How to Maintain a Healthy Balanced Diet - Overview and Carbs

Two key goals of diabetes management are to achieve and maintain blood glucose levels in the normal range (or as close to normal level as possible) and to prevent or slow the rate of development of diabetes-related complications.

Diet is a key aspect of diabetes management: a well-planned and balanced diet provides adequate nutrition and helps keep your blood glucose levels within your target range.

2 articles explain what is a healthy balanced diet.  In this first article we provide an overview then focus on carbohydrates.  In the second article we discuss fibre, protein and fats.

Maintaining a balanced Macronutrient Ratio

My Healthy Plate is a simple tool to help you create a healthy and balanced meal.  Aim to fill 1/2 your plate with fruit and vegetables, 1/4 with wholegrains and 1/4 with proteins.

A balanced diet should also have the right Macronutrient Ratio i.e. the % of your total calorie intake from carbohydrates, protein and fats.

In general, around 50-60% of your energy intake should come from carbohydrates, 15-20% from protein and less than 30% from fats.

High and Low Glycaemic Index Carbohydrates

In addition to controlling your overall Macronutrient Ratio, it is very important to also manage the type of carbohydrates you eat.

To prevent big spikes in blood sugar, you should choose carbohydrates that are lower in Glycaemic Index (GI).

High GI foods (>70) cause a faster rise in blood glucose than low GI (<55) ones, which provide more stable and sustained blood glucose levels and reduce blood glucose spikes.

Low GI foods are usually minimally processed foods like wholegrains or foods high in dietary fibre. Examples include wholegrain pasta, most vegetables, apples and whole milk. You should limit intake of high GI foods such as white rice, white bread and fine wheat flour.

Your glycemic response to a meal is also affected by portion sizes. Glycemic Load measures both quality (GI) and quantity (grams of carbohydrate per serving) and is a comprehensive indicator of your carbohydrate intake.


Added Sugar

A final consideration in controlling your carbs is Added Sugar i.e. sugar which is intentionally added during manufacturing for taste or other purposes.

You should consume as little of such foods as possible as the calories they provide are usually “empty calories”, providing calories but little or no additional nutrients such as vitamins, minerals etc

In summary:  Manage your carbs by opting for lower GI foods, watch your portion sizes and avoid added sugar.

Watch out for Part II of this update to read about the other aspects of maintaining a healthy balanced diet.

 

References

Singapore MoH Clinical Practice Guidelines on Diabetes Mellitus July 2014

Harvard Health 2012