If you have type 1 diabetes, your body makes little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps sugar enter the body's cells and controls the level of sugar in the blood. When there is not enough insulin in the body, the amount of sugar in the blood reaches very high levels and can be very dangerous, even leading to coma and death.
Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin, but diet (food management) and exercise are still very important parts of managing the blood sugar and preventing complications. The goal of food choices is to try to keep your blood sugar at a normal level throughout the day. This is done by matching your insulin doses with the types and amounts of food you eat. Meal plans can be designed to fit your lifestyle.
In type 2 diabetes you are unable to use your body's insulin efficiently. This causes your blood sugar to rise. Sometimes you can control your blood sugar with just diet and exercise. Or you may also need to take oral medicine or insulin shots.
In all cases, understanding how the food you eat affects your blood sugar is an important part of taking good care of yourself.
There are several ways to plan meals to help manage diabetes. Your diabetes care provider will help you find a meal plan that works for you. Most plans are based on measuring carbohydrates (carbs) in food because carbs have the biggest effect on your blood sugar level.
The most common types of meal plans are:
It is important to meet with a dietitian to develop a meal plan that fits your taste, budget, and lifestyle.
All meal plans are based on the following principles:
If you are taking a relatively constant insulin dose or oral diabetes medicine, the constant carbohydrate food plan can help keep the daily amount of carbs consistent. The carbohydrate counting plan allows your carbs to vary and works well with adjustable insulin doses.
Sometimes the effect a carbohydrate has on blood sugar will be different depending on what other foods are eaten with it. Testing your blood sugar 2 hours after a meal will help you find out how eating different combinations of foods can affect your blood sugar.
It is best to limit cholesterol to 300 mg/day, or less than 200 mg/day if you have high cholesterol. Twenty to 35% of the calories in your daily diet should come from fat. Saturated fats, such as butter and red meats should provide less than 7% of your calories. Try to also avoid trans fat.
Blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels can become high if blood sugar levels are too high. Your blood cholesterol level and triglyceride level should be checked at least once a year. If a high level is found, your dietitian can make suggestions to help lower it.
If you have diabetes, you should be cautious about drinking alcohol. Too much alcohol can make blood sugar levels fall too low. Drinking even a small amount of alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to a very low blood sugar. If you take insulin or diabetes pills, you have an even greater risk for low blood sugar because alcohol increases the effects of the medicine. Also, some medicines, including those for diabetes, can interact with alcohol and cause serious and potentially life-threatening problems. Always ask your healthcare provider about possible drug interactions before you drink alcohol.