Type 1 Diabetic Diet Plan Ideas & Recommendations

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Type 1 diabetes can be managed and controlled through appropriate nutritional intake. Read this lesson to learn more about suggested dietary plans for people with diabetes type 1.

What Is Diabetes Type 1?

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when the body produces minimal or no useable insulin. This is an issue because insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas organ, helps to bring digested sugars circulating in the blood into cells for energy.

Dave has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes since he was a toddler, but now as a young adult he knows that several different types of diabetes exist. These are:

  • Type 1: Dave is a type 1 diabetic, and was diagnosed as a child. This is a rare form of diabetes where the immune system attacks the insulin-creating cells of the pancreas. Most cases of type 1 diabetes are diagnosed at a very early age, so it used to be referred to as juvenile diabetes. Type 1 diabetes means that Dave produces no insulin.
  • Type 2: Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body makes a little or some insulin, but what it produces isn't used effectively. In other words, the body and its cells are actually resistant to the insulin hormone it creates for itself. This type of diabetes typically develops in adults.
  • Gestational diabetes: This occurs in expectant, or pregnant, mothers. It is generally thought to be an issue caused by pregnancy-related hormones blocking the action of the insulin hormone, making the pregnant mother insulin resistant.

Treatment for Type 1

Generally, people like Dave with type 1 diabetes are reliant on insulin injections to manage their blood sugars, but lifestyle changes can also help to make the disease more manageable. Factors like appropriate medication, checking blood sugars levels, exercise, hydration, and diet are critical in the management of diabetes.

Dave recently left his parents' house for college and must learn to prepare meals for himself. Since managing his diet is so important, he's decided to get some advice from a nutritionist on his care team.

Diet Changes

During Dave's appointment, he learned a few tips and tricks to keep his diabetes under control.

Carbohydrate Awareness

Diabetics may choose to count carbs, or estimate their carbohydrate intake when planning meals or what to eat on the run. Many foods contain simple sugars, carbohydrates, and starches that require insulin, even ones that might otherwise seem healthy. For example, although fruits and vegetables are generally good choices, many fruits have simple sugars and some vegetables contain starch, which is also a form of sugar that can lead to high blood sugar. Dave knows that it is in his best interest to learn what fruits and vegetables he can eat freely and which ones he should eat sparingly.

His nutritionist gave him a guide of recommended food items.

  • Fruit: Keep citrus on hand. Count all fruits as carbohydrates.
  • Vegetables: Minimize intake of starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn. Go for carrots, beets, tomatoes, asparagus, and peppers.
  • Grains: When taking in this necessity, choose grains high in fiber and packed with nutrients to complement the carbohydrates.
  • Proteins: Do not rely heavily on meat products to keep you full and satisfied. Although meat does not require insulin and is not linked to high blood sugar, it is often full of fat and sodium, which can lead to other serious health issues. Look for leaner protein sources.

Keeping it Steady

In his meeting with his nutritionist, Dave also learned that having a stable blood sugar level throughout the day is just as important as what he decides to eat. Making simple modifications to his diet can help with this. For instance, to maintain a relatively even level of blood sugar throughout the day, Dave learned that he should eat moderate meals at consistent times, and try his best to avoid large and extravagant meals at random times.

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