The word Diabetes sounds like a life sentence on good food when you are first diagnosed with it. The reason for this is not the list of life threatening complications that your doctor explains, but the diet restrictions that you are expected follow after the diagnosis.
The first thing that is expected is to cut down on sweets. From indulging in sweets and samosas thrice a week, the newly diagnosed and highly motivated person chooses to cut down on sugars drastically, often leading to severe attacks of hypoglycaemia, which in turn leads to a phase of dieting alternating with bingeing. This yo-yo effect causes a lot of damage to your carbohydrate metabolism, hastens the onset of diabetic complications and increases the risk of hospitalisation. It also has a very de-motivating effect on the patient, leading to non-compliance with the diabetic diet and treatment.
Instead, a sensible meal plan formed by consulting your doctor and a qualified nutritionist will show much better results and will be easier to adhere to over the years.
How many calories should a diabetic eat?
- A diabetic diet has to be two-fold by nature.
- Since diabetes is strongly associated with obesity, you might first have to lose weight. Therefore, the first part of the diet has to be a restricted calorie diet for weight loss.
- After you have achieved the desired weight loss goals, you must start with a maintenance diet to maintain that weight loss.
- The number of calories that a person needs to eat depends on the following
- Body frame
- Activity levels
- For example, a 40-year-old male who leads a sedentary lifestyle, needs about 2400 calories per day, while a woman of the same age with a higher activity level needs about 1800 calories per day.
- To lose one pound a week, you need to burn about 500 calories every day or 3500 calories every week. This means that you have to reduce 500 calories from your everyday diet lose one pound a week. However, it is better to combine calorie restriction with exercise to improve cardiovascular health. Thus, you can reduce 250 calories from your diet and burn 250 calories by exercise.
What should a diabetic eat?
- It is preferable for diabetics to eat carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index (GI).
- High GI foods rapidly raise the blood sugar levels. Low GI foods raise the sugar levels slowly and steadily and are excellent for weight loss.
- Low GI foods include whole meal grains like wheat, barley, bulgur, and par-boiled rice, oat bran, legumes, yam, and sweet potato.
- High GI foods include white breads, polished grains, refined flour, potatoes, corn, potato chips, and sugary foods like cakes and pastries.
Diabetic meal plan
- Form a meal plan of all foods that you can eat as your main meals and snacks. Thus, you will be less tempted to eat things that are bad for you.
- Your meal plan should include the type of foods that you regularly eat and should be able to fit into your schedule.
- Avoid exotic foods that are difficult to procure or cook.
- The traditional Indian diet is a sound one, with emphasis on combining carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in one single meal. For example, rice, dal, and ghee or Idli, chutney, and sambhar.
- The easiest meal plan to follow is the plate method. Divide your plate into two halves. Further, divide one half into three parts. The big half should contain low GI vegetables and carbohydrates. The smaller parts should contain proteins, good fats like ghee and nuts, and one portion of fruit. Finish with plain water, coffee, or tea that is unsweetened.
- Eat whole wheat chapatis, multi-grain rotis or bhakris, traditional grains like bajra, jowar, and ragi, and rotis stuffed with vegetables.
- Avoid fruits like bananas, grapes, chikoo, litchis, and frozen fruits that are high on GI.
- Eat a full, protein-rich breakfast, moderate lunch, and light dinner.
- Avoid fried foods, parathas, cream, cheese, sugary drinks, cakes, pastries, full-fat milk, frozen yogurts.
- Have plenty of skimmed milk and low fat paneer and yogurt.
- As snacks, eat a multi-grain sandwich or munch on roasted chana and puffed rice (poha) with a dash of lime. Instead of tea, have buttermilk or coconut water.
- Drink at least 3 litres of water.
- For dessert, have either an unsweetened milkshake or a smoothie, with fresh fruits and low fat milk or curd or just a plate of cut fruits.
- Avoid excess salt.
As long as you take precautions, diabetes need not deter you from enjoying a healthier version of all your favourite foods.