Written By: Dr Lee Ching Li, Dietician & Lecturer, International Medical University (IMU)
Eating is a basic everyday activity that everyone learns to do from a young age. We are aware that what we eat affects our health. Our diet has a direct effect on our blood glucose, blood cholesterol and blood pressure. We also know that a healthy diet can help keep our blood vessels healthy and protect the important organs of the body (e.g.- heart, brain). Even so, living with diabetes can sometimes make this basic act of eating seem complicated. This is because when it comes to eating and diabetes, what works for one person may not work for another.
Identify your personal health and diet goals with your dietitian, diabetes educator and doctor. If you find that you have more than one diet goal, work on one goal at a time. With each gradual change you make, you build confidence and increase your chances of lasting success.
Your small wins can be your mealtime.
Your small wins can also be a target diet behaviour.
For example, you can choose to first control the portion of carbohydrate in every meal. Once you have gotten the hang of this, you then move on to including wholegrain cereals in your diet.
The food that we eat function like tasty packages of nutrients. Foods that put together nutrients in a way to help us manage diabetes better are called high-quality foods. Foods that package nutrients in a way that damage our health are called lower-quality foods. When you next go food shopping, think about choosing more high-quality foods and less low-quality foods. Always watch out the liquid energy and learn how to read the nutrition label will help you make informed decisions.
The ancient saying ‘too much or too little of something is just as bad’ applies to the food and drink we take. Eating food in the right portions gives use the right amount of nutrients we need to manage diabetes and prevent diabetes related complications. Here is a three-step guide2 to help you eyeball the right portion of food to eat:
Step 1: Mentally divide your plate into quadrants (four equal segments).
Step 2: Fill ¼ of your plate with energy providing carbohydrate rich food like rice, noodle or potatoes. Fill the next ¼ of your plate with protein rich food like fish, legumes, poultry or meat. Finally, fill the remaining ½ of your plate with immune boosting vegetables.
Step 3: You can use your hands to help you estimate how much food you can pile into your plate. When filling your plate with energy providing carbohydrate rich food, choose an amount the size of 1 fist. When filling your plate with protein rich food, choose an amount the size of 1 palm of your hand. When filling your plate with vegetables, choose an amount the size of 2 cupped hands.
1 The Best Diet: Quality Counts. (2018, March 15). The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/best-diet-quality-counts/
2 Brown, M. J. (2018, September 11). 9 Tips to Measure and Control Portion Sizes. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/portion-control