Christel is a blogger, certified personal trainer, fitness model, and diabetes advocate. She has been living with type 1 diabetes since 1997 and at an early stage decided that it wasn’t going to slow her down. Her motto is “There is Nothing You Can’t do With Diabetes”. She writes about Health, Fitness and how to be Fit With Diabetes on TheFitBlog.com. She also trains people with diabetes from across the globe, online and in person, and supports them in meeting their fitness goals.
What are your health goals for the new year? Maybe to take better care of yourself, improve your diabetes management, or eat a healthier diet? Always good goals if they come from a place of self-care and self-love.
I know the festive season and New Year’s parties are coming up, but there is no time like the present to make healthy changes. Even if you don’t actually make the changes right now, this is a great time to start planning for how to implement changes in the new year.
Creating a Meal Plan that Works for You
Do you feel like you know what you should be eating, but struggle to consistently make healthy choices? Don’t feel too bad, I think everyone knows that feeling to some degree. I know I definitely do!
The trick to getting back on track is to identify what is keeping you from eating healthily. Perhaps your diet is working for your body, but is too hard to maintain when life gets hectic. Or it is too restrictive so you get bored with your meals and start craving other foods (usually something unhealthy).
The good news is that it is possible to create a healthy meal plan that is easy to follow and not too restrictive! This is why I always recommend following a meal plan that is tailored for you rather than some pre-made (fad) diet that isn’t customized to your needs and preferences. Remember, there is no ONE diet that works for everybody. We’re all different, our blood sugars react differently to different foods, and our taste buds definitely have different preferences.
To get started, let’s talk about the building blocks of healthy nutrition, and how to calculate how many calories to eat. Based on this, you will be able to create your own healthy meal plan for the new year.
The Building Blocks of a Good Meal Plan
I recommend eating a balanced diet of carbs, proteins and fats. This means that nothing is off limits (in moderation), but that there are some foods that should be prioritized as they are better for your health than others.
Carbs – Carbs are the main source of quickly released energy for the body. They are not only essential for maintaining your metabolism and overall energy level, but also for your brain functions. I never exclude carbs from my diet, and that goes for both myself and any of my online fitness clients living with diabetes. I am, however, selective when it comes to the carbs I include.
I suggest that you eat primarily low glycemic carbs and try to spread them out throughout the day in moderate portions. Low glycemic carbs are slowly digested carbs that won’t give you the crazy blood sugar spikes that you’ll see if you eat a high glycemic carb, like white bread or pasta. Good sources of low glycemic carbs are brown rice, oats, sweet potato, and quinoa. For more details on low glycemic carbs and recipe ideas, jump to TheFitBlog for inspiration.
Protein – Protein is the building block for muscles and ligaments and is essential for muscle growth. As such, it is important to get enough protein in your diet, especially if you are very physically active.
Although protein won’t impact blood sugars as drastically as carbs, it does have a minor blood sugar impact. There are many different types of good proteins to choose from and some will affect your blood sugar more than others, so test them out and learn how your body reacts.
I always prioritize eating “real” food, but if you have a hard time getting enough protein, then a protein shake can be a good supplement. Just watch for added carbs and fat.
Fats – We’ve all been scared into thinking that fat is the enemy, followed very closely by carbs. The truth is that you need fat in your diet to transport vitamins, for hormone control, and for a lot of other essential functions in your body. You just don’t need a huge amount of it.
The reason you need to keep a close eye on the amount of fat in your diet is that it’s very calorie-dense. When adding fat to a meal, be aware that it can slow down the digestion of the meal, and that you might see the blood sugar impact later than if you hadn’t included the fat. The good news is that this slower release can prevent blood sugar spikes, making it easier to achieve a stable blood sugar profile.
How to Calculate Your Calorie Needs
Now that you have a better understanding of the building blocks of healthy nutrition, the question is how much to eat. The answer is that it depends on your goals, your activity level, and your physiology. Luckily, calculating your daily calorie need is fairly easy if you follow the instructions in this post. It will also give you a recommendation for the amount of carbs, protein and fat to include in your diet. I suggest that you use that as a starting point, stick with it for 4-6 weeks, and then assess whether it works for you. If it doesn’t, adjust. This is not an exact science and we’re all different, so, as with your diabetes care, you’ll have to adjust to your needs.
When you have calculated your daily calorie need and created a list of low glycemic carbs, proteins, and fats that you like to eat, you can easily design a meal plan that works for you and your goals. It takes a little planning but it also has a huge impact on your health and diabetes management.
Support – We’re Stronger Together
The statement that we are stronger together is spot-on when it comes to making changes to your diet and diabetes management. I encourage you to involve your family and even close friends in your journey to improved health. Having the support of your friends and family and the accountability that comes with it can make a big difference. Your healthcare team is there for you too. Before making any big changes, talk to your health care provider about any new strategies you’d like to try.
You can also find a lot of great resources here on the Tandem blog and in the online diabetes community. There are several good Facebook groups for people living with diabetes. You can also join my Fit With Diabetes challenge that kicks off in January. It’s a free online event that focuses on healthy nutrition and weight management. Learn more HERE.