Diabetes can be prevented or reduced in many instances by dietary management. For people taking oral medications or insulin, the diet needs to be designed by a clinically-trained nutritionist who can balance the physician-prescribed dosage of medication with dietary intake. Since maintaining blood glucose within normal range is key, meals need to be carefully planned. Many diabetics eat six small meals each day, rather than the typical breakfast, lunch, and dinner that is recommended for most people. Managing weight is essential to prevent high blood pressure, peripheral vascular disease, kidney disease, and other complications.
Balancing Carbohydrates and Calories
For children and teenagers with diabetes, getting enough calories to match energy output is more difficult than for adults. Growing bodies need calories. However, sugar intake in breakfast cereals, carbonated drinks, and deserts is often higher than necessary in typical American diets. This is especially true in schools, and because "fast food" marketing has often targeted youth. The American Diabetes Association encourages careful monitoring of daily carbohydrate intake. Not only are carbohydrates converted to sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream, but they contribute to calories.
For overweight youth, weight loss is a strategy to prevent pre-diabetes from developing into full-blown diabetes; it is also a strategy for reducing the risk of complications. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (of the National Institutes of Health) has created a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to ascertain the amount of calories needed based on age, weight, and height.
Use of Fiber in Diabetic Diets
The American Diabetic Association recommends increasing fiber content in meals to aid in weight loss. An emphasis on whole grains and fresh vegetables is usually observable in diabetic menus planned by registered dieticians for diabetic patients. Fruits are high in fructose. Although far healthier than ingesting "empty calorie" sugary products, it is still converted to glucose in the bloodstream. Therefore, fruit intake has to be carefully considered in meal-planning for a diabetic individual. On the other hand, fruits are often a good source of fiber-and especially if "un-peeled".
Limiting Fat Consumption
The difficulty in maintaining cholesterol and triglycerides in normal range is a problem for many diabetic individuals. In turn, this can lead to cardiovascular disease which is a major complication of diabetes. One of the key elements of a diabetic diet is limiting intake of saturated fats (especially trans fats). Some foods popular with young people are especially high in saturated fat (e.g., pizza and hamburgers). Taking a higher dose of oral medication or insulin will not mitigate the negative effect of ingesting saturated fats.
The high calorie content of most foods high in saturated fat means that its consumption should be limited to additionally reduce weight.
Too much insulin is sometimes injected or produced by the body. The resulting hypoglycemic reaction can result in a medical emergency if the blood glucose level is not quickly raised. Drinking a small amount of orange juice is usual the method people use to counter an episode of low blood sugar. Sticking to a carefully prescribed daily diet is generally the best way to ensure that blood glucose will not become too low or too high. Designing daily meal plans that are calorie-conscious and limit sugar intake is a critical way to ensure that diabetes is controlled and overall health is maintained.