8 dietary guidelines for diabetics

A well balanced diet helps to reduce blood sugar levels and is the cornerstone of diabetes management.

A healthy diabetic diet provides 45-60 per cent of the calories from the carbohydrates, 10-15 per cent from proteins and less than 30 per cent from fat.

Guidelines for a diabetic diet include:

1. Maintaining ideal body weight. If one is obese, lose the excess weight to achieve a healthy body weight.

2. Limiting intake of refined sugars to less than 10 per cent of total calories.

3. Distributing daily calories between 3 main meals and 3 small snacks for a day.

4. Being careful about when and how much carbohydrate is eaten at each meal.

5. Including high fiber food like whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables in the diet. Foods low in GI help in management of blood sugar levels. However, one must exercise portion control. Examples of low GI foods are rolled oats, muesli, whole grain bread, brown rice/unpolished rice, vegetables like, cauliflower and cabbages and fruits like plums, cherries and grapefruit and dairy products like low fat milk and natural yoghurt.

6. Limiting total fat calories to less than 30 per cent of the total calories, and restricting saturated fat to less than 10 per cent of the calories while including more monounsaturated fats in the diet. Sources of monounsaturated fats are olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados and certain nuts and seeds

7. Maintaining a healthy lipid profile by consuming foods which are low in saturated fats and cholesterol.

8. Limiting one's alcohol intake

It is important to know that no single food can help in the management of blood sugars for a diabetic. Instead, it is important to have a well-balanced diet which includes all food groups. This, coupled with lifestyle changes such as incorporating regular exercise, is the best way to remain healthy.

Miss Alefia Vasanwala is a dietitian at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.