Planning Meals with Diabetes
Did you know that at 4 p.m. today, the majority of us still won't know what we are going to have for dinner? It sounds surprising at first-but that's because we make the false assumption that everyone else is better organized than we are.
Truth is, for most of us life is busy, life is unpredictable, and many of us leave such mundane issues as “what’s for dinner?” to the last moment.
There are lots of benefits to planning your week’s meals: less time wasted shopping, one less daily hassle to worry about, saving money by buying just what you need. Then there are the health reasons. For those with diabetes, getting the right mix of nutrients is crucial. And not just some days-all days.
But don’t think that meal planning means spending your Saturday mornings picking seven dinner recipes, a full week of lunch menus, and a daily breakfast. Unless your diabetes is severe, your meal plans need not be so restrictive. Merely by keeping lots of fresh, healthy foods on hand and planning the main ingredient for your dinner entrées-shrimp on Monday, chicken breasts on Tuesday, a bean soup on Wednesday – you will have gone a long way toward getting your nutrition under control.
The beauty of all these methods is that they rarely tell you what specific food to eat. Rather, they tell you what food categories to eat. They say “vegetable, ” but only you decide whether that means broccoli, green beans or an artichoke. This type of freedom is essential, since we all have unique food preferences.
Another thing these food-monitoring approaches have in common is a pencil. Not only does writing down your meal ideas give you the discipline to eat more consistently and shop more effectively, it becomes a food diary that helps you see how your diet is affecting your weight, your mood, your health and, of course, your blood sugar levels. By planning, you will come to know whether you actually need a snack at 4 p.m. or if it’s better to have one at 10 a.m. By planning, you will know how much insulin you will need to cover you and whether you should delay eating-or eat sooner.
People newly diagnosed with diabetes are strongly encouraged to meet with a registered dietitian to discuss their nutritional needs and preferences. A dietitian will not only tell you what types of food to eat but also give you a time schedule for when to eat. By using a meal-planning system, you can work through challenges like having an irregular work schedule, meeting the food needs of people you live with, food budgets, and food allergies. You can use a written planning sheet each week to plan your meals. Or perhaps you’ll want to use your computer. Whatever avenue you choose, writing down your plan, rather than planning it in your head and leaving it there, is a much more organized approach. You’ll meet your diabetes management goals much better by writing your plan down.