Guidelines to Make Wise and Safe Choices for a Diabetic Diet

Q: 1. I am a 65 year old diabetic. I feel confused about the foods I should and should not be eating. Could you advise me about this?

To begin with I must say that to treat diabetes one does not only have to cut out all refined sugar and products containing it, but one must be conscious of the total calorie intake and therefore one has to be equally concerned about the amount of fat consumed as well. One gram of sugar or starch gives us 4 calories and 1 teaspoon of sugar = 20 calories. While 1 gm of oil or fat gives us 9 calories and 1 teaspoon of oil gives us 45 calories.

Therefore, a diabetic also needs to strictly avoid deep fried foods like mixture, chips, samosa, chaat, etc. Coconut chutney, ground coconut preparations and curry made with coconut milk must be avoided as these contain a high amount of fat. Milk cream is also dangerous for a diabetic and one should use commercially available skimmed milk if the blood sugar levels are not under control. Only skimmed milk should be used for coffee, tea, curd, lassi, etc.

Let us now look at other foods. Fruits are not forbidden for a diabetic but certain fruits are to be avoided strictly. Fruits safe for eating are Musambi, Orange, Apple (with skin) Pear and Pomegranate. Soft pulpy fruits without much fiber like Banana, Chickoo, Mango, Custard apple, are best avoided.

Vegetables specially, raw salads are very important in the diabetic diet. They give a lot of fiber and help to bring down the sugar levels. So, salads of Tomato, Cucumber, Onion, Cabbage, Capsicum, Radish and Lettuce are a must with both lunch and dinner. A little carrot may be added and avoid beetroot.

Cooked vegetables must be prepared with limited oil and here potato, sweet potato, tapioca and other root vegetables must be avoided.

Among cereals whole wheat or Atta and products like whole wheat bread, dry chapatti (phulka) and broken wheat or dahlia are good to eat. Tandoori roti made of atta is preferable to nan or kulcha made from maida. White bread and maida products are to be avoided. Semolina or Rava or Upma are wheat products, but it is refined, without fiber and therefore to be strictly avoided by a diabetic. Noodles, Pasta, Macaroni are also from refined wheat so must be avoided.

Unpolished rice is better than polished rice, but I would say please Avoid Rice and Rice items like iddli, dosa, appam, avalaki, beaten rice or puffed rice as far as possible as it shoots up the sugar levels easily. If rice is eaten it is safest only at lunch time. Breakfast could consist of ragi dosa,ragi porridge, wheat or ragi puttu, broken wheat upma, stuffed roti made with mooli/methi,oats,cornflakes or whole wheat bread. These suggestions should be strictly followed for the first 3 months, when the blood sugar levels are high. After the levels come under control then rice idli / dosa, upma or poha/avalakki may be eaten once or twice a week.

Pulses and dhals are a must in the diabetic’s diet to give protein and fullness. Dhal, sambar,curries of channa,rajma and a dry preparations of green moong or mote are possibilities which will give you protein and keep you full for the next four hours after they are consumed. This helps you to feel full and keeps your blood sugar level from going down after the meals.

Honey should be avoided by diabetics as it has a high glycaemic index.

Besides the above we have seen that 2 walks like 30 – 40 minutes morning and 25 – 30 minutes evening is very, very effective in reducing the sugar levels.

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