Dietary Guidelines for Diabetes

When you have diabetes mellitus, your body does not use blood sugar correctly, resulting in high levels of glucose circulating in your system. Excess glucose can damage sensitive organs, such as your eyes and kidneys, and cause permanent changes. You can control your blood sugar levels with careful nutrition and by following a diabetes food menu.

Diabetes Facts

In the United States, 8.3% of the population has diabetes, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, and nearly a third of people with diabetes do not know they have the disease. Diabetes was the seventh most common cause of death in 2007, and is associated with multiple health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, amputations, infections and gum disease. Tight control of your blood glucose through diet, exercise and medications reduces your risk of complications.

Diabetes & Glucose Control

When you eat, your body breaks down food into basic components, including glucose, or sugar. The glucose enters your blood stream. The hormone insulin assists the cells in your body to use glucose correctly. If you do not make enough insulin, or any insulin at all, your cells have difficulty using glucose, and the excess glucose moves through your body causing damage. You can control your glucose levels through careful diet choices and exercise.

Diabetes Dietary Guidelines

If you are overweight or obese, an important part of your dietary plan for diabetes is weight control. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends portion control as a method to control your weight and blood sugar levels while still eating some of your favorite foods. The ADA advises filling half of your dinner plate with non-starchy vegetables. Divide the remaining half of your plate in two and fill half with a lean protein, such as skinless poultry, egg white, beef or fish. Fill the final quarter of your plate with a starch, such as beans, corn, potato, quinoa, rice or whole-grain bread or tortilla.

Diabetes Menu Ideas

Once you are familiar with portion sizes and are aware of foods that contain high amounts of starch, or carbohydrates, you can devise a food menu that meets your diabetic needs and satisfies your stomach. If you enjoy Mexican cuisine, choose chicken, shrimp or beef fajitas loaded with peppers. Include rice, beans or a single small tortilla as your starch serving, but not all three. Similarly, you can prepare an entree with a grilled protein of your choice, a large serving of green vegetables and a small baked white or sweet potato. Monitor your blood glucose levels as advised by your physician and adjust the types of carbohydrates based on your body's response to eating them.