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Nutrition and Diabetes: How To Build a Diabetic Diet

May 11th, 2022 | 4 min. read

Nutrition and Diabetes: How To Build a Diabetic Diet
Brad Atkinson

Brad Atkinson

Motion Specialist // Certified Personal Trainer // SFGII // SFL //Nutrition Coach // TPI // EW Motion Therapy Homewood

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If you have recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you probably have many questions. Will you ever be able to eat your favorite foods again? What caused my diagnosis in the first place? How can I help regulate my symptoms? 


Talking to your doctor about your concerns is a great place to start, but as far as your diet is concerned, there are many possible approaches you could take. Your diagnosis is not a death sentence, and there are some changes you can make to your diet that can really help with those blood sugar spikes. Our nutrition coaches at EW Motion Therapy help our Birmingham and Tuscaloosa clients develop sustainable diet plans that help them make better lifestyle choices and improve their overall health, keeping conditions in mind. Even if you choose to see a different nutrition specialist, we still want to provide advice from our experience on how diabetes patients can make better choices and improve their health. 


This article will discuss the relationship between nutrition and diabetes, as well as some tips on how to improve your diet. With this information, you can make better choices and better regulate your symptoms. 


Download our Nutrition Q&A here!


How are nutrition and diabetes related? 

To understand how our food choices can affect diabetes patients, we must explain a very difficult science using more simple terminology. Most food you eat is converted to a sugar called glucose. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels by allowing glucose into muscle cells, where it can be converted and used as energy for muscle activity. If you eat more calories than you use, insulin will tell the extra glucose to be stored as fat in fat cells. This excess storage can lead to obesity and a greater risk of diabetes.


Diabetics often experience blood sugar spikes and crashes, in which their blood sugar levels drastically increase and decrease. These are directly related to their body’s insulin response and can be difficult to regulate. Either the pancreas has not produced enough insulin, or their body has developed a resistance to the hormone, so their spikes and crashes are more pronounced and much more damaging to their body. 


Diabetic diet tips 

So what can a diabetes patient do to help their blood sugar stay more consistent? There are three primary things a diabetic should consider when developing a diet: the quality, the quantity, and the timing of their meals. First, eating better quality food, with more fiber, whole grains, and less processed ingredients, is a great first step. A good rule of thumb is to shop around the edges of the grocery store and not in the middle - the fresh produce, deli, and dairy sections are around the edge, and most of the processed food lies in the middle aisles. 


Next, the quantity of your food matters. We all know to not overeat, but when the chips taste so good, it can be very difficult to control that impulse. Try to eat natural foods with less calories but more nutrients - the nutrients will keep you fuller, longer. Many processed foods strip nutrients in the processing, so even if you are eating something “enriched,” you should still probably check the ingredients list. 


Timing of meals matters more than people realize. It is better for your insulin resistance and your digestion to not snack throughout the day, but give your body long breaks between meals. Some diet programs like intermittent fasting can accomplish this as well, but generally, you should keep snacking to a minimum. 


How can a registered dietitian help? 

Now you know more about how your diet choices can help you better handle your diabetes symptoms. When you want to make a true lifestyle change, seeking professional help is always a good idea, and a registered dietitian can be a great resource for diabetes patients. They can give you a consistent base of knowledge so you are not getting ten different opinions, and it is always great to have someone at your disposal when you have questions. Ultimately, they can design a sustainable diet plan that helps you regulate your blood sugar. The best diet for you, whether you are a diabetes patient, a runner, or a patient in physical therapy, is one that calls for natural foods that you can do consistently. 


The duration of your time with the dietitian depends on your goals, but they should be an encouraging, knowledgeable presence who can help you make the best choices for your health. Our EW Motion Therapy nutrition coaches can work directly with your dietitian to build habits that you can maintain and incorporate seamlessly into your lifestyle. If you are interested in receiving nutrition services with us, fill out the Request an Appointment form on our website, and someone from our staff will contact you within the next 48 hours with your next steps. 


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