Diabetes is one of those diseases everyone has heard about. Maybe that's because of its reputation as the disease where you can't have sugar - a fate worse than going blind to some people. But the truth is, diabetic diet plans are about far more than how much sugar you eat.
In all of the recorded history of medicine, I don't think any other diet used to treat a disease has received more scrutiny than the one for diabetes. So in honor of World Diabetes Day, I'd like to tell you a story about how eating with diabetes was handled by one man who had no idea how right he was when he came up with this plan.
A Lesson From Long Ago
Back when I was in undergraduate school I attended a lecture about diabetes given by a distinguished scholar on the subject. I remember being ever-so-impressed by his vast knowledge the subject yet ability to talk about it in way even I could understand as a third year dietetics student.
He said the goal in managing diabetes was to use a combination of diet, exercise and medication to help patients keep their blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible. That is still true today. At the time, the only way to know what your blood glucose level was required pricking your finger several times a day to get a drop of blood and take a reading. That wasn't popular then and still isn't now.
He then went on to explain the variables known to influence blood glucose levels. I was surprised to learn stress, an infection, and shivering could cause blood glucose levels to increase. When he reviewed the impact of different foods on blood glucose, I was proud I recalled from my diet therapy class that onions, carrots and turnips were among the vegetables that could be a problem and that a 1 ½ inch cube of cornbread could be substituted for ¼ cup of cornflakes in a diabetic diet (remember, this was 30 years ago).
One Man's Journey With Diabetes
To reinforce the importance of diet in managing diabetes, he told us about a man who decided to accurately measure everything he ate and take a reading of his blood glucose level after each meal. This man was determined to understand the impact of different food combinations and quantities of food on his blood glucose control. He kept detailed records for weeks trying to find menu that would keep his blood glucose within normal range.
Once the man figured it out, he never deviated from that daily menu. He simply ate the same thing for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks every day in order to control his blood glucose whether eating at home or out.
I still remember the daily diet this man followed:
Breakfast: ½ cup whole oats cooked in 1 cup skim milk with ½ banana and 6 walnut halves.
Lunch: A salad made with 3 cups of salad greens and 1 cup combined mixture of celery, cucumber, bell pepper and tomatoes topped with 3 ounces skinless chicken breast and dressed with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil mixed with 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and a packet of Sweet 'n Low, and 2 slices of wheat bread
Dinner: 3 ounces baked salmon, 2 cups cooked green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach and string beans, 1 small white potato with skin, and 2 teaspoons butter
Snacks: 1 medium apple, 1 ounce hard cheese, 2 graham crackers, 2 tablespoons peanut butter
I give him credit for figuring out that eating with diabetes is really no different than the healthy meal options recommended for everyone. It's not about sugar, it's about consuming a consistent amount of protein, carbohydrate and fat at each meal to fuel and nourish the body. With a little more variety his plan would be right for all of us.
Would you be willing to eat the same foods every day to control your diabetes?