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    Learning About Your Health

    Diabetes: Healthy Eating

    What Can I Eat?

    Many people think that having diabetes requires a special diet. The diabetes diet, however, is a healthy, enjoyable one, and suitable for the entire family. Learning what you can eat and how different foods affect your body is important. Although food is not the only factor that raises glucose, your food choices have a significant impact on your glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure and, of course, your overall health.

    This page covers the basic principles of good nutrition. For a tailored plan, consult a dietitian-certified diabetes educator, or call the Center for Diabetes Services at (415) 600-0506.

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    What Foods Turn Into Glucose?

    Carbohydrate turns into glucose. Sugars and starches are the carbohydrates in our diet. These foods are our main source of energy. Too much carbohydrate in the diet can raise your blood glucose levels too high. It is important have consistent carbohydrate intake at each meal and to not cut out carbohydrates from your diet.

    What are Some Examples of Foods that Contain Carbohydrate?
    Rice, Fruits, Pretzels/Popcorn, Lentils, Fruit juices, Pasta/Noodles, Dried beans, Sugar/honey, Crackers, Milk, Desserts, Yogurt, Sodas, Cereals, Bread,*Yams, *Potato,*Peas, Corn*, *Lima beans.

    Note: *These vegetables are starchy and raise blood glucose: potato, yams, peas, corn, lima beans.

    Note: High fiber food choices are encouraged (for example, whole grain breads and cereals; fresh fruits and vegetables; beans and legumes).

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    General Nutrition Recommendations

    1. Include carbohydrate in every meal and snack. Be sure to spread your carbohydrate intake evenly throughout the day. Use the Sample Meal Plan as your portion guide.

    2. Do not skip meals. Even distribution of food helps prevent high and low blood glucose.

    3. Eat 3 meals a day, plus snacks as needed. Eating at regular intervals helps control hunger and prevents overeating at the next meal.

    4. Time your food intake to the action of your diabetes medication.

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    What Other Things Can I Do to Improve My Healthy Eating?

    1. Eat a Well Balanced Diet with a Variety of Foods at Each Meal: For example, there is no limit on vegetables and green salads. These foods are filling, nutritious, contain dietary fiber and raise blood glucose very little. Also, be sure to include moderate amounts of low-fat protein. Protein helps to control hunger between meals.

      Protein examples:

      • Poultry: chicken or turkey (white meat, no skin)

      • Fish: cod, flounder, trout, tuna, salmon, catfish, sardines

      • Lamb: roast, chop, leg

      • Shellfish: clams, crab, lobster, scallops, shrimp

      • Beef: sirloin, round, flank steak, lean ground beef

      • Other: egg whites, low-fat cottage cheese, cheeses (less than 3 grams of fat per ounce), tofu, dried beans and lentils

      • Alternative proteins: nuts, nut butter (Note: these sources are high in fat)
    2. Limit Your Intake of Fat, Especially Animal Fat: Fat does not raise blood glucose, but can lead to being overweight. Excess body weight can raise blood glucose. A high-fat diet also increases your risk of heart disease.

      High-fat Foods: High-fat meats, skin on poultry, chips, sausages, luncheon meats, crackers, whole milk, all fried foods, refried beans, cheeses, pastries, cookies

      Fats Added to Foods: Butter, margarine, cream cheese, cream, half & half, salad dressings, oil, gravies, cream sauces, sour cream

      Use Healthful Fats: Do not aim for a "fat free" diet. A small amount of fat at each meal makes it tastier and helps to control hunger between meals. Choose monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, olives, nuts, seeds and avocado.

    3. Be Careful with Alcohol: Drink alcohol only when your diabetes is controlled and with your health care provider’s approval. Drink in moderation, not more than one drink a couple of times a week, and never on an empty stomach. Alcohol can interfere with some diabetes medications and insulin and put you at risk for low glucose. It can also add “empty” (non-nutritious) calories and lead to weight gain.

    4. Reduce Your Sodium Intake: A low sodium diet may help to control your blood pressure. Be aware of foods with high sodium content such as canned goods, cured or pickled foods and seasonings (soy sauce, garlic salt). A ‘low sodium’ item has under 140 mg of sodium per serving. The American Heart Association recommends having less than 1,500 mg of sodium total per day.

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    Carbohydrates (CHO) Food Choices

    The food choices listed below contain carbohydrate that turns into glucose during digestion. Be sure to check specific food labels as individual brands vary.

    Foods with carbohydrate should be eaten in appropriate amounts and distributed throughout the day. One carbohydrate choice equals 15 grams of carbohydrate (CHO).

