A diabetic diet is a diet used by a patient with diabetes to help control blood sugar. Some people are able to manage their diabetes through a diabetic diet alone, while others must also take insulin. Other measures which can be used to manage diabetes include integrating exercise routines into the patient's lifestyle and eating a diet which is designed to control for related health problems such as cardiovascular disease.
People with diabetes lack the ability to produce insulin, or are nonresponsive to it. As a result, their blood sugar gets out of control, leading to a variety of problems ranging from permanent damage to the blood vessels to coma. Treatment of diabetes involves making permanent lifestyle changes which are designed to manage the disease. Diabetic diets do not have to be restrictive or dull when they are carefully administered, and someone with diabetes can eat out at social events just like everyone else.
Someone who needs a diabetic diet can get basic advice from a doctor, but it is also advisable to go to a nutritionist or dietitian. These healthcare professionals can provide detailed and highly specific advice, and they can help design a diet which a patient will be able to stick with. Nutritionists and dieticians can also help with things like shopping, meal planning, and so forth. Even long-term diabetes patients can benefit from periodic nutritional advice as their diabetes may change over time.
The goal of a diabetic diet is to keep blood sugar low. One important aspect of the diet is an adjustment to eating frequent small meals, rather than infrequent large ones. Consumption of carbohydrates, including sugars, is kept low, because they can raise blood sugar. Patients are usually encouraged to eat lots of fresh food, and to focus on whole grains and lean sources of proteins.
There are a number of different ways to structure a diabetic diet. Some patients use exchanges, in which foods with similar impact on blood sugar are grouped together, and the patient mixes and matches to achieve desired dietary goals for the day. Others eat a low glycemic index diet. Other approaches to a diabetic diet are also available.
A good diabetic diet is diverse, with room for flexibility provided through “free foods” which can be eaten in abundance. If a patient finds one approach hard to stick with, he or she should ask about other diabetic diets to see if a better system can be found.