Presented by the HealthPRO-Heritage Rehabilitation Team
in partnership with the Kensington of Sierra Madre
It can be difficult stabilizing your blood sugar after eating. Here are some mealtime tips to help keep your blood sugar in range. With type 2 diabetes, life can seem like a juggling act: You have to balance how much you eat, what you eat, when you eat, along with the right amount of exercise – as well as take your medication correctly and consistently. With the right balance, your blood sugar can remain stable; however, if your blood sugar rises, your risk of diabetes complications can rise also.
Your blood sugar levels elevate soon after eating; but, what food you eat, how much you eat, and when you take your medication can affect your levels too. Your body can be damaged pretty quickly from high blood sugar levels, and the higher the levels, the greater the risk of complications, according to an article in the Diabetes & Metabolism Journal. The greater the fluctuation of the blood sugar levels, the more likely you are to experience damage to your blood vessels, and other parts of the body.
Problems can develop when the numbers stay high for just a few days. The Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston suggests making changes to your treatment plan if blood glucose levels stay over 180 mg/dl for 3 days in a row.
If you have trouble maintaining your blood sugar in a healthy range, you’re not alone. Try these tips and tricks to keep your blood sugar under control :
Choose the Healthiest of Carbohydrates
Carbs have the biggest effect on your blood sugar, because they are the most quickly broken down into glucose for energy. Having too many carbs, or the wrong type can lead to spikes in your blood sugar. The best way to figure out how the carbs you eat affect your blood sugar is to test your blood before and after meals. Choose healthy, complex carbs such as whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and lentils, because these contain more fiber and are less processed so they won’t lead to as many swings in your blood sugar levels. Stay away from refined carbs such as soda, candy, white pasta, white rice, white bread, and other processed foods as they will cause blood sugar to rise quickly.
Offset Carbs with Fat and Proteins
When carbs are consumed as part of a meal that includes protein and fat, they affect blood sugar more slowly. The ADA recommends these steps to filling your plate:
*Half of the plate: non-starchy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, asparagus, or greens.
*A quarter of your plate: grains and starchy foods, like whole grain noodles, rice, or potatoes.
* A quarter of your plate: lean protein such as beef, fish, chicken, or tofu.
* Add an 8-oz glass of low fat milk and a piece of fruit or a half-cup of fruit salad on the side.
Get a Head Start on Protein
Breakfast seems to be a particularly good time to load up on protein. A study in the Journal of Nutrition states that people with diabetes who ate a high protein breakfast had lower blood sugar spikes after both breakfast and lunch than those who ate less. Reduced-fat cheese and egg whites are excellent sources of protein, according to the ADA.
Eat More Fiber
Fiber is a different type of carbohydrate that’s not broken down by the body, so eating it doesn’t have effect on blood glucose levels. It also promotes digestive health and keeps you feeling fuller longer after a meal. The ADA and other organizations recommend that the average person aim to eat between 20-35 grams of fiber each day. One of the best ways to hit this goal is to eat more whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits with the skin left on.
Go Nuts for Snacks
Snacks are a great way to lessen hunger so you don’t end up overeating at meals. Focus on snacks that combine carbs, proteins, and fats to help stabilize blood sugar. Nuts, in particular, are a great snack choice for people with diabetes. A study in a journal found that tree nuts, including pecans, cashews, and almonds, may also help with weight management and blood sugar control.
Beware of the Label “Sugar-Free”
When grocery shopping, watch out for sugar-free alternatives, which are better than the real-sugar versions, but not “healthy”. Just because a food says “sugar free” doesn’t mean it’s carbohydrate free too. This means the food can still raise your blood sugar. The best bet is to look at the nutrition panel and ingredient label on the package, and not rely on advertising claims on the package.
Drink More Water
What you drink can also make a difference in your blood sugar levels. The ADA recommends calorie-free options to stay hydrated: water and unsweetened teas are great choices. Diet soda is not a healthy substitute, but if faced with the choice between regular soda and diet there’s no question that diet soda is better. Drinking water is the most natural and healthy choice; plus, drinking it before a meal helps make you feel fuller and helps to avoid overeating.
Drink Less Alcohol
Alcohol isn’t completely off-limits for people with diabetes, but it can cause low blood sugar for up to 24 hours after drinking it. You can control how much you drink by pacing yourself with a full glass of water after every alcoholic drink. If you do drink, check your blood sugar before you do and again before bed. If the level’s too low, eat something to raise it. Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
Time It Right
Blood sugar levels can be affected by when you eat your meals; therefore, try sticking to the same time schedule from day to day to help keep your levels steady and consistent. Timing your medication and managing your insulin therapy around your meal schedule is important too. Insulin shots should be scheduled to start working when the glucose from food starts to enter your blood; for example, regular insulin works best if it’s taken 30 minutes before eating.
Simplify Your Tracking
Keeping a diary that tracks what foods you eat, and what your blood sugar levels are, is one of the best ways to learn how different foods affect you. They’re also good for figuring out the effects of daily stress and your exercise routine on your body. A handwritten diary may seem inconvenient, so try downloading one of the latest diabetes data tracking apps.
Come join us for July’s Discovery Series discussion at the Kensington, Thursday, July 11th from 2:00-3:00 p.m. We will present a more detailed overview of diabetes, the role of rehab in addressing the long term impacts of the disease, and eating strategies to reduce the stress and uncertainty of managing the disease.