What Can You Eat With Diabetes? Tips and Scenarios
What can you eat with diabetes? One of the most common misconceptions that I hear from my clients and patients is that they aren’t allowed to eat sugar because they have been diagnosed with diabetes. Thank goodness, this isn’t the case! As highlighted by the American Diabetes Association, a diabetes diagnosis means that an individual should pay more attention to and focus on gaining better control of the amount of sugar eaten and how it is timed throughout the day.
It isn’t a death sentence for those sugar-containing foods that you love!
What is Diabetes
To better understand, let’s talk a bit about what diabetes means. Insulin is a hormone found naturally in the human body and it is responsible for moving sugar from the blood to body tissues and muscles. When your body is unable to produce adequate amounts of insulin or it doesn’t respond to insulin normally, extra sugar is left in the blood. This leads to what we call diabetes, often diagnosed with the presence of high blood sugar following a blood test. As you probably know, this high blood sugar can lead to additional health problems, so it is best to get it under control as soon as you receive a diagnosis of diabetes. In addition, we can all strive to avoid adult-onset diabetes by living a healthy lifestyle.
The goal of the treatment of diabetes is not to completely eliminate sugar from the body. The primary energy source for our bodies is actually sugar, often referred to as carbohydrates. Sugar can come in many forms including bread, pasta, rice, cereal, milk, yogurt, fruits, veggies, desserts, sweet drinks, and many others. Rather than completely eliminate sugar from the diet, which would affect our energy levels, the goal is to establish an eating pattern that keeps sugar intake consistent and under control alongside balance among food groups, as described by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Oftentimes, an individual diagnosed with diabetes has eaten really high amounts of sugar in the past and we just need to bring it down to a level that makes more sense for them. It doesn’t have to be low-carb, but rather carb-sensible. This involves the strategic timing of carbohydrates throughout the day and the blending of sugar-containing foods with protein. We also want to focus on high-quality foods that contain sugar naturally rather than foods with empty calories and added sugars. People also ask questions like "Can diabetics eat teriyaki chicken?" but that's a bit different story and we'll go through the sweet snacks with you first.
Let’s look at a couple potential scenarios to make this easier to conceptualize.
Breakfast: Glazed Donut, Coffee with Creamer
Snack: Low-Carb Protein Shake
Lunch: Steak Salad with Mixed Greens & Oil-Based Dressing
Snack: Mixed Nuts
Dinner: Spaghetti, Garlic Bread, Lemonade, Soda
Snack: Ice Cream with Caramel
There are several concerns. First, there is no consistent carbohydrate intake throughout the day. Breakfast is packed with sugar, but then sugar intake is very minimal until dinner and evening snacks, which are again loaded with sugar. The problem this causes is a spike in blood sugar early in the day, followed by a crash in the middle of the day and a second spike at the end of the day. This results in a rollercoaster of blood sugar levels, which could be coupled with physical symptoms like dizziness, light-headedness, nausea, and fatigue—not to mention confusion about what foods are “safe” to eat. Another concern is the absence of protein intake with each meal and snack. The best way to stabilize blood sugar throughout the day is to have consistently small amounts of sugar coupled with clean protein bars every few hours. In this first scenario, the day starts out with no protein at breakfast, likely resulting in a crazy spike and drop in blood sugar from the very beginning of the day. The day just becomes more troublesome as it goes on.
Breakfast: Greek Yogurt, Peach
Snack: Clean Eatz Trail Mix Bar
Lunch: Clean Eatz Arnold Steak Bowl
Snack: Apple, Peanut Butter
Dinner: Clean Eatz Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken
Snack: Angel Food Cake with Strawberries & Peanuts
In this approach, there's no sugar coating. We observe a deliberate inclusion of consistent moderate amounts of carbohydrates strategically distributed across the day, always accompanied by a source of protein. This empowers individuals managing diabetes to gain a clear insight into their blood sugar reactions within a steady eating pattern. Moreover, this data aids their medical professionals in making precise insulin dosage adjustments, leveraging the strategic timing of carbohydrate consumption throughout the day. You can see that sugar-containing foods that are commonly enjoyed can still be included. Higher quality nutritional sources, like Greek yogurt which contains both carbohydrates and protein, are a great choice to include. You will find fruits and veggies sprinkled throughout the day in this second example in an effort to promote consistent fiber intake, which can also help to control blood sugar levels according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This scenario demonstrates how blending Clean Eatz Kitchen meals and snacks with traditional home-prepared items can create an affordable meal plan that makes sense for a busy lifestyle. It is our goal to provide you with a variety of meal and snack resources to support your full day of healthy eating alongside other foods that you enjoy.
One of the great things about Clean Eatz is that we understand the importance of providing nutritional information for our meals and snacks. You will find a nutrition facts label for everything that we offer! This empowers each of our customers to make educated decisions on the meals and snacks that make the most sense for your wellness needs. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with diabetes, please consult with your healthcare provider and identify their recommendations for carbohydrate intake throughout the day that is matched with your insulin dosage. Once you have this information, you can browse our meal and snack menus and nutrition panels to find the best options to promote the management of a diabetes diagnosis. And when it comes to the famous "Can diabetics eat teriyaki chicken?" question, the answer is yes! But make sure to use a little bit of the sweet sauce for your safety and you'll be good.
Should I consult a healthcare professional for personalized dietary advice?
Absolutely. A registered dietitian or healthcare provider can help create a tailored eating plan that aligns with your diabetes management goals and individual needs.
How can I adapt my diet if I'm physically active?
Adjust your carbohydrate intake based on your activity level. Timing your meals and snacks around exercise can help maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Are there specific guidelines for managing diabetes during special occasions?
Balance indulgences with healthier choices throughout the day. Stay mindful of portion sizes and monitor your blood sugar levels more frequently.
Can I enjoy desserts occasionally?
Yes, but opt for desserts made with healthier ingredients and smaller portions. Consider sugar-free or fruit-based desserts, and monitor your blood sugar response.