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Diabetes

November 30, 2017

Living with diabetes: How to eat well on a budget

Sticking to a meal plan when you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t have to be costly. A little bit of planning can help your money go farther.

Managing diabetes sometimes involves keeping snacks on hand to regulate blood sugar levels, but eating so often can take a toll on both your time and your money. Do people who live with diabetes really need to include snacks as part of their daily meal plan?

Not necessarily, says Joanne Lewis, the director of nutrition for Diabetes Canada.

“Generally, people will need to have snacks between meals if their meals are too far apart, which means their blood sugar could potentially drop as their medication stimulates the production of insulin,” Lewis explains. “If you go too long without eating and you don’t cover that time when your medication is working at its peak, you have a risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.”

Snack if your meals are far apart

At such times, snacks are recommended – usually consisting of about 15-30 grams of carbohydrates. “That’s the equivalent of 7 soda crackers or one slice of toast,” Lewis says. She also recommends you add some protein to the snack, such as peanut butter, to help sustain the delivery of the carbs and to help avoid spikes in blood sugar.

While snacks are good for those who eat 3 meals a day and want to avoid low blood sugar, Lewis says, others prefer to have 6 smaller meals a day. Meanwhile, those trying to manage their weight may just want something lighter to nibble on between meals, such as peppers, carrots and almonds. But note that these last 3 snack options don’t have carbs and won’t prevent hypoglycemia. Choose the right snack for you, depending on your desired outcome.

The power of planning

Meal-planning can help you manage both your eating schedule and your budget. While it depends on what you like to eat, your lifestyle, the number of people in your family and the cost of food in your neighbourhood, planning a week’s worth of meals helps you research the costs in advance, find good deals and know exactly how much you’ll be spending. You’ll use everything on your list, so there’s no food and money wastage and you won’t be spending $20 or more on take-out. It’s also helpful to choose ingredients that are in season, as the prices tend to be lower for fruits and vegetables that are readily available.

“If you don’t plan, you are more likely to end up getting take-out or grabbing whatever’s available, and that’s not the healthiest choice,” says Lewis. 

How to meal plan

Here are 5 ways to help you get and stay on track both nutritionally and financially:

  1. Meet with a registered dietitian to help you decide what, when and how much to eat.
  2. Plan a week’s worth of meals at a time.
  3. Grocery shop in advance.
  4. Read the nutrition labels to see how many carbs are in a serving.
  5. Keep the smallest size of zippered plastic bags on hand – they’re good for snacks and you can take them with you.

Once you get the hang of meal-planning, you may want to expand your recipe repertoire. Canadian chef and restaurateur Mark McEwan, head judge on Top Chef Canada, has created 10 recipes featuring iconic Canadian ingredients like salmon and Saskatoon berries, which follow the guidelines for people with diabetes and are easy to make at home.

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