From the moment a patient is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes mellitus, they are likely to be faced with what seems like an endless list of new tasks. Medical appointments, taking medication, stopping smoking, being more active and eating a healthy, and balanced diet – it can all seem so daunting and overwhelming.

One of the patient’s first questions is likely to be ‘what can I eat?’ With so much to take in at once and all the myths about diabetes and food that they will probably hear, it can be hard to know what to do.

It is difficult to prescribe to a patient on what exactly to eat, but we offer a guidance so that the patient can get started with some options to try for breakfast, lunch and super.

Generally, there is no such thing as a special diet exclusively for people with Type 2 diabetes. No two people with diabetes are the same. So there isn’t a one-size-fits-all way of eating for everyone with diabetes.

Recent studies have revealed that middle-aged people who eat more plant-based foods — mainly semi-vegetarians— are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than their peers who eat more meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.

This new data collected in the study revealed that overall people with the highest intake of any plant-based foods have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, independent of body mass index (BMI)

On the other hand, those with the highest intake of healthy plant-based foods — that is, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts — have a 30% lower risk of incident diabetes.

Thus the positive association between healthy plant-based dietary patterns and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus forms the basis by which we encourage diets leaning more towards healthy plant based foods  to reduce the risk of diabetes in non-diabetics, and to aid achieve adequate blood glucose control in diabetics.

Patients are encouraged to try and make changes to their food choices that are realistic and achievable so they can stick with them in the long term. This will be different for everyone, depending on what they eat now and the goals they intend to achieve. Dietary goals differ from one patient to the next so one’s diet has to be tailored to the individual’s goal(s). Below are examples of such dietary goals a patient might have:  

  • Diet tailored to reach one’s target blood sugar level
  • Diet tailored to reduce one’s cholesterol levels (blood fats)
  • Diet tailored to aid one achieve good blood pressure
  • Diet tailored to aid achieve a healthy weight

For weight loss, the patients has to choose a realistic and balanced diet. The most successful diet is one that patients can stick to. When dieters fail, it is because they attempt to follow unsustainable diets, for example, diets that are too restrictive, are unbalanced, or cause rapid weight loss.

Diet experts have, over the recent years, focused on shifting patient perceptions regarding food. Instead of prescribing drastic changes, gradual changes may suffice. It should be noted as well that a single clinical visit will not be sufficient to present the whole scope of dietary advice a patient needs. Thus focus is more on tackling one goal at a time and making sure patient is making progress in the desired direction. After all, nutrition is about what the patient is going to eat for the rest of their life. It is thus acceptable to make small, manageable tweaks rather than a major overhaul.

Diets that promote weight loss and weight maintenance include increased consumption of vegetables, fruits, and high-fibre and whole-grain foods; increased intake of water; and reduced consumption of dietary sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages

Personalized nutrition is an emerging field using a mix of science and technology that determines what foods are good or bad for the patient by designing an individualized diet. It uses information on individual characteristics to develop targeted nutritional advice, products, or services. Those “individual characteristics” can include physiologic features such as age, gender, as well as fluctuating environmental factors such as sleep patterns and physical activity

Conclusion

It is important for a Diabetic patient to seek the services of a dietician to offer appropriate dietary guidance leaning more towards healthy plant based foods, in a stepwise manner and tailored to meet the individual patient goals with a broader objective to keep and maintain blood sugar level within acceptable limits.

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