General principles for diet for diabetic patients


Healthy eating is a cornerstone of any diabetes management plan. But it's not just what you eat that affects your blood sugar level, how much you eat and when you eat matters, too.


What to do:

Keep to a schedule. Your blood sugar level is highest an hour or two after you eat, and then begins to fall. But this predictable pattern can work to your advantage. You can help lessen the amount of change in your blood sugar levels if you eat at the same time every day, eat several small meals a day.

Make every meal well-balanced. It is good if you learn to plan for every meal to have the right mix of starches, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and fats. Traditional Indian thali with 2-3 chapattis, one vegetable, 1 /2 katori dal, salad and 1cup curd or butter milk makes a good example of well-balanced diet.

Eat the right amount of foods. Learn what portion size is appropriate for each type of food. In this way you can add variety of food items in your diet.

Coordinate your meals and medication. Too little food in comparison to your diabetes medications — especially insulin — may result in dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia). Too much food may cause your blood sugar level to climb too high (hyperglycaemia). Talk to your diabetes health care team about how to best coordinate meal and medication schedule. Also know when to take medication in relation to intake of meal.

Diabetes never means big no to anything .A diet for diabetes is not so different from any good, healthy eating routine. People with diabetes can eat most of the foods which is healthy. But one might have to change- Quantity, Frequency and Duration of eating.

The main goal for diabetic diet is to maintain blood sugar levels, and this can be achieved by a combination of three separate actions.
1. Avoiding foods that are high in sugar especially simple sugars like Gur, Honey, Jam, sugary cold drinks, sweets and chocolates.
2. Using portion control to limit your intake of all foods while still providing proper nutrition.
3. Eating 6 meals a day rather than three large.

So, a diabetic can eat all the foods that are healthy to every one- grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, low fat milk and meat.

With diabetes you have to just consider few things. These are –



Few examples of these approaches are-

1. Food Pyramid-The food pyramid can help you make wise food choices. It divides foods into groups, based on what they contain. Eat more from the groups at the bottom of the pyramid, and less from the groups at the top.




2. Plate Method- It’s simple and effective for managing diabetes. Creating your plate let's you still choose the foods you want, but changes the portion sizes so you are getting larger portions of non-starchy vegetables and a smaller portion of starchy foods. When you are ready, you can try new foods within each food category. All you need is a approx 9-inch plate.

Put an imaginary line down the middle of the plate. Then on one side, cut it again so you will have 3 sections on your plate.

1.Fill the largest section with non-starchy vegetables such as: spinach, carrots, lettuce, greens, cabbage, cucumber, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, okra, mushrooms, peppers, turnip etc.

2.Now in one of the small sections, put starchy foods such as: wheat chapatti, brown rice, whole grain breads, cereal such as oatmeal or corn flakes, pasta, noodles, potatoes, green peas, corn, lima beans, sweet potatoes, and then on the other small section, put your proteins or meat such as: Whole Pulses, Grams, soybean ,chicken ,fish, eggs, low-fat cheese/Paneer.

4.Add a small bowl and/or glass for your fruit and dairy products.




3. The food exchange system - Exchange list programs are useful for patients who are willing to follow a more structured system to control blood glucose or weight but want some flexibility to create their own menus. It contains group of measured foods of the same calorific value and similar proteins, fats and carbohydrates and can be substituted for one another in a meal plan; these are starch/bread, meat, vegetables, fruit, milk, and fat. A person is allowed a certain number of exchange choices from each food list per day. Foods can be substituted for each other within an exchange list but not between lists even if they have the same calorie count.

E.G. Fruit Exchange- 1 Small Apple=1/2 medium banana = 1/2 mango= 3 Dates= 1 1/4 cup watermelon=1/2 chikoo= 1 Guava =15 Grapes=1 Orange= 1/2 pomegranate=1 kiwi =2 Figs = 2-3 slice of papaya= 3 Plums= 1 1/2 slice pineapple.




E.g. Starch Exchange- 1 chappatti- approx 6 inch wide =1dosa- approx 10 inch wide =2 medium idli- Approx 15 gm weight =1 large slice of bread =1/2 katori rice = 1 small potato





It is always advisable for the near and dear ones of the person with diabetes to have same diet, as diabetic diet is not a special diet but an idealistic balanced diet




Other than general population, diabetics should also aim to attain healthy mind and healthy body by keeping golden rules in mind:




Q) To snack or not to snack?

Answer) Snack but on healthful foods

Carry nutritious snacks that safeguard you from eating outside meals, the chances of infection, or inaccessibility of food in case one is unexpectedly delayed.



Swapping healthful carbohydrates (carbs which contain fibre and provide vitamins and minerals) for less healthful carbohydrates (refined foods)


If you keep the essentials for creating a healthy meal on hand, you won’t be as likely to run to fast food, convenience food or takeout.



Eating out can be a challenge for people with diabetes.