pay close attention to the amount of fat specified on the label as well as the type of fat.
Teens Health from Nemours: Meal Plans and Diabetes
Mayo Clinic: Exchange Lists