Living with diabetes

Just being mindful of what you eat makes a big difference

Man having fruits

It’s the special occasions like weddings, parties, religious fasts and holidays that cause even your best-thought- out diet plans to go for a toss and your sugar levels to fluctuate. Here’s a back-up plan for times when you’ll need one the most.

Partying and dining out

It is very important to lead a happy life even if you have diabetes. This helps in managing your stress which is helpful in normalising sugar levels. No two people lead the same lifestyle. Your routine, meal schedules, snacks/food choices, exercise/activity level affect your sugar control. You should have a tailor-made diet plan based on your lifestyle, preferences, activity level, associated medical conditions and treatment goals.

Ask yourself: How often do you eat out?

If your answer to the question is ‘very often’, then look for restaurants which offer diet/health food or low-fat choices. These days, restaurants do serve healthy vegetable juices along with healthy starters and meals. Some even provide the nutritive value [calories, proteins, fats and carbohydrates] of different dishes.

  • Calorie budgeting: If you plan to go out for dinner then budget your total caloric requirement. Eat a light lunch comprising of salads, fruit and yoghurt.
  • If you have to eat out at dinner plan your day’s other meals such as breakfast and lunch. Eat a low-fat breakfast like a bowl of cereal with toned milk or a sandwich. Include plenty of vegetables in the form of salads for lunch along with soup, chapatis, dal and vegetables.
  • Diabetes should not stop you from socialising or attending parties, weddings, picnics and other celebratory events. You need not completely give up all your favourite foods. The key is to make a variety of healthy food choices and limit portion.
  • Eat before you leave: Eat a healthy snack before leaving the house e.g. sprouts and fruits, buttermilk and bhel, a sandwich, oats, multi-grain biscuits or a roasted snack.
  • Plan your meal: Check out all the foods available at the party or browse through the menu card at the restaurant. Mentally decide what and how much you will eat. Select foods and portions that fit into your meal plan.
  • Cook a healthy dish at home and bring the healthy dish to the party to share. After you have filled your plate, move away from the buffet table. Don’t snack on appetisers while chatting.
  • Take your time to eat and relish the flavours. You tend to eat less if you eat slowly.
  • Drink lots of water instead of alcohol or carbonated drinks—it has zero calories and is healthy!
  • Remove the cream/butter and extra frills from desserts and the fatty parts and skin from meat dishes.
  • Participate actively in the party games and dancing. Circulate more among friends and family rather than among the buffet tables.

When you eat a meal at a restaurant, remember to choose :

  • A salad or fruit-based dish as a starter
  • Clear soups instead of creamy soups
  • Tandoori roti, jeera rice, seasonal vegetable, mixed dal as part of the main course
  • Broiled, steamed, grilled foods over fried foods
  • Small serving sizes, clubbed with steamed vegetable salads or fruit dishes. Select a low-fat or fat-free salad.
  • A small serving of a sweet dish once in a while. Or substitute it with fruit raita or frozen yoghurt.

Curb the craving

We all get cravings, sometimes for snacks and at other times for sweets. It is very difficult to explain the cause behind food cravings but it is well-known that one gets an intense craving for foods that are forbidden.

You can deal with them in the following ways:

  • Drink a glass of water with a dash of lemon or fresh lemon juice. Craving for food may be thirst in disguise, and a bit of extra flavour may help you drink more and eat less.
  • Choose a snack which contains protein, carbohydrates, fat and fibre because such a snack helps in controlling blood sugar levels and cravings, such as mixed vegetable and sprout chaat or a few almonds and walnuts.
  • Don’t sit idle. Involve yourself in some activity or exercise.
  • Sometimes, give in to your cravings. Take a few bites and satisfy them.

Spare the salt

Choose low-sodium products and read the food labels carefully. Reduce the daily salt intake in food.
You could try the following mix as a seasoning in place of salt : 1 tsp garlic paste, 1 tsp onion paste, 2 tsp ground thyme, 1 tsp mild paprika, ½ tsp white pepper, ½ tsp powdered mustard seeds, ½ tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp ground dried lemon peel.
Mix all the ingredients together in a small jar and use it when needed.

