Managing Type 2 Diabetes (Author: Leonie Horsfield – The Diabetes Kitchen)
Managing type 2 diabetes is different for everyone. Some people find they don’t have to make many changes to their diet at all whereas others find managing their diabetes through diet quite difficult. We are all different and that’s why having your own dietitian or diabetes educator who knows your unique situation can really help.
If you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes you will probably find that having to read the back of food labels to find out sugar and carbohydrate content is a real pain and can be quite confusing. At The Diabetes Kitchen, all our meals are already measured for you and approved by our lovely dietitian Sherie, who is also a diabetes educator. This means that meal-time is one less thing you have to worry about.
Diabetes Australia recommends avoiding foods high in energy such as takeaway foods, sweet biscuits, cakes, sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juice, lollies, chocolate and savoury snacks. It’s the added sugar in these products that make them unhealthy. It’s ok to enjoy some of these very occasionally, but it is best to replace them with healthier alternatives, and there are lots of options around. For instance, our dietitian recommends low-salt crackers, sugar-free chocolates and puddings, as well as sweet foods with natural sugars such as fruit. Berries are the best choice when managing diabetes as they are low GI, and taste delicious!
It’s the saturated fat you want to avoid – it’s very unhealthy and raises cholesterol. You’ll find saturated fat in things like fish and chips, dairy products (choose low fat where you can), butter, cooked animal skin, pies and sausage rolls and creamy dressings. Choose low-fat options for yoghurts, milk and cream instead – they are still quite delicious!
There are two major types of carbohydrates (or carbs) in foods: simple and complex.
Simple carbohydrates: These are also called simple sugars. They’re found in refined sugars, like the white sugar you see in a sugar bowl. If you have a lollipop, you’re eating simple carbs. Avoid if you can.
Complex carbohydrates: These are also called starches. Starches include grain products, such as bread, crackers, pasta, and rice. As with simple sugars, some complex carbohydrate foods are better choices than others. Refined carbs are processed (like white bread and white flour). On the other hand, unrefined carbs (wholemeal or grainy bread, brown rice) contain their vitamins and minerals. This makes them a much better choice – for everyone, not just diabetics!
Managing blood sugar levels is the key to managing diabetes. Some people need medication (like Metformin tablets or Insulin) and others find managing their diet works well for them and they don’t need medication.
For people with diabetes, blood sugar level targets are as follows (but remember everyone is different so yours may vary):
Before meals: 4 to 7 mmol/L for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes
After meals: under 9 mmol/L for people with type 1 diabetes and under 8.5mmol/L for people with type 2 diabetes
We think it’s always ok to have a little of what you fancy once in a while but try to choose healthy options most of the time. This helps to keep your blood sugars within a healthy range, and also helps with maintaining a healthy weight. Some good food choices include:
Breakfast: Oats, low-fat yoghurt with berries, whole grain toasties with cheese, and eggs.
Lunch: Salad or steamed veggies, wholegrain sandwiches (avoid processed meats which are very high in saturated fat), roast meats with skin removed, canned tuna or salmon, low salt soups (the Hart & Soul range are delicious), low salt crackers, and low-fat smoothies.
Dinner: Similar to lunch options, try to include fish a couple of times a week, trim the fat off meats, and try to include veggies (salad or steamed) with each meal. Steamed or roast veggies are delicious on their own too!
Managing diabetes type 2 with diet is a great way to teach children how to make healthy choices. You can talk to them about how the types of foods they choose make a difference to their health and wellbeing. It’s a good idea to explain to them how sweets, like doughnuts, cordials, ice creams and lollies are full of ‘bad’ sugars which spike their blood levels and often give them extra energy – but then they come crashing down and you have a grumpy child on your hands!
We love spoiling our grandchildren. And one of the best ways to set them up for good health is by teaching them about foods. Cooking together is a great way to do this, and it’s a good skill to teach them. Start with simple recipes that they can easily understand.
Eating well whilst living with diabetes type 2 does not have to be difficult. A treat every now and then is ok but try not to make this a regular thing. There are so many sugar-free alternatives around than there have been before, so enjoy! Try to include some veggies in your diet each day and steer clear of high fat, high sugar and high salt foods. Avoiding these types of foods also helps with weight loss (if you need it). It also helps with maintaining a healthy diet for you and your family.
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