What you eat and when you eat play important roles in diabetes management. Both affect your glucose level and both affect how well diabetes medicines work.  
 
Timing is Important
Your blood glucose will rise after you eat. Before a meal, average blood glucose levels range between 90 - 130mg/dl. After a meal, the average level should be less than 180 mg/dl. Doctors recommend maintaining a relatively balanced blood glucose level. For instance, if you eat a big lunch one day and a small lunch the next day, your blood glucose levels will change significantly. Eating around the same times every day will help stabilize your glucose level. How much you exercise also affects what you should eat and when.
 
Eating Time Tips
  • Do not skip meals or snacks
  • Carry some nutritious snacks with you (ex. protein bar, vegetables, fruit, light popcorn)
  • If you are eating with other people, ask if you can eat at your usual time.
  • Visit a restaurant during its off-peak hours so you will not wait long.
  • If you want something special, ask if it will take longer to prepare.
  • If you must wait, eat something at the time you would normally eat, such as a cracker or some fruit.
  • If you must wait a long time, eat your usual bedtime snack before you eat dinner.
What to Eat
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), a healthy eating plan is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, moderate in protein, high in starches and fiber, and moderate in sodium and sugars. The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC) advises that the food pyramid can help you make wise food choices.
 
How Much to Eat
Consume about 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day if you are a
  • small woman who exercises
  • small or medium-sized woman who wants to lose weight
  • medium-sized woman who does not exercise much

    Choose this many servings from these food groups to consume 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day:
    - 6 starches, 2 milks
    - 3 vegetables, 4 to 6 ounces meat and meat substitutes
    - 3 fruits, up to 3 fats

Consume about 1,600 to 2,000 calories a day if you are a

  • large woman who wants to lose weight
  • small man at a healthy weight
  • medium-sized man who does not exercise much
  • medium-sized or large man who wants to lose weight

    Choose this many servings from these food groups to consume 1,600 to 2,000 calories a day:
    - 8 starches, 2 milks
    - 4 vegetables, 5 to 7 ounces meat and meat substitutes
    - 3 fruits, up to 4 fats 
Snacks
Besides eating a snack if you must wait for dinner, you might also need a snack if you participate in a long, vigorous exercise session. Snack ideas include a small roll, a piece of fruit, or a small glass of juice or milk. A dietitian can tell you about other healthy snacks as well as other times you might need them.


The ADA recommends eating a snack before exercising if your blood glucose level measures less than 100 mg/dl and eating one every 30 minutes if it measures between 100 and 250 mg/dl and you`ll be exercising for more than an hour. You probably do not need a snack if you are exercising for less than an hour and your level measures between 100 and 250 mg/dl.

However, you might not need snacks when you exercise if you take insulin. Your diabetes care provider can advise you.

Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycemia)
If you feel shaky, confused, irritable, hungry, weak, or tired, and if your blood glucose level measures 70 or lower, consume one of the following:
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of any fruit juice
  • 1/2 cup of a regular (not diet) soft drink
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of milk
  • 5 or 6 pieces of hard candy
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey
  • 3 or 4 glucose tablets
  • 1 serving of glucose gel (check the label - you will want the amount equal to 15 grams of carbohydrate)

After 15 minutes, check your blood glucose again. If it is still too low, eat or drink another serving. Repeat until your blood glucose level measures 70 or higher. If it will be an hour or more before your next meal, eat a snack.

For more information, see hypoglycemia.  

 

Reviewed by Clara Schneider MS, RD, RN, CDE, LDN - 05/13