meal-planningThe number one question I get from every newly diagnosed type 2 patient is, “what can I eat”?  They even admit to me that before they saw me, they were really nervous about what they could and could not consume that they started eliminating just about everything, making life a little more miserable. We registered dietitians do not want that to happen! The goal of this blog is to help you navigate what to eat BEFORE you see a dietitian. It's important to see a dietitian because they can help you create the meal plan that is right for you.  

First things first: you need to know which foods affect the blood sugars the most. Carbohydrates are the main source of energy that breaks down into sugar. We need to eat it, but it is the AMOUNT that will have the biggest effect on blood sugars. If the body cannot use all the sugar the correct way, blood sugars will rise.

So, what are carbohydrates (or carbs, for short)? They are:

  • Breads, crackers, rice, potatoes, corn, pasta, cereals, beans;
  • Fruit and fruit juices;
  • Milk, yogurt and;
  • Sweetened foods and beverages like candy, desserts, soft drinks, and sugar-sweetened beverages,

Essentially, carbs are found in everything except meat and fat.  

One of the easiest things that someone can do first is to stop drinking juices, soft drinks, kool-aids, sports drinks, and milkshakes.These have such a large amount of carbohydrates, that these drinks alone cause the blood sugars to rise way too high.To start, if you did this and nothing else, it would help your blood sugars improve.  

Now, if you are reading this and say to yourself, “but, I do not drink any of those things, now what?" The next step is to focus on the AMOUNT that you are eating on your plate. Using the Plate Method is the easiest way for us to still eat carbohydrates, but to make sure we are not having too much at one time.  

Make sure that your meal includes carbohydrate, protein, and fat:

  • ½ of the plate should be vegetables
  • ¼ of the plate should be carbohydrate
  • ¼ of the plate should be protein

Remember, this is just to get you started. When you do meet with a dietitian, you may be asked to measure some of your foods (cereals, rice, pasta) so you can estimate portions in the future. Investing in measuring cups, if you do not already have them, is a good idea.

Another question that people ask is, “how do I read the food label?” I will admit that there is a lot of information and it can be quite overwhelming!  However, for now, when it comes to reading the label, focus on the Serving Size and Total Carbohydrate sections on the label.The Serving Size will help you determine the amount you should be eating for a particular item.

As for Total Carbohydrate, you may notice that there is some additional information indented below it: sugars, fiber, and other carbohydrates may be there. What you need to know is that those numbers are already part of the total carbohydrate so you do not need to focus on the sugars or anything but the Total Carbohydrate. How high is too high? A general recommendation for total carbohydrate per meal is approximately 45-60 grams for females and 60-75 grams for males. If one serving of an item says 80 grams carb, that may be too high. But, if one serving is 15 grams of carb, that can easily fit into a meal.  

Before meeting with a dietitian, it may be a good idea to write down what you eat and drink, including the amounts, in order to help you better individualize what eating plan is right for you. Meal planning can be confusing and frustrating, but keep in mind that a dietitian’s job is to help you figure out how to continue to eat the foods you like, but to also help you incorporate foods that will help your diabetes and blood sugars. It is an evolving process, but it is worth it to help keep you healthy and happy!

For more great information on meal planning as well as seeing a sample meal plan, read DiabetesCare.net's Succeeding in Your First 30 Days with Type 2 Diabetes guide by going here.