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Diabetes Dietary Tips

Ajita Ratanjee is one of the dieticians on our Panel of Experts, and the founder of Easy Health Wellness. We asked her for a few diabetes dietary tips, and here’s what she has to say…

So what’s on the plate of a diabetic?

Many diabetics have a challenge keeping their glucose levels controlled. Remember that a combination of the following 3 factors ensures good glucose control:

  1. Use of medication (oral meds or insulin injections)
  2. Diet
  3. Exercise

When it comes to diet, most diabetics are familiar with the “AVOID” list of foods. Sugar, sweets and chocolates, sugary cooldrinks, cakes, pastries, biscuits, ice cream and puddings are the most popular. If you’re a diabetic and continue consuming the above list then you are literally accelerating the chances of complications of diabetes – blurred vision, kidney failure, sores on feet etc.

However there are many who are compliant to the “AVOID” list yet may still find elevated sugar levels. Many years of clinical experience of working with diabetics has allowed me to create a shortlist of other foods that are most likely spiking sugar and you are not even aware they are the cause.

These are 100% fruit juice, dried fruit, energy drinks, energy bars, muesli (containing nuts and dried fruit), popcorn and rusks.

Juices and dried fruits are a concentrated source of natural sugar resulting in blood sugar elevation. Most energy drinks are loaded with sugar and are not suitable for diabetics. Energy bars tend to be marketed as low fat however that is not sugar free.

The key to remember is that a diabetic should be aware of all foods that elevate bloods sugar levels. Grains, fruit and vegetables are all healthy but they need to be eaten in the correct portions to keep sugar controlled. Protein helps to stabilise sugar and thus an extra serving of meat / fish / chicken / egg / cold meat etc. will not elevate glucose as much as an additional slice of bread / rice / potato.

The magic to a diabetic’s diet lies in the correct proportion of carb to protein at meals and snacks and to ensure correct portions at every meal and snack.

Omega 3 available from tuna, sardine, salmon and mackerel is an essential fatty acid that is protective towards cardiovascular health and is anti-inflammatory. Due to diabetics being at high risk of heart disease omega 3 supplements are highly recommended. Make sure that you use good quality omega 3 that is heavy metal free.

So my message in a nutshell would be – it’s not just about “no sugar”

Rather, it’s about getting the carb – protein balance. Remember to test your glucose regularly and at different times of day. This enables you to monitor your control throughout the day. Test your sugar before a meal or 2 hours after a main meal. Keep a record of your glucose values.

At Easy Health Wellness we assist our clients by teaching them how to exchange carbs and to count carbs to ensure that they always are in balance at each meal and snack, and they can enjoy variety in their eating plans.

Remember: The diabetic way of eating is a very healthy way of eating, for all of us!

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash
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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.