Diabetes and Diet: What Do I Eat?

WebMD Live Events Transcript

This class is sponsored by Hershey's Sugar-Free chocolates.

The good news: You have the power to influence your blood sugar levels with what you eat. The bad news: The path to eating right is not always easy to follow. On April 20, 2004 diabetes educator Karmeen Kulkarni joined us with tips and guidelines for controlling your blood sugar levels.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I was just diagnosed with diabetes and I'm unsure what kind of food I am able to eat. Can you help me?

KULKARNI:
I'm glad you're seeking out information right away and that you're participating in our program today. If you're newly diagnosed, I would recommend that you check in your area for a diabetes program that has American Diabetes Association recognition and make an appointment with the registered dietician that is part of that staff. He or she will help you individualize your food choices

In the meantime I would encourage you to eat three meals a day and keep your carbohydrate foods consistent at each meal. Carbohydrate food sources are starches and sugars -- starches like pasta, rice, bread, and cereals, and sugars like fruit, juice, milk, desserts.

Be conservative in your portion sizes. If you have a blood glucose meter, I would encourage you to do a fasting blood glucose in the morning; that is, when you wake up and you haven't eaten anything or taken any medication, do a blood glucose and that would be your blood glucose for the day. Then I would encourage you to also do a before lunch and two hours after lunch, a before dinner, and two hours after dinner blood glucose, and take that information into your appointment. Best wishes to stay healthy.

MEMBER QUESTION:
I am prone to high triglycerides, causing pancreatitis five times and now type 2 diabetes. This means sugar and fat are excluded off my eating list. The problem is, what is left to eat besides rabbit food?

KULKARNI:
We certainly want you to go to the land of bunnies. There are many food options and again, I would encourage you to set up an appointment with a registered dietician so she can evaluate what you are currently eating and give you recommendations on how to fine tune your food choices.

In the interim, the recommendation is not no sugar and no fat ever again, it's just reduced-sugar foods and more of a focus on low-fat choices. There are many options and many choices with some rabbit food but not all rabbit food.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Do you suggest a 40%, 50%, or 60% carb diet? What does a typical 40% carb menu looks like?

KULKARNI:
At this time the American Diabetes Association nutrition recommendations for carbohydrates do not have a specific percentage of carbohydrates from the total calories from the day. There is also no percentage of fat from the total calories from the day. Only protein has a recommendation of 10% to 20% of the total calories for the day. To translate this, it means that the carbohydrate content of a person's total calories for the day should be individualized based on the person's preferences, ethnic cultural background, and eating pattern.

Therefore, I will not recommend a specific percentage of carbohydrate for the day from the total calories. So to provide a menu based on 40% of the total calories will depend on the total calories a person plans to consume and how they want the carbohydrate distributed between the three meals and a snack.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Please give a breakdown of a 2,000 calorie-a-day plan in grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

KULKARNI:
Two-thousand calories for the day can be broken down in different ways for grams of carb, protein, and fat. It will depend on what percentage of carbohydrate, protein, and fat a person with diabetes and the registered dietician mutually agree upon. And therefore, it cannot be calculated generically.

MEMBER QUESTION:
Why is totally avoiding carbs not good for diabetics?

KULKARNI:
Whether you have diabetes or don't have diabetes, we all need some calories from carbs, protein, and fat. So avoiding any one of those is not recommended, because we have nutrient benefits from all three sources. By totally avoiding carbs, we eliminate important vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber from our daily food intake. A person can then respond by saying, well, I can get vitamins, minerals, and fiber from supplements. Absorption of nutrients from food is always higher and more efficient by the body than from supplements. So from an overall health standpoint, it is not recommended to avoid either carbs, protein, or fat.