Dietary management is one of the most important interventions for diabetic seniors and the elderly who want to enjoy longer and healthier lives. It may have been mistaken for dieting by many, but the nutritional requirements of patients with diabetes are based on a well-balanced meal plan.
Combined with the necessary lifestyle changes, a healthy diet can help manage diabetes symptoms among senior parents who are more vulnerable than younger diabetes patients. Making the correct, healthy dietary choices can be challenging for both seniors with diabetes and their caretakers, but diabetes must be carefully controlled to avoid the complications that might aggravate the condition.
Maintaining blood sugar levels in normal ranges is more manageable than you think. Limiting food intake or portion sizes, proper meal timings, and healthy food choices can help you attain such a goal.
When it comes to the best meal plan for senior diabetes, you should opt for nutrient-dense foods like raw fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains. Ideally, diabetic diets should be high in nutrients while being low in calories and fat.
So, how do you go about making a grocery list and diabetes-friendly menu? Read on to learn more.
Healthy Must-Haves for Diabetic Seniors
The goal of diabetes management is to keep blood sugar levels within a normal range, making lifestyle adjustments essential. Diabetes and its symptoms can be managed and controlled by being active, eating well, and maintaining a healthy weight.
The following are some of the healthiest foods that can help the elderly with diabetes:
1. Whole Grains
Because whole grains are fibrous, nutritious, and slow to absorb, they help maintain your blood glucose at healthy levels. Whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, millet, buckwheat, bulgur, quinoa, and brown rice are examples of nutritious grains for people with diabetes.
However, you need to exercise caution, as some whole grain sources are still high in digestible carbs and may raise blood sugar levels. It may be best to pair them with lower GI (glycemic index) foods or other nutritious alternatives like noodles for diabetics.
2. Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy greens are high in vitamins and antioxidants, which can help diabetic patients prevent inflammation and cellular damage. They also contain vitamin C, which is vital in protecting the eyes and heart.
Broccoli, spinach, cabbage, collard greens, and kale are good examples of diabetic-friendly leafy greens. You could use these delicious veggies in salads, soups, and side dishes for diabetic seniors.
3. Fatty Fish
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy for the heart and brain. They also aid in the control of blood cholesterol and the regulation of blood sugar in patients with diabetes.
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in almost any type of fish. Sardines, salmon, and tuna are examples of oily fish that are high in omega-3. Lean fish, such as cod, is low in omega-3s but provides a low-calorie protein source.
Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, are low in carbs and high in vitamins and minerals, making them ideal for diabetic seniors. Antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber abound in berries including strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. They’re also an excellent way to satisfy your sweet cravings.
Apples, avocados, pears, and plums are other fruits that are good for diabetics. Tomatoes also provide important nutrients such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and potassium.
Nuts are fibrous and low in carbohydrates, making them ideal for diabetics. Eating nuts improves blood glucose levels and lowers the risk of heart disease. Walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and pistachios are all nutritious nuts.
Legumes like kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans are excellent filling snacks for diabetics. They are good sources of protein, fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Beans may have more carbs than meat, but they have the same amount of protein and none of the saturated fat.
7. Probiotic Yogurt
Probiotics are bacteria that live in the gastrointestinal system and help with digestion as well as provide a variety of health benefits. Probiotic foods like yogurt can lower cholesterol levels in type 2 diabetic patients, minimizing the risk of heart disease. Diabetics should choose plain, sugar-free yogurts.
Foods to Avoid for Diabetic Seniors
Diabetics must avoid certain foods at all costs. It’s not right to use maintenance medications as an excuse to consume unhealthy foods. This does not mean you should never eat sugar again, but it does mean you should know your limits and how much is enough.
Carbohydrate-rich foods raise blood sugar levels, so diabetics should consume them in moderation. Patients should combine them in small doses with healthy fats and protein to lower the undesirable effects on blood sugar.
Processed meats, like bacon, hot dogs, and even salami, are best to be avoided altogether. They’re all high in sodium, preservatives, and other harmful compounds that not only worsen diabetes but also increase the risk of heart disease.
Sugary and Salty Foods
Too much sugar is bad for everyone, but it’s especially bad for diabetics. Keep an eye out for drink mixes, sodas, flavored coffee creamers, and a variety of snack foods. They are usually high in sugar, and even labels that indicate “natural” fruit juice or “no sugar added” are frequently misleading. Sugary foods also cause sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar levels and insulin balance.
Consuming 2,000 mg of sodium every day is not advisable. Salty meals elevate blood pressure and can lead to diabetes problems. Keep in mind that packaged or processed foods are widely known for containing high amounts of salt.
Alcohol and Tobacco
Alcohol consumption raises the risk of type 2 diabetes. Smokers are more likely to acquire diabetes, so you might as well limit or quit alcohol or cigarette smoking.
Don’t Be Swayed by Food Labels
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not legally defined what “low-carb” is. Some “low-carb” goods may still be heavy in fat and calories, and “sugar-free” does not always indicate carb-free. Consider the total carbohydrate grams per serving.
Best Alternative Sweeteners
Numerous sugar alternatives may benefit diabetic patients. The following are some of the healthy substitutes for regular sugar:
- Yacon syrup
- Monk fruit extract
Take Control of Your Condition
Eating well helps keep blood sugar, cholesterol, and insulin levels at healthy ranges, and watching what you eat is an effective approach to controlling diabetes. People with diabetes, as well as those who are at risk, should seek the advice of a registered nutritionist or dietitian to help them develop a dietary plan that is tailored to their specific needs.
MJ Fernandez is a corporate communications and publicity professional at Makati Medical Center, who works with doctors and media representatives to produce informative and creative materials about healthcare. When not writing and editing articles, he spends his time traveling and exploring places outside the city.