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Basic Principles of Healthy Eating


The Foundation

At the bottom of the pyramid are bread, cereal, rice, and pasta. These foods contain mostly carbohydrates. The foods in this group are made mostly out of grains, such as wheat (flour), rye, and oats. Some starchy vegetables go in this group, too, like potatoes, peas, and corn. Really, they’re vegetables, but your child’s blood glucose levels react to them as if they were carbohydrates. So she should count them as carbohydrates for her meal planning. She needs six to eight servings of these foods per day.

The Second Floor

The next layer is fruits and vegetables, which are also made up of carbohydrates. They have plenty of vitamins and minerals. Your child needs about three to five servings of vegetables and two to four servings of fruit per day.

The Third Floor

Near the top of the pyramid are milk and meat. These foods usually contain a lot of protein. Milk is also the best source of calcium, which helps your child’s bones and teeth to stay strong as you grow. Milk products include all types of milk, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. Your child needs two or three servings of milk per day. The meat group includes – you guessed it – all types of meat: beef, chicken, turkey, and fish. Even eggs, tofu, and some kinds of beans and nuts are included. She needs two or three servings of meat a day.

The Attic

At the very top of the pyramid is a little triangle. That’s for fats, oils, and sweets. Things like potato chips, candy, and fried food contain a lot of fat or sugar. They aren’t as nutritious as vegetables or grains. So your child shouldn’t eat these foods every day. It’s better to save them for a special treat.

The Basement

Some people like to imagine the food pyramid with another layer on the bottom, underneath the grains & starchy vegetables. This layer shows people walking, running, and riding their bikes everywhere we go. So, it’s not really a part of the real food pyramid, but if it were, the exercise layer would remind us that it’s very important for us all to be active every day. Staying active is important for everyone, but even more so for people with diabetes.

Dietitians are food and nutrition experts and can help with the following food-related tasks:

1. Include Foods From All Food Groups

Unless you are a vegetarian or otherwise advised by your doctor, your daily diet should include a variety of foods, ideally from all the main groups of foods, such as: meats, dairy, fruits, vegetables and fats.

2. Carbohydrate Should be Slow-Release and Low in Glycemic Value

Carb-containing foods with a low value on the glycemic index keep you satisfied for longer, reduce cravings and help maintain stable blood