Living With Diabetes: How to Evaluate the Safety of Your Food

December 08,2022 |
Woman looking at a can of food in a grocery store.

When it comes to food and diabetes management, things can get a little confusing. While some foods are considered healthy, the quantity of consumption can quickly tip the scales. This can make navigating life with diabetes more than frustrating. However, optimal nutrition, mixed with physical exercise, is one of the most important parts of diabetes management. This can help you maintain a more stable blood glucose level, which, in turn, reduces your risk of long-term complications. However, what you eat on a regular basis, how much you eat, and even when you eat can impact the safety of your food. To better understand how each aspect plays a role in your blood sugar and overall health, consider the following information on how to evaluate the safety of your food.


A Few Tips on Food Safety and Diabetes

Living with diabetes means you need to determine the safety of each food you consume. This means understanding how it will affect your blood sugar and how much you can safely eat without the risk of hyperglycemia. For starters, it’s important to know what foods are best for diabetes, how much of each food you should consume, and when to schedule your meals.

What Foods Are Best for Diabetes Management?

Luckily, there are several foods to control diabetes and lower blood sugar levels. Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes are great for stabilizing blood sugar levels and fueling your body with vitamins and minerals. Fruits that are low in sugars like berries and melons are also good options. Whole grains should be prioritized, like rice, oats, and quinoa. You should also opt for healthy sources of protein, low fat dairy products, and healthy fats to get all the nutrition you need.

With that being said, you really don’t have any limitations in what you eat—it’s how much you eat and how often you eat it that makes the biggest impact.

How to Determine the Right Quantity of Foods

Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy all of your favorite foods. It just means that you need to do so in moderation. The amount of each food that you should eat will depend on your unique blood sugar levels and your long-term goals. You may need to consume less if you’re trying to lose weight, but if you’re building muscle eating more can be helpful. There are several different diabetes meal plans available to help you find the right quantity of foods to enjoy. If you’re going to have something sweet or high in sugar, just make sure that you do so following a meal with plenty of slow digesting carbs and limit your consumption to a single serving. Always monitor blood sugar levels and administer medications as needed.

When to Schedule Diabetes-Friendly Meals

When you eat makes a difference on your blood sugar levels as well. Some people find that eating at the same time every day is best for their glucose levels, while others are more flexible and tend to eat based on their schedule or activity levels. You may need to eat a certain amount of carbohydrates at each time of the day to help stabilize your glucose levels, but everyone is different. The best thing to do is keep track of your levels and work with your doctor to determine the most effective meal planning times.

In addition to understanding what, how much, and when you should eat, it’s important to maintain some general food safety tips. This includes avoiding anything that’s expired and thoroughly washing your fruits and vegetables before consumption. You should also make sure that any meat is cooked to the appropriate temperature before eating it. Although not specific to individuals with diabetes, foodborne illnesses can lead to serious complications and can be avoided with a few simple steps.


How to Read Food Labels for Diabetes Safety

While your diet should consist primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins, it can be really difficult to avoid all packaged products. Whether you need condiments to complete a dish or are trying to find the right brand of pasta for your dinners, it’s important to know how to read the food labels and evaluate ingredients for diabetes safety. Here are a few tips to help you choose healthy options at the grocery store.

Look at the Ingredients

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to look at all of the ingredients listed on an item. Try to choose products that have heart-healthy ingredients, especially things like oats, monosaturated fats, and fiber. Foods that have fewer processed ingredients are going to be better for diabetes management and your overall health.

Rethink Sugar-Free Products

Sugar-free products may seem like a good option to satisfy your sweet tooth with diabetes, but they can still cause problems with your health. Just because something is labeled as sugar-free does not mean it’s without risk. Products can legally be labeled sugar-free as long as they have less than 0.5 grams of sugar in one serving. However, the size of the serving may be much smaller than you think, so it’s an important factor to consider. In fact, some foods may have negligible differences to their “full sugar” counterparts, so don’t fall victim to these potentially dangerous marketing tactics.

Additionally, sugar alcohols are still a type of carbohydrate and they do carry caloric weight, so they should be counted in your daily consumption.

Evaluate the Carbohydrates

All carbohydrates are not created equal. Some carbs are good for our bodies and necessary for optimal functioning. Some carbs are bad and cause harmful changes in our blood sugar. When you’re reading the label on foods, try to evaluate between the two. The total grams of carbohydrates on a nutritional label can include things like sugar, complex carbs, and even fiber. Although you should avoid foods that are excessively high in added sugar, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough fiber every day. Complex carbohydrates are also essential for stabilizing your blood sugar, so make it a habit to strategically evaluate the carbs in your food rather than just looking at the total number.

Avoid Fat-Free Products

Fat-free products became extremely popular as a weight-loss tactic, but they’re not exactly the best options for ongoing health. First of all, not all fat is bad. Good fats are important to keep our hearts healthy and our bodies working their best. Second of all, when the fat is removed from foods, manufacturers tend to add sugar or carbohydrates in order to make up for the lack of flavor. In fact, many fat-free foods have significantly more carbohydrates than their full-fat counterparts. Make sure you’re comparing all parts of the labels on your foods to avoid falling victim to these marketing tactics.

You should also look at the type of fat on each label. Foods that have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can actually help your body stay healthy. In fact, these types of fats actively lower your cholesterol levels and provide plenty of heart-healthy benefits. Unless the full-fat version of something is filled with sugar, try to avoid the fat-free products on the shelves.

Keep Track of Your Numbers

Finally, make sure that you’re keeping track of all of your calories and macronutrients. While it can be a little annoying at first, the more you do it, the easier it will become. Over time, you’ll be able to evaluate the safety of your food based on experience. At first, however, make sure you’re paying special attention to each serving size on the label and what you’re actually using in your food.

You should also try to keep track of your calories, as maintaining a healthy weight is important for long-term diabetes care and management. If you’re having trouble with anything related to diabetes meal planning or choosing healthy options, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor. There are plenty of great nutritionists who specialize in diabetes management available to help.

Keeping your body healthy is important, regardless of if you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes. One of the best ways to do this is through a balanced, nutritious diet. However, if you’re going to make any significant changes to your diet, always talk to your doctor ahead of time. This will ensure that you make alterations in a safe, effective way. In addition to making smarter food choices, check your blood glucose levels regularly and discuss any concerns with your doctor. Byram Healthcare has a range of continuous blood glucose monitors. We also offer diabetes support and educational materials to give you everything you need for comprehensive care.