diabetes meal plan
From our community blog:
Petunia has a question for us about lowering high blood sugar:
“I would like to know what can I do to bring down my sugar. I have Type 2 diabetes, I’m on Actraphane 30/70 and I don’t have a proper diabetes diet.”
What do you suggest?
The obvious ones that spring to mind are:
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables, wholegrains, lean protein and no refined carbohydrates.
- Steer clear of sweet treats.
- Drink lots of water.
- Exercise a little every day – even if it’s just a walk around the block.
- Lose weight if necessary.
What do you have to add? Let’s help Petunia out!
I am also Type 2 – I find the best thing is exercise. Sometimes you can’t avoid the carbs, but if you walk, run or cycle 30 min per day – you can reduce your sugar levels significantly.
Diabetes is not an easy quick fix ever. It is important to manage this condition in the best way always and this means getting a lot of HELP! I suggest you find a dietician or a diabetes educator in your area and schedule an appointment a soon as possible. In order to understand this condition it’s important to understand how food and your medication impact on your glucose levels. It becomes so easy with this help!
We chat to Ishay Govender, acclaimed foodie writer, about her love of cooking and how to make Indian food just as tasty – but a little healthier.
You have a family history of diabetes – have you been tested yourself?
I get my blood sugar and cholesterol tested once a year – every year. Because I’m aware that Type 2 diabetes is often a hereditary condition, I’m very conscious of my health and how food contributes to my wellbeing. In traditional homes there’s an emphasis on food and family as a way of expressing love, and I know I’ve inherited that from my mother and grandmother – sharing food with people is my way of expressing that love.
Have you made any changes to your diet because you know Type 2 diabetes runs in the family?
I’ve learnt to alter things slightly so that they’re healthier but still have lots of flavour. When we first found out that my mom was diabetic I did a lot of research, and made sure she went to a dietician and found out specifics of how to change her cooking style. That said, we grew up in a very healthy household so the changes weren’t too difficult.
What advice would you offer to people who are struggling to eat a healthy diet?
I think the most important thing is to accept and make peace with the fact that you have diabetes – it doesn’t make sense to fight it. Also, food should never be about restriction, it’s about enjoyment. Change the spotlight from focusing on what you can’t have to what you can enjoy. It’s a great time to explore flavours, textures and a sense of fun in the kitchen.
Have you learnt any ‘tricks’ to make traditional Indian food a little healthier?
A few! Here are the main ones:
- Cook with less oil – it is possible, especially if you use olive oil cooking spray.
- Don’t eat double starch (i.e. rice and potato curry, or curry and roti)
- Cook vegetables for a shorter period of time so that they keep some of their goodness – things like okra and butternut don’t have to be cooked to mush.
- Rethink vegetables – they don’t only have to be pickled or curried, they can be fresh with interesting dressings. I try to include half a salad in a meal, with a yoghurt dressing (plain low fat yoghurt with toasted cumin seeds, mint and lemon zest – delicious!)
- I only use baby potatoes with their skins on – they’re low GI and the skin has fibre.
- Brown rice is so much healthier than white rice – it’s full of fibre and has a lovely nutty flavour. You also need less rice because it fills you up more.
- Spices and herbs are a diabetic’s best friends! They add such flavour and zest, and you can experiment with different combinations to make a dish more interesting.
What makes your life sweet?
The pleasure of enjoying food and food travel with my husband. Cotton pyjamas and fresh linen. The knowledge that even someone with a ‘soft’ voice like mine, can make a difference using it.
Get in touch with Ishay: @IshayGovender on Twitter / Instagram / Vin
Ask the dietician: Cheryl Meyer
From our community: “Sometimes it feels like I’m constantly trying to juggle what I want to eat and what I should be eating. Are there certain foods I must include in my diet because I’m diabetic?” Gracie Monaheng
The term “superfood” has become very popular in the language of food and health. We know that Mother Nature offers a wonderful selection of healthy foods, but research has yet to prove any of them magical. No single food, no matter how “super,” can take the place of the important combination of nutrients from a diet based on a variety of nutritious foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Some tests to help you decide whether a certain food is worth trying:
- How does it taste? No food is worth eating if it doesn’t taste good. There are plenty of options to choose from that offer both health benefits and flavour.
- Where was it grown? Has it had to travel long distances from where it was grown to where it was sold?
- How much does it cost? Has its “super” title brought with it a “super” price tag?
- Has it been researched? Check with your healthcare team.
- What value does it add to my overall diet? Variety is an important measure of diet quality, but bear in mind that adding variety doesn’t necessarily mean trying wildly new things: even just a slight change can wake up your taste buds.
