As a person with diabetes, you make important decisions every day about food. What you eat has a greater impact on your blood glucose than anything else you do.
You can meet this daily challenge by meal planning. With a meal plan, you can make choices when eating at home, grocery shopping and dining out. By working with your healthcare professional and learning about nutrition and the effect of food on blood sugar, you can turn meal planning into a pleasurable experience.
Most food turns into sugar—or blood glucose—before entering the bloodstream. Insulin then helps blood glucose move from the bloodstream into your body’s cells—from your brain to your muscles—where it is used for energy. Without insulin to unlock those cells and let glucose in, your body does not get the nourishment it needs, and excess glucose stays in the bloodstream.
When you eat, you put fuel into your body. That is why your blood glucose rises after you eat and why many people with diabetes need to use insulin near mealtimes. The insulin moves the blood glucose from the bloodstream to the cells, where it can be used.
Planning what, when and how much you eat plays a key part in keeping your blood glucose levels in the range that works for you.
Planning Your Meals
The goal of a meal plan is to control your blood glucose levels, maintain a healthy body weight and feel good. Your dietitian can assist you in meal planning by suggesting the right amounts, types and timing of the foods you eat.
Different types of foods have specific roles within the body. Keeping track of what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat, along with regular testing, can help you and your healthcare professional understand how the foods you eat affect your blood glucose levels.
As you develop your meal plan, think about the foods that you normally eat. One way to identify this is by creating a list of everything you eat for 3 days. After completing your list, work with your healthcare professional/dietitian to analyze your list and ask yourself the following:
- What are my favourite foods?
- Do I have "problem foods" that are not healthy or that I may eat too much of?
- What size are my food portions?
- How often do I eat?
- How frequently do I overeat?
- Is there a time of day when it is more difficult for me to follow my meal plan?
Eating at regular intervals gives your body a chance to use up blood glucose between meals. In general, you should eat every 4 to 5 hours. Skipping meals may lead to overeating at the next meal, leading to higher blood glucose levels.
If your blood glucose is high before a meal, wait an hour or so before you test again or eat. If you take insulin, talk to your healthcare professional about using insulin with meals and snacks.
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