Eating Smart With Diabetes

If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor has most likely stressed the importance of eating right to help keep your disease in check. Most experts agree that although there's no one correct diet for diabetes, people with the disease should follow the nutritional guidelines outlined in the USDA Food Pyramid. This means paying special attention to carbohydrate intake and eating similar amounts of food at the same time each day to keep your blood-sugar levels stable.

Shopping for Sensible Snacks

Snacks play an important role in the daily lives of diabetics. For those with type 1 diabetes and forms of type 2 diabetes that require insulin, snacks eaten between meals and before bedtime are essential to keep blood-glucose levels as close to normal as possible and to help prevent low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). The American Diabetes Association offers these tips for making smart snacking choices:

  • Sugar-free doesn't necessarily mean carb-free. Don't assume the total carbohydrate content of a sugar-free food is going to be much less than that of its full-sugar equivalent. Oftentimes, there's not much of a difference.
  • "No sugar added" is no guarantee. These types of foods don't have any form of sugar added during processing or packaging, and they don't contain high-sugar ingredients. They may still be high in carbohydrates, though, so be sure to check the label.
  • Fat-free isn't always better. In fact, fat-free foods can be higher in carbohydrates and contain almost the same amount of calories as the foods they replace. Again, be sure to read the label carefully.

There's No Place Like Home

Preparing foods at home allows you to control the ingredients that go into your recipes. Here are some suggestions for some quick, healthy snacks you can pull together in no time at all.

  • Peanut Butter Grahams. Spread low-fat peanut butter on a graham cracker. Top with a banana slice, and you've just covered some of your protein and starch exchanges for the day.
  • Fruity Gelatin. Prepare sugar-free, fruit-flavored gelatin. Add small chunks of fruit before chilling. The gelatin is a "freebie," but depending on how much fruit you add, you may have to count this snack as a fruit exchange.
  • Baked Chips and Salsa. Baked chips still have carbohydrates and will count in your starch exchanges, but the salsa adds great flavor with no fat and very few calories.