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Food and Meal Planning for Diabetes

December 6, 2016 by Adrienne Ngai, Registered Dietitian

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Food and Meal Planning for Diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, you may be aware that healthy food choices can help your body control blood glucose (sugar) levels. But how do you do that?

Bread, pasta, rice, milk, yogurt, fruits and starchy vegetables (like potatoes, corn and yams) are examples of foods that contain carbohydrate. Carbohydrate is an important nutrient for your body. It gives you the energy (calories) that you need to function. Fibre, starch and sugars are the main kinds of carbohydrates. Starches and sugars will raise your blood glucose. Fibre will not.

The foods you choose, your meal timing and portion sizes will affect your blood glucose. Spreading carbohydrate containing foods evenly throughout the day helps keep your blood glucose at a consistent level. Here are some tips for choosing foods with carbohydrates:

  1. Choose higher fibre foods: whole grain foods and plant-based foods (like beans, lentils, nuts and seeds) have more fibre which helps you feel full longer, manage your weight and keep your bowel movements regular. The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends that adults have 25 to 50 grams of fibre each day. Recent surveys show that Canadian adults typically consume about 14 grams of fibre each day. Click here for a list of fibre rich foods to include in your diet.
  2. Choose lower glycemic index (GI) foods: the GI is a rating of how much a carbohydrate rich food will raise your blood glucose. The GI scale ranges from 1 to 100. The higher the number, the faster a food will raise your blood glucose.  White bread or pure glucose has a rating of 100. Meat and fats don’t contain any carbohydrates, so they don’t have a GI rating. Vegetables (except corn, potatoes and yams), most fruits, nuts, beans and lentils and unsweetened dairy products are carbohydrate-rich foods that have a lower glycemic index. Choose lower GI foods to help control your blood glucose. This chart from the Canadian Diabetes Association can help.

Meal planning and managing portion sizes can help you spread out the carbohydrate containing foods you eat throughout the day to keep your blood glucose steady. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Meal planning: plan to have regular meals throughout the day (four-six hours apart) to prevent high and low blood glucose levels. If meals are more than six hours apart, have a snack that has carbohydrate and protein like a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts, or a slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter or hummus. Make balanced meals that pair protein and healthy fats with foods high in fiber or low on the glycemic well bien manger
  2. Manage portion sizes at each meal: a little trick is to use your hands to estimate the portion sizes of foods to have at each meal:
    • For grains, starches and starchy vegetables (like corn and potato): choose a fist size amount
    • For vegetables (not including starchy vegetables like corn and potato): choose two handfuls of vegetables
    • For meat and alternatives: choose an amount up to the size of the palm of your hand, with the thickness of your pinky finger
    • For fruits: choose a fist size amount
    • For milk and alternatives:  choose up to 250 mL (1 cup) of plain low-fat milk or fortified unsweetened soy beverage or 175 ml (¾ cup) of plain low-fat yogurt
    • For fats, oil, mayonnaise and salad dressing: limit the amount used to no more than the tip of your thumb

Click here for a visual guide of portion sizes to help you plan your meals.

Participating in regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy body weight are also important lifestyle factors that can help you manage type 2 diabetes. Follow you healthcare provider’s recommendations for blood glucose monitoring and take medication as prescribed.

If you have more questions on how food can help you manage type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, call 8-1-1, Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm and ask to speak with a registered dietitian. This is a free service for British Columbians.

Related blogs

Diabetes and Physical Activity Q&A
Diabetes Awareness, Why We Need to Move More

Recommended resources

HeathLink BC: Diabetes
Canadian Diabetes Association: Healthy Living Resources

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Comments (1)


Posted on Tuesday August 8, 2017 a 1:37am

for a visual guide of portion sizes to help you plan your meals.


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