If you or someone you love is amongst the nearly 16 million older adults diagnosed with diabetes, you know firsthand how challenging the disease can be to manage. Between medications, lifestyle changes, daily glucose tests, and much more, seniors with diabetes can easily become overwhelmed. And possibly the most challenging hurdle to conquer is adherence to a regimented diet program.
Why a Diabetes-Friendly Diet Is Essential
It’s all about maintaining your blood glucose levels in a healthy range; and the simplest way to do this is through keeping your weight in a healthy range. Consuming too many calories and carrying around extra body fat causes a surge in blood sugar, which may have severe consequences including kidney, heart, and nerve problems.
The Diabetes Eating Plan
Diabetics should eat regularly throughout the day in order to control insulin levels. A physician or dietitian can take into account individual preferences, lifestyle, and health goals to develop a customized meal plan. To help get you started, the following are recommendations for diabetic-friendly foods to add to your diet.
Fiber: Fiber is essential to aid in digestion as well as regulate blood sugar levels, and can be found in:
- Vegetables and fruit
- Whole grains
- Beans, peas, as well as other legumes
“Good” carbs: Healthy carbs (those with no added sodium, sugar, and fat) break down into blood glucose, and include:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Low-fat milk, cheese, and other dairy products
- Whole grains
- Peas, beans, as well as other legumes
“Good” fats: Just like carbohydrates, there are good and bad fats. Avoid trans and saturated fats, choosing instead foods full of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (in moderation), such as:
- Olive, peanut, and canola oils
Fish: Avoid deep-fried fish and certain kinds of fish that can be full of mercury. Instead, look for fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, including:
With these foods in mind, the American Diabetes Association recommends mentally picturing your plate in sections: 50% of the plate on one side, with the second half split up into two quarters. Now, organize your plate as follows:
- In one quarter of the plate, place a form of protein: chicken, tuna, lean pork, etc.
- In the second quarter, place a starchy vegetable or whole-grain food: brown rice, green peas, etc.
- Finally, in the half-plate segment, include non-starchy vegetables: tomatoes, carrots, spinach, etc.
- A small amount of “good” fats as listed above may also be included, along with a serving of low-fat dairy, fruit, and a plain beverage such as water or unsweetened tea or coffee.
Here’s how it could look for each meal:
- Breakfast: 1 piece of whole-wheat toast spread with two teaspoons of jam, ½ cup of whole-grain cereal, a cup of low-fat yogurt, and a piece of fruit.
- Lunch: A chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread with low-fat Swiss cheese, tomato, and lettuce, a piece of fruit, and a cup of water.
- Snack: 2 ½ cups of popcorn with 1 ½ teaspoons of margarine.
- Dinner: Salmon grilled in 1 ½ teaspoons of canola oil, one small baked potato, ½ cup of peas, ½ cup of carrots, one medium dinner roll, and a glass of unsweetened iced tea.
An at-home caregiver from Absolute Companion Care, one of the top nursing agencies in Towson, MD and the surrounding communities can help in a variety of ways to ensure seniors with diabetes follow their dietary plans and are leading a healthy lifestyle. From transportation to medical appointments and exercise classes to trips to the store and planning nutritious meals and much more, we are here to help, each step of the way.