    • For women, choose 2 - 3 carbohydrate choices (30 - 45 grams) per main meals.

    • For men, choose 3 - 4 carbohydrate choices (45 - 60 grams) per main meals.
    See a list of carbohydrate food choices.

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    Sample Menu

    See a sample menu that includes meals and snacks.

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    Planning Your Meal with the Plate Method

    The Plate Method is a visual method designed to make meal planning easy. Use this diagram with the Food Guide for Meal Planning below.

    Examples of vegetables are lettuce, carrot, egplant, onion, turnip, etc. Examples of carbohydrates are bread, corn, popcorn, potato, milk, etc. Examples of meat, protein and healthy fats are ham, chicken, fish, egg, cheese, etc.
    Fill half (1/2) of your plate with salad, leafy greens (raw or cooked)

    Fill a quarter (1/4) of your plate with carbohydrates

    • For women: include 2 - 3 choices = 30 to 45 grams of carbohydrate

    • For men: include 3 - 4 choices = 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrate
    For snacks between meals, choose 1 carbohydrate choice (for example, 1 medium apple, or 1 artificially sweetened yogurt, or 3 cups popcorn)

    Fill a quarter (1/4) of your plate with protein: include 3 - 6 ounces (3 ounces = 1 deck of poker cards)

    Fats and Oils
    Include 1 - 3 teaspoons of healthy fats and oils. Choose mono-unsaturated (olive, peanut or canola oil) or fats high in Omega 3s (fish oils).

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    Food Guide for Meal Planning

    Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for your body.

    Foods with carbohydrate raise your blood glucose levels the most. Do include ___ carbohydrate choices (see list below) at each main meal (breakfast, lunch & dinner) and 1 carbohydrate choice for between-meal snacking: 1 carb choice = 15 grams of carb

    • Starch/Bread Group

      • 2 (4 inch) breadsticks

      • 1 slice (1 oz) bread

      • 1/2 English muffin

      • 1/2 cup oatmeal, cooked

      • 3 oz (small) potato

      • 1⁄3 cup rice, cooked

      • 1/2 cup yams

      • 1⁄3 cup noodle, macaroni

      • 1 - 4 inch pancake

      • 1/2 cup corn or peas

      • 1 - 6 inch tortilla

      • 3/4 cup dry cereal

      • 1 cup croutons

      • 1/2 cup kidney beans

      • 3 graham crackers

      • 1/2 small muffin

      • 3 cups popcorn

    • Fruit Group

      • 1 small orange

      • 1 cup strawberries

      • ½ medium grapefruit

      • ½ cup canned fruit

      • 1 medium apple/pear/peach

      • ¾ cup pineapple

      • 12 grapes

      • 2 Tbsp raisins

      • 4 inches banana

      • ½ small mango

      • ½ cup applesauce

      • 4 kumquats

      • 1⁄3 small cantaloupe

      • ½ medium papaya

      • 6 medium red dates

      • 1 ¼ cup watermelon

      • 1 large kiwi

      • 14 cherries

      • 2 plums or 2 figs

      • 3 medium prunes
    • Milk Group
      • 8 oz milk

      • 8 oz soymilk

      • 1 cup yogurt, artificially sweetened
    • Other

      • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey
    Protein helps build tissues and muscles. These do not raise blood glucose. Meats should be baked/ broiled and visible fats removed.

    Do include about 3 oz lean protein into each main meal:
    Cheese, fish, seafood, tofu, chicken, nuts, soybeans, turkey, eggs, pork, sirloin beef

    Fats and Oils
    • These do not raise blood glucose, but may raise cholesterol:
      Butter, cream dressings, mayonnaise, margarine

    • These may lower cholesterol:
      Avocado, nuts, seeds, canola oil, olive oil
    Vegetables are usually high in fiber and have little effect on your blood glucose. Include in every meal:
    Artichoke, eggplant, salad greens, asparagus, kale, spinach, beets, lettuce, summer squash, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, cabbage, mustard green, turnip or daikon, carrots, okra, watercress, cauliflower, onions, zucchini, cucumber, peapods

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    Understanding a Food Label

    See an example of a food label to understand how to read the information.

    Produced by the staff and physicians at California Pacific Medical Center in association with the Center for Patient and Community Education. Last updated: 12/11

    Funded by: A generous donation from the Mr. and Mrs. Arthur A. Ciocca Foundation.

    Note: This information is not meant to replace any information or personal medical advice which you get directly from your doctor(s). If you have any questions about this information, such as the risks or benefits of the treatment listed, please ask your doctor(s).

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