Dealing With Type 1 Diabetes: 5 Healthy Eating Tips You May Not be Aware of

For Type 1 diabetics, finding new and better ways to eat healthier is an ongoing challenge. Over the years, even the American Diabetes Association has had to rethink and alter calculations for CHO exchange lists, and other lists for “correct” amounts of foods for diabetics. In the 1960′s, for example, 1/4 cup of rice was 1 bread exchange. Then in the 1970′s, it changed to 1/2 cup, and now it’s just 1/3 cup – an amount limited to just white rice. On top of that, the exchange lists have been relegated to Type II diabetes, as Type I diabetics are switching to counting carbs and calculating carb ratio amounts for insulin bolus doses—whether by pump or syringe or pen use. The goal, of course, is to keep blood sugar levels as “flat line” as possible. Since this is easier said than done, here’s a look at 5 tips for healthier eating and better glucose control.

  • Avoid alcohol:

    From adding extra calories and affecting blood sugar, to interfering with the effects of insulin and oral diabetic meds—not to mention a laundry list of other negative effects—alcohol is something you should consider cutting out of your diet altogether. This is especially true if you are having difficulty controlling your diabetes and blood sugar levels. For those with well-controlled diabetes, moderation is the key. And keep in mind that one drink of alcohol counts as two fat exchanges.

  • Stay well hydrated:

    Water is the perfect drink for Type 1 diabetics. Not only is it the only liquid that can truly quench the thirst that accompanies elevated blood sugars, keeping your body well hydrated throughout the day helps to insure that your body is functioning at its metabolic best. And one of those critical metabolic functions is breaking down sugars. The best way to insure adequate intake is to sip water throughout the day, which means taking bottled water with you wherever you go.

  • Avoid the “sugar-free” trap:

    You’re watching your sugar intake by limiting foods made with white sugar to once or twice a week. You’re also avoiding anything containing High-Fructose Corn Syrup like the plague and using invert sugar sparingly. But that doesn’t give you the license to consume large quantities of sugar-free drinks, foods, and snacks. Remember, sugar-free is not always synonymous with calorie or carbohydrate free. NOTE: For an occasional treat you might want to check out Russell Stover’s wide range of “new” sugar-free chocolate candy in the green bags. Many diabetics say that it tastes like the real deal.

  • Keep it real:

    Enjoy the colors and smells and taste of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, tofu, kefir and other dairy products. When it comes to cooking, use real oils like sunflower, canola, and olive oil. Fish, fowl, and fresh meats are always a smart choice, and you’ll find many diabetic friendly recipes online. For a real treat try IHOP’s new “grain-n-nut” pancakes. Be sure to take a bottle of agave nectar with you to replace the sugary syrups.

diabetes friendly recipes

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  • Keep it simple:

    Look for simple, satisfying meals that are easy to prepare. For example, season a pot roast with only real salt and pepper. Throw in some small yellow potatoes, carrots, celery, and yellow onions, slow cook for several hours and you’ve got a delicious, diabetic-friendly meal that’s sure to please. Again, the internet is an abundant source for great diabetic recipes.

Doug Harrington is a retired pharmacist with over 30 years of experience helping people suffering from diabetes.

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