Holiday time

A vacation is a time for fun, relaxation and a break from a busy working life. It is a stress-buster and rejuvenator. But a holiday doesn’t mean a holiday from regular, healthy and controlled eating!

Request for a diabetic meal on the flight. If diabetic meals are not available select vegetarian, low-calorie, low-fat items from the regular menu or eat the food that you have packed.

While travelling, carry plenty of food with you. For example:

  • Fresh fruits
  • Salad vegetables
  • Roasted chana, murmura, khakra
  • Baked/roasted snacks and savouries like soya nuts, roasted chakli, chiwra
  • High fibre or multi-grain biscuits that don’t contain sugar
  • Thepla [cooked in less oil] or soft chapatis [flour kneaded in milk]
  • Dried fruits.

Prepare healthy snacks like bhel, chana chaat, fruit chaat at the holiday venue. Drink enough water to keep yourself hydrated. Fresh lemon juice, coconut water, buttermilk or unsweetened soya milk should be preferred over fruits juices, soft drinks and soda.

Be active. Go for long walks or play outdoor games. If you are off to a beach or near a pool, you can swim or play some beach games. Otherwise, walk for some time whenever possible.

Cooking healthy meals

  • Consider healthy alternatives to traditional meats. Choose lean meat or poultry. Use cooking methods like baking, steaming, broiling and grilling. Don’t deep-fry. Stir-fry in minimum oil instead.
  • Increase fibre intake. Eat whole grain cereals, legumes and beans to increase the fibre content of your meal.
  • Go easy on the toppings. Lighten your recipes by using reduced-fat or fat-free mayonnaise, butter, sour cream, or salad dressing. Avoid butter icing, glazing with sugar and other toppings. Sour cream, fat-free or low-fat mayonnaise and salad dressings with olive oil make for great garnishes.
  • Focus on fruits. Choose fresh or canned fruits instead of ice cream, cakes, or pies. Transform high-fat, high-calorie desserts by replacing whole milk or whipped cream with milk or cream containing 1 – 3 per cent fat or skimmed milk. Fresh fruits are both tasty and healthy and vastly preferable to ice creams, pastries and pies. Use toned milk or skimmed milk to prepare dessert recipes that call for milk.
  • Drink low-calorie beverages, water or diet beverages. If you must have colas, go for diet colas or low-calorie beverages. Water is still the best drink in the world!

‘Fast’ food

Neither fast nor feast if you are diabetic! If you have to fast for religious reasons, don’t do it too often. Never, never starve, but follow the same pattern of frequent, small meals of the food that is allowed during a fast. Avoid fruit juices, sweets or fried snacks.

Here’s a menu you could follow during a fast:

Early morning   A cup of tea
Breakfast A glass of milk or a bowl of fruits
Mid-morning Lemon water, dried fruits
Lunch Sabudana khichri or mashed potato tikki
Evening A cup of tea and high-fibre biscuits
Dinner Regular diet [chapati, vegetables, dal, rice, yoghurt, salad]
Bedtime A glass of milk

Keep yourself well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

In times of sickness

If you have fever, vomiting, nausea or are otherwise feeling sick, you either lose your appetite or have a diminished appetite. You should have your favourite foods at this time.

Motivate yourself to eat even if you feel nauseous at the very sight of food. Citrus fruits, soups and plain toasts are good foods to choose.

Here is a menu for when you are feeling sick:

Early morning  A glass of lemon juice
Breakfast Plain toast/ khakhra /vegetable sandwich
Mid-morning Clear soup/buttermilk/fruit
Lunch Khichri/plain rice with dal, yoghurt
Evening Tea with high-fibre/multi-grain biscuit
Dinner Porridge/upma/poha
Bedtime Ragi kanji

If you are not lactose-intolerant, then you can drink two glasses of milk a day or have porridge prepared in milk.

This was first published in the November 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

Magnifying lens over an exclamation markSpot an error in this article? A typo maybe? Or an incorrect source? Let us know!

Dr Shweta Rastogi, [PhD nutrition] has more than 10 years of work experience in the field of nutrition and wellness. She has authored two books Diet, Diabetes and You and Eat right to stay bright.


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