Think positive when planning your diet — focusing on foods to add, rather than avoid. Aim to include*:
- Omega-3 rich foods: like salmon, mackerel, pilchards, tuna, canola oil, flaxseed oil, flaxseeds and walnuts.
- Leafy green vegetables: like spinach, kale, lettuce and bok choi. These powerhouse foods are low in kilojoules and total carbohydrate.
- Wholegrains: easily trump their paler, refined counterparts. Choose brown or wholewheat options for a source of protein, fibre and B vitamins.
- Berries: sweet, yet low in calories and packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.
- Nuts: plenty of flavour, very versatile and with a good dose of fibre and selenium. Although they are high in fat and calories, a few nuts go a long way to adding taste to all kinds of meals.
- Legumes: delicious, low in fat, high in fibre and rich in protein.
*As with all foods, you need to work these into your individual meal plan in appropriate portions.
Ask the dietician: Genevieve Jardine
From the community: “Every year I hold a National Heritage Day feast for my friends and serve up all the South African classics: boerewors rolls, koeksisters, samoosas, shisa nyama and curry. This year I have a diabetic friend coming and don’t want him to feel left out. How do I make the feast more diabetes-friendly?” Nashikta Singh
National Heritage Day is about celebrating the mixed flavours of South Africa, and there’s no better way to do this than by showing off our traditional dishes. Coming together around the braai or dining room table lets us share our past and create our future.
Traditional South African dishes have a lot of flavour and nutrition. Many of the classic dishes are naturally diabetes-friendly, while others may require some simple changes.
Made with onions, tomatoes, carrots, chillis, garlic, cabbage and cauliflower. It is packed with nutrients, fibre and flavour.
Tip: Don’t use too much oil while making chakalaka.
Mielie meal is a starch, so it will affect blood sugar. For better blood glucose control, you can cook it the night before and then reheat it on the day. This lowers the GI (glycemic index) of the pap.
Tip: Mix pap with cooked beans to further reduce the GI.
Use lean cuts of meat and fill the pot with a wide variety of vegetables. This method of cooking keeps the nutrients locked in the sauce.
Tip: Add plenty of non-starchy vegetables like baby marrows and green beans.
Curry and bobotie
The beauty of Indian cooking is all the herbs and spices. Garlic, onion, fresh chilli, turmeric, coriander and clove are all great for your health. Try to use lean cuts of meat (extra lean mince) and serve with small portions of brown basmati rice and vegetables.
Tip: Bean or lentil curry make an excellent starch alternative.
Shisa nyama or braai
Traditionally, braai meat is fatty (brisket, boerewors, chicken wings) and served chargrilled. Try to use leaner cuts of meat like skinless chicken or sirloin, with different marinades to keep the meat tender. Don’t only think meat when it comes to a braai: mielies, butternut, sweet potatoes and madumbes are also delicious.
Some traditional foods, like lean biltong or air-fried samoosas, can be altered to make them healthier. But when it comes to things like vetkoek and koeksisters, there’s not much you can do!
I don’t know about you, but cooking dinner is one of the things I wish I could just wave a magic wand at.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if somebody else did it for you? But not in a take-out way: I’d love it if somebody else made the kind of delicious, fresh, healthy food I try to make every day.
That’s why I was so excited to find out about UCOOK – seasonally inspired recipes, with all the ingredients delivered to your door.
You choose three meals a week, and they deliver a box full of fresh vegetables, meat, spices and everything you need to whip up a fabulous meal – including these recipe cards, which detail exactly what you need to do and when. The menu changes dramatically every week, but always in three sections: Health Nut (which is mostly low carb), Easy Peasy (20 minutes to make) and Veg (all vegetarian).
I let my husband choose the meals so (surprise surprise!) we had a lot of meat – but it was absolutely fantastic meat, organic and ethical, from locally sourced farmers. The vegetables were also top class – fresh and abundant, and the recipes are interesting and unusual (but not so unusual that I couldn’t get my kids to eat them!)
This is the Middle Eastern lamb with rustic baba ganoush and tzatziki – amazing! It took all of half an hour to prep (a little longer to cook) and it’s the first time I’ve ever successfully cooked lamb at home.
So what did I love about UCOOK?
- Not having to think about what’s for dinner.
- Not having to shop for dinner.
- Having all the ingredients for a delicious meal without worrying I’d forgotten something.
- Having a recipe to follow that is guaranteed to turn out well!
- Fresh, fabulous flavours – not the same old meals.
Of course, all this comes at a price. There are no sneaky costs – shipping is free and you don’t have to subscribe, you can just pay week by week if you like the meals (which I like a lot, because who knows what the week after next might bring?) They claim it’s cheaper than buying groceries, but I think that depends how you shop. I’m a pretty frugal shopper and I don’t think it would be cheaper for us, but it would certainly be more exciting and possibly healthier, as it would force our whole family to try new flavours, vegetables and ideas for dinner.
If you’re looking to add a little spice to your meals, I’d highly recommend giving UCOOK a try…
Remember when low carb wasn’t as well known as it is today? We do! Here’s an article from Sweet Life magazine published a few years ago that explains all the ins and outs…
Professor Tim Noakes says that a low carb, high fat diet is the way to go. We gathered your questions and asked him how the low carb diet affects diabetics. Here’s what he had to say.
What exactly is this diet?
A low carbohydrate, moderate protein, high fat diet. This diet is most effective for people with diabetes – either Type 1 or Type 2, or pre-diabetes, like myself. It also helps treat obesity, but it’s obviously not the diet for everyone. The question is whether it’s for 10% of the population, or 90% of the population – I think it’s about 60% or more.
Low carb means no bread, pasta, cereals, grains, potatoes, rice, sweets and confectionery, baked goods. You have to be resolute – and the more severely affected you are, the more resolute you have to be. If you’re already diabetic, you have every reason not to eat these foods.
Can you explain what carbohydrate resistance is?
My opinion is different from the traditional teaching. Carbohydrate resistance is traditionally described as someone who is unable to take glucose out of the blood stream and store it in their muscle and liver. I disagree with this explanation: I think we’re all born with varying degrees of carbohydrate resistance, and the children who get really fat very young are the ones who are most carbohydrate resistant. The carbs they take in they simply store as fat. That’s the first group.
The second group are people who become pre-diabetic at 30 or 40, and then they become diabetic at 50. They are overweight, and that’s a marker of the high carbohydrate diet. They eat a high carb diet, they are carb resistant and it gets more and more severe until they become diabetic. I think it’s genetic, and the reason I think that is because in my case, although I’ve lost weight, I’m still carbohydrate resistant – I can’t go back to eating carbs.
What if you have high cholesterol? Isn’t it dangerous to eat so much fat?
Firstly, the theory that high cholesterol is a good predictor of heart disease is not true – it’s a relatively poor predictor. A far better predictor is your carbohydrate status. Everyone knows this – if you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic, your risk of heart disease is increased. Diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are linked, but most heart attacks occur in people with cholesterol below 5. It’s very frustrating, because the public has got the wrong idea.
A high fat diet corrects everything, in my opinion – your HDL goes shooting up, your triglycerides come shooting down and that HDL to triglyceride ratio improves dramatically: that’s one of the better predictors of heart attack risk. The LDL small particles are the killers, and on a high fat diet, those go down. Your total cholesterol can go up, but that’s because your HDL has gone up, and the large, safe LDL particles have gone up. So unless you measure all those variables: HDL and LDL and triglycerides and glucose tolerance, you can’t judge the effects of the diet.
What carbs do you eat?
The good carbs are veg – that’s it. Sweet potatoes (not regular potatoes), butternut, squash and then I also eat dairy: milk, cheese, yoghurt. I don’t eat any fruit except apples, but that’s because I severely restrict my carbs. You’re not cutting out nutrients if you eat nutrient-dense foods like liver, sardines, broccoli and eggs – those are the most nutrient-rich foods you can eat. You can get vitamin C from meat if it’s not over-cooked. The key is that you eat lots of fat, and you don’t avoid the fat. I eat lots of fish, like salmon and sardines. And you want to eat lots of organ meats – that means liver, pancreas, kidneys, and brains if you can get them, but particularly the liver. Liver is very nutritious.
Is this diet possible for people who don’t have a lot of money?
You don’t have to eat meat every day – you can eat sardines and kidneys, for example, which are both very cheap.
Could the positive effect of a low carb diet on insulin resistance be because of the weight loss and not because of the new diet?
No, absolutely not. Because it happens within one meal – your insulin requirements go down within one meal, because you’ve shut off the production of glucose by not eating carbohydrates.
What is wrong with the old fashioned idea of a balanced diet? Why does it have to be so extreme?
If you’re diabetic, you have a problem with metabolising carbohydrates. You have to understand that if you want to live a long life and have minimal complications, you want to minimise your carb intake. Start at 50g a day. What that looks like is two eggs for breakfast, with some fish – salmon or sardines, and some veg. And dairy: cheese or yoghurt. That will sustain you until early afternoon. For lunch, I think you should have salad and some more protein and fat – and exactly the same for dinner. Chicken, cheese, nuts, salad, tomatoes, broccoli. It’s an incredibly simple way to eat, but you don’t get bored.
Once you’re on this diet, you feel so good, and you get rid of all these aches and pains and minor illnesses: you won’t want to go back. If you do go back to eating carbs you’ll put on the weight again. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifelong eating plan. It’s not a quick fix.
I think the diabetics who live to 80, 90, 100 are the ones who eat this kind of diet.
Ask the dietician: Genevieve Jardine
When someone is newly diagnosed with diabetes, it’s helpful to start with very simple dietary advice as they come to terms with the necessary lifestyle changes. The spectrum of food choices for diabetics involves “good choices” on one end and “bad choices” on the other. In the middle lies ‘moderation’, which can be adapted to the individual depending on personal factors and other conditions like blood pressure or cholesterol.
Here, we’ll break down what good and bad choices look like in each of the food groups – proteins, starches and sugars, vegetables, fruit, fats and oils, and drinks.
Proteins: meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy
- Fish more frequently (especially fatty fish like salmon, trout and mackerel)
- Eggs, especially boiled eggs
- Plain yoghurts, milk and cottage cheese
- Plant-based protein options like beans, lentils and chickpeas, instead of meat
- Using chicken that has skin removed (preferably grass-fed)
- Game meat that is very low in fat
- Deep fried meat, chicken and fish
- Very fatty red meats and processed meats
- Diary that has been sweetened, like ice cream
- Imitation cheese and coffee creamers
Starches and sugars
- Unprocessed, high fibre starches like sweet potatoes, rolled oats, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, buckwheat and barley.
- Items made with wholegrain flour with little or no added sugar such as wholegrain bread, crackers and cereals.
- Any food item that has a lot of sugar added, like sweets, chocolates and biscuits.
- Refined flours that have been processed and bleached white such as white flour, white breads, white crackers, white rice and refined cereals (especially if the cereals have sugar added).
- Deep fried starches such as doughnuts, koeksisters, vetkoek, fried potato chips and crisps.
- Homegrown, fresh or even frozen vegetables with emphasis on lots of different colours. Try to eat a rainbow of vegetables. Eat them raw, juice them, steam them or bake the root vegetables for maximum nutrient retention.
- Fresh herbs and spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, mint, rosemary and coriander.
- Vegetables that have been boiled
- Vegetables with thick sauces
- Canned vegetables which are higher in salt (for those people who need to watch their salt intake)
- Fresh fruit in season
- Fruits with a naturally lower sugar content, such as berries, apples and citrus
- Fruit juices
- Dried fruit with sugar coating
- Fruit canned in a thick syrup
Fats and oils
- Foods that are naturally high in fats like olives, avocado, nuts and seeds
- Good quality oils such as extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
- Foods that are high in trans fatty acids and hydrogenated vegetable oils (read the food labels to spot these words).
- High quantities of plant seed oils like sunflower and canola oil (usually deep fried products).
- Filtered water flavoured naturally with lemon or mint
- Herbal teas
- Sugary drinks such as sports drinks, fizzy drinks, iced tea, flavoured water.
- Alcoholic beverages that are high in sugar, such as cocktails, dessert wines and fruity mixed drinks.
I have been a diabetic Type 1 for the past 17 years. My levels are up and down but under control. I go to the endocrinologist twice a year.
I just want to hear what other blacks have to say about our diet. Blacks have the staple food rich in carbohydrates, which makes it difficult for us to adjust. I feel that this is a rich man’s disease. All dieticians advise us on a diet which is not affordable. Please help.
Which foods should I include on my plate to make 1/4 protein, 1/4 carbohydrates and 1/2 fruit and vegetables.
In issue 6 of Sweet Life magazine, our fabulous dietician Genevieve Jardine shared some great ideas for Meals at the speed of life…
Looking for more delicious meal ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Here they are!
- High fibre, low GI cereals are an easy option for a quick breakfast. Oats can be microwaved at work or instant oats can be used in emergencies.
- Leftovers from the night before. It is not advisable to have two main meals a day so please watch your portion sizes of the leftovers. Lunch should be a lighter meal.
- A low fat convenience meal. Read the food labels and aim for about 1000Kj to 1500Kj per meal, 15-45g of carbohydrate per meal and low in fat. This is, of course, is person specific.
- A collection of small snacks can make a meal. A couple of wholewheat crackers, a fruit, yoghurt and a small handful of nuts would be enough for a lunch.
- Make use of canned beans, lentil and chick peas. Canned tomato and onion sauces are good or bottle pasta sauces that are low in sodium and have less that 3g fat per 100g sauce.
- Make use of slow cooking methods (e.g. a crockpot) which means that you put the food on in the morning, let it cook during the day and when you get home it is done.
Do you have any other no-fail meal ideas to share with the community?