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Cooking tips for a diabetes-friendly meal

There's no such thing as a diabetes diet, or foods that are absolutely banned. However, a healthy, balanced diet low in fat, salt and sugar is recommended.

Diabetes UK recommends that everyone with diabetes should see a registered dietitian when they’re diagnosed to get expert individual information on food and nutrition.

Even without a special diabetes recipe book, you can turn almost any recipe into diabetes-friendly food.

Here's how to get started.

Remember the diabetes meal-planning basics

The first step in preparing diabetes-friendly recipes is to remember meal-planning guidelines. People with diabetes manage meal planning in a variety of ways. The three most recommended approaches include:

  • Exchange lists. These lists provide detailed information about the carbohydrate, protein, and fat content of foods you eat every day. You can exchange or trade foods within a group because they're similar in nutrient content and the manner in which they affect your blood sugar. Exchange lists are designed to ensure you get all the nutrients you need for good health along with a controlled amount of carbohydrates to control your diabetes. For example, your meal plan may have three bread exchanges, two fruit exchanges, one meat exchange, and one fat exchange for breakfast
  • Carbohydrate counting. Counting carbohydrates helps you understand how each type of carbohydrate you eat affects your blood glucose. You work with a dietitian to develop the number of and kinds of carbohydrates you should eat each day. Then you monitor your blood glucose level to determine the effect of these various carbs and adjust insulin injections accordingly. You also adjust the amount and type of carbohydrates you eat as needed
  • Diabetes food guide. The diet for people with diabetes is a balanced healthy diet, the same kind that is recommended for the rest of the population - low in fat, sugar and salt, with plenty of fruit and vegetables, and meals including some starchy foods, such as bread, potatoes, cereals, pasta and rice

Whatever method you use, the goals are the same: to eat a balanced diet that helps keep blood glucose levels close to normal. But what does "balanced" mean? And how can you make sure recipes reflect this balance?

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Choose a variety of foods from all the food groups.
  • Choose foods that are richest in fibre, vitamins and other nutrients. These choices tend to include more fresh and less processed foods - for example, whole grains and fresh vegetables.
  • Choose fatty ingredients wisely. Low-fat and "good" fats are your best bets.
  • Watch your portions. Even the best foods can be harmful to your health if you eat too much.
  • Whatever meal plan approach you follow, you can use these guidelines to make recipes diabetes-friendly.
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