Glucose, insulin, and energy

For people with diabetes, healthy food choices, along with physical activity and medications, can help manage blood sugar levels. When food is eaten and digested, it is broken down into glucose, also known as sugar. The glucose enters the blood stream, and with the help of insulin, it enters into the body’s cells to provide energy.

Foods with carbohydrate affect blood sugar the most. Specific recommendations about which foods and how much of them to eat will vary with the diabetes medications/insulin that your doctor has prescribed and that you are taking.

General suggestions for healthy eating

  • Eat 3 meals and 1 to 2 snacks throughout the day. Do not skip meals!
  • Drink beverages that do not contain carbohydrate or calories.
  • Eat as many colorful, non-starchy vegetables like healthful aubergine (3 or more servings/day).
  • Choose foods that are low in fat. Eat less fried foods, sausages, hot dogs, bacon, salad dressings, and mayonnaise.
  • Choose foods that are low in sodium. Eat less processed meat, cheeses, bacon, sausages, salty snacks, soy sauce, pickles, and olives.
  • Eat 2 servings of lean meat or meat substitutes every day. (A single portion is the size of the palm of your hand.)
  • Eat more dried beans, lentils, and plant-based protein foods.
  • Choose whole-grain breads and pastas more often.
  • Limit fruits to 2 or 3 servings a day.
  • Drink little or no alcohol.
  • Eat foods that are prepared simply and that have not been over-processed.
  • To achieve a healthy weight, eat enough, but not too much.
  • Eat meals that contain foods from at least 3 of the major food groups. The food groups are starches, vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein, and fats.

Why is breakfast so important?

  • It provides food for your body after you have not eaten (usually) during the night. This food is energy for your body and your brain that will help you work and think better.
  • Food in the morning jump-starts your metabolism and helps your body burn calories—an important goal for people with diabetes who are trying to lose weight.
  • For those who take metformin in the morning, having food in the stomach helps reduce the gastrointestinal side effects of this medication.
  • For those taking insulin, eating breakfast provides the opportunity to check your blood glucose level, give yourself insulin, and eat some food.
  • If you take insulin but skip breakfast, you may experience a low blood-glucose level.
  • If you normally only take the morning dose of fast-acting insulin when you eat breakfast, skipping breakfast will mean that your already high blood-glucose level will stay high.
  • Eating breakfast helps to spread your food intake throughout the day and helps regulate your appetite so that you’ll have an easier timing avoiding the too-large meals that can often result in high blood-glucose levels.

Common reasons for not eating breakfast

  • “I don’t like breakfast foods.”
  • “I’m not hungry.”
  • “I don’t have time.”

Ideas to encourage you to eat in the morning

  • Who says you have to eat breakfast foods? Keeping your carbohydrate goals in mind, recognize that breakfast can be a sandwich, a rice and vegetable dish, a bean burrito, leftovers… even pizza!
  • Explore the reasons you’re not hungry in the morning. Do you eat a late dinner or a large evening snack? If you cut back on food in the evening, you may find yourself ready for breakfast in the morning. Your fasting blood-glucose levels may improve too!
  • You don’t have to cook breakfast. Some grab-and-go breakfasts ideas: fruit and a cheese stick, a granola bar, a meal replacement bar, a peanut butter sandwich, or some dry cereal in a baggie.
  • Limit sausage and bacon to 1 time per week because they are high in fat and sodium—or avoid them completely.
  • Include whole grains, low-fat proteins, low-fat dairy products, and fruit in your morning meals.

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