Managing your Diabetes with a Well-Balanced Diet


Managing your Diabetes with a Well-Balanced Diet


Why should I eat a well-balanced diet?

Eating a well-balanced diet is great way to improve health especially for people with diabetes. This is not a typical diet that involves avoiding certain foods; it is a way of eating that provides the most health benefits by including all of the different food categories.

What is a well-balanced diet? 

Food is often labeled in three different categories for nutrient composition.  Those three categories are fats, carbohydrates and proteins.  Each category of nutrient has a very different effect on our body, and we need food from each category to make a well-balanced diet.  What makes a diet well-balanced is the amount of each nutrient in our daily diet.  The composition or ratios of the nutrients play the biggest factor when considering a healthy, well-balanced diet.  A well-balanced diet contains foods from all of these groups at almost every meal because these foods have different vitamins and minerals that contribute to our health.  This will help to achieve a stable weight, better blood sugar control, and a reduced risk of health complications.

What are “fats”?

Fats are foods that contain fat-soluble vitamins important for hormones, cell structure and function, and immune enhancing properties.  Fats can also be used to enhance the flavor of some meals.

Foods that contain fat are oils, butter, margarine, animal fat, whole milk, nuts and avocados.  The American Heart Association recommends less than 7% of our calories should come from saturated fats(animal products), and about 30% of our diet should come from a combination of all of the fat sources.

What are “carbohydrates”?

Carbohydrates are foods that raise blood sugar, contribute the most amount of energy to our cells, and fuel our activities and exercise.

Carbohydrate sources are bread, cereal, rice, pasta, fruit, juice, milk, vegetables and sweets.  Carbohydrates play an important role in helping to manage a well-balanced diet because these nutrients also come with many other health benefits including anti-oxidants.

What are “proteins”?

Proteins are the building blocks for many different cells in the body such as muscles, immune cells, and transporting molecules.  We need a smaller percentage of protein foods in our diet than fat or carbohydrates but that doesn’t make them any less important.  We need a minimum of 15% of our diet to come from protein.

Foods that contain protein include meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and to a lesser extent beans, nuts, seeds and even some vegetables.

What does a “well-balanced diet” meal look like?

An example of a well-balanced breakfast is 2 scrambled eggs, ½ cup cooked spinach, 2 tbsp salsa, 1/8 avocado and 1 medium banana.  (American Heart Association recommends no more than 3 egg yolks per week.  Alternatives could be hot or cold cereal.)

An example of a well-balanced lunch is 2 cups of salad greens, 3 ounces of grilled chicken, 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp vinegar, 1 medium chopped tomato, 1 medium sliced cucumber, 1 cup strawberries, and 1 cup yogurt.

An example of a well-balanced dinner is 1 medium sweet potato, 3 oz salmon filet, and 1 cup cooked zucchini.

Shanti Wolfe is a Dietetic Intern and Martha Holland is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Carson Tahoe Health.

At Carson Tahoe Health we have a Diabetes Education Department staffed with Certified Diabetes Educators (RN or RD) who can help you learn to manage your diabetes.  We will tailor a meal plan for you and provide a free blood sugar testing starter kit.  You will need a physician referral.  Call (775) 445-5500 for a private appointment.  Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurance plans have a benefit for Diabetes Self Management Education.  Call the Diabetes Experts at (775) 445-8607 with questions.