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How to Take Care of Your Type 2 Diabetes

Monitoring What You Eat

Although a healthy diet is important for everyone, it is particularly important for people with type 2 diabetes. However, knowing what to eat can be confusing. What's the right meal plan? How much of which food group is best to eat?
For those who have type 2 diabetes, eating well can take some practice and planning. This means finding a meal plan that works with your schedule, keeps your weight in check, and improves your blood glucose levels.
For people with type 2 diabetes, the first tool for controlling blood sugar levels is to count carbohydrates, as they can raise blood sugar. There's no other way around it -- counting carbs will become a new skill for you to master.
Keeping track of how many grams of carbs you eat and setting a maximum limit that you consume can help you keep your blood sugar levels in your target range. Your healthcare provider can help you determine these amounts, as the blood sugar's response to carbs varies from person to person, depending on what medications you are taking and various other factors.
In general, an average starting place is about 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates at a meal. However, you may need more or less, depending on your blood sugar levels. Once you have determined the appropriate amount of carbs to eat, you can choose your food and the portion size to match.
When you are counting carbs, it can be easy to forget about protein, fiber, and fat. Make sure you also include these food sources to help balance out your meal. Also, if you are trying to shed some pounds, take into consideration your calorie count. Choosing healthy, fresh foods is always a good idea, and also try to avoid eating too much food (even healthy food) at one sitting to help keep your blood sugar in a good range.
While this may seem like a lot of "counting," try not to be overwhelmed with all the math. Once you start to get the hang of it, you will naturally start to know how many carbs are in your favorite foods, and it will become a new way of life for you.
Because following a diet regimen can be the most difficult part for many people with type 2 diabetes, it is important that your healthcare provider offer medical nutrition therapy (MNT). Many people refer to MNT as the "cornerstone of diabetes treatment." It is recommended that those with type 2 diabetes receive individualized MNT as needed to achieve treatment goals. This is basically a diabetes diet where you eat a variety of nutritious foods in moderate amounts and stick to regular mealtimes.
By making healthy food choices and keeping track of your eating habits, you can help keep your blood sugar levels within a safe range. Some examples of MNT food choices include:
  • Healthy carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes
  • Fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole-wheat flour, and wheat bran
  • Heart-healthy fish (at least twice a week), such as tuna, halibut, salmon, and cod
  • "Good" fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), such as avocados, almonds, olives, pecans, and walnuts.
Because diabetes can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, try to avoid or minimize foods that contain saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
Another way to monitor what you eat is by using the glycemic index (GI) to choose your foods, particularly carbohydrates. GI basically measures how much a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood sugar levels. These foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food -- either glucose or white bread. A food that has a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI. Meal planning in this case consists of choosing foods that have a low or medium GI.
Your healthcare provider or dietitian may also suggest "the exchange system" as another method for monitoring what you eat. This method groups foods into categories (such as carbohydrates, meats, and fats). One serving in a group is called an "exchange," which has about the same amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and calories as a serving of every other food in that same group and the same effect on blood sugar levels. For instance, with this method, you could exchange 15 small grapes for 1/3 cup of cooked pasta or rice for one carbohydrate serving.
While the food you can eat and when you can eat it may be confusing at first, work with your dietitian to help find a meal plan that works for you. He or she can also help teach you how to adjust your insulin or other medications accordingly. You don't have to cut out all the foods you love, but monitoring what you eat can mean your blood sugar levels will be managed more effectively.
Although no one diet or meal plan is best for everyone with type 2 diabetes, the important thing is to find and follow a meal plan that is tailored to your personal lifestyle, preferences, and blood sugar goals.
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