This is a statistic you might need to sit down for: more than one million Australians have diabetes. Woah.
To get you up to speed, diabetes is a condition in which the body struggles to maintain healthy levels of sugar in the blood. There’s a few different types: type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes (the most common form) and gestational diabetes (i.e. during pregnancy).
Overtime, having high blood sugars can have detrimental effects on your health. Some of the most severe complications include blindness, kidney disease and stroke – so, it’s pretty serious stuff.
But, I don’t want to scare you. Medication can be useful in controlling diabetes, and there’s plenty you can do in terms of lifestyle to prevent and manage it, too. Think: maintaining a healthy weight, being active regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet – and as a dietitian, that’s where I come in.
Should you ditch carbs?
In contrast to what our carb-phobic society want you to think, carbs are not bad – and they certainly don’t have to be eliminated on a diabetic diet.
Here’s a quick refresher: carbs are found in many healthy foods, like grains, legumes, fruit, dairy and starchy veg, but also less-healthy foods, like cakes, soft drinks and hot chips. So, it’s not just about cutting down on sugar!
The key – not just for diabetes, but for good health in general – is to minimise the intake of all refined carbs and focus on sensible portions of healthy carbs instead. Spreading the intake of these healthy carbs across each meal of the day is crucial, too.
If you’re a little unsure about how to apply these principles, don’t stress! I’ve got you covered with my diabetes-friendly meal plan below.
Diabetes friendly meal plan
The key with each meal is to have a small portion of quality carbohydrates, some lean protein and lots of non-starchy veggies (or a piece of fruit). With that in mind, here’s my top recommendations:
- Half a cup of natural muesli with a few generous spoonfuls of high protein reduced-fat Greek yoghurt and a cup of mixed berries
- Veggie packed omelette made with two eggs on one or two slices of wholegrain toast with a quarter of an avocado
- One or two slices of wholegrain toast with a 220g tin of reduced-salt baked beans and a sprinkle of reduced-fat cheese
- A sandwich on wholegrain bread with lots of salad and a tin of tuna or skinless chicken breast
- Six to eight wholegrain crackers with reduced-fat ricotta cheese, tomato and cucumber
- Salad of mixed leaves, baked vegetables (think: cauliflower, capsicum and asparagus) and one cup of well-rinsed tinned legumes, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- Fillet of white fish and a veggie-packed salad with a quarter of an avocado and half to one cup of quinoa
- BBQ’d chicken thigh with half a small roasted sweet potato and a leafy green salad
- Vegetable frittata served with a slice or two of wholegrain bread and a leafy green salad topped with a sprinkle of mixed nuts and seeds
- Healthy curry packed with vegetables and one cup of lentils
- One cup of wholemeal pasta topped with homemade bolognese sauce made with lean beef mince and hidden veggies
- Healthy homemade burger made with a lean beef patty and lots of vegetables on a small wholegrain bun
- Small fillet of salmon with veggie-packed fried rice made with brown basmati rice
One or two of these at morning or afternoon tea is a good way to keep hunger pangs at bay and help to stabilise blood sugars.
- One piece of fresh fruit
- Small tub of reduced-fat yoghurt
- Healthy muesli bar
- A small handful of unsalted nuts (30 grams)
- Pre-portioned packet of roasted chickpeas
- Two to four wholegrain crackers with a hard-boiled egg and a quarter of an avocado
- Two to four wholegrain crackers with one tablespoon of natural peanut butter
And there you have it! A week’s worth of healthy meals and snacks that are diabetes-friendly. Of course, everybody has different nutritional needs and even if you have diabetes, this dietary pattern may not be suitable for you – there are plenty of other things to consider, too. It is highly recommended that those with diabetes seek advice from an Accredited Practising Dietitian for individualised advice.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au, or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.
For some sugar-free recipe inspo, you need to try these sugar-free peanut butter cups and this pumpkin prune loaf that’s also gluten free and dairy free.
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