Diet is an important factor in the management of diabetes. All patients with diabetes, and relevant family members, should have the opportunity to consult a Nutritionist/Dietitian. Instructions merely to ‘avoid sugar’ or ‘lose weight’ are insufficient in most cases, and proper dietary advice is essential.
A nutritionist will educate and provide you with more information on eating healthy and about the effects of various foods on blood glucose levels. They also design for you a personalized meal plan; that is realistic, appropriate for your age and cultural background. Therefore, it’s important to see a Nutritionist/Dietitian as it is important to see a diabetologist, podiatrist, diabetes educator and other health professionals in managing diabetes.
However, there are a number of misconceptions about diabetes and nutrition. Here are some misconceptions:
1# People with diabetes should eat foods that are different from everyone else’s
A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as the diet for anyone. There are NO diabetic foods. Besides diabetics being keen on their food portions, you need to follow healthy eating guidelines such as consuming foods higher in nutrients, good sources of fiber, foods lower in saturated fats and trans-fats, meals mainly composed of low glycemic foods and contain appropriate amount of calories.
2# People with diabetes should avoid carbohydrates
Diabetics like everyone else need to consume variety of foods from all the food groups. You need carbohydrates to provide energy; proteins for cell repair and maintenance; Vegetables and Fruits for protective purposes. You still need to meet your nutritional requirements as everyone else to avoid malnutrition and nutrition deficiencies and complications. However, I recommend for one to watch their food portions and to include more complex carbs in their diet. Complex carbs are digested more slowly, and lead to lower and steady increases in blood sugar compared to simple carbs.
3# Fruit is a healthy food – therefore it is okay to eat as much of it as you wish
Yes, fruits are healthy and loaded with lots of essential vitamins and minerals. They also contain carbs and fiber, hence should be included in your plan. However, you should work with your nutritionist on the amount, frequency and types of fruits you should consume. Since, different people respond differently with fruits. Some will have blood glucose spikes after consuming some fruits. But you need to work with your nutritionist to know which specific fruits trigger your blood sugar since people have different body chemistries.
4# People with diabetes can manage diabetes on medication only
This is one of the most heartbreaking issues I face while practicing nutrition in Kenya. Most clients come to see a nutritionist when they have already developed complications. A client has been diabetic for 5 years or more but has never seen a nutritionist. Diabetes management does not involve nutrition and pharmacology alone. Lifestyle changes; weight control and exercise are important factors too in the management of diabetes.
Control Diabetes; don’t let Diabetes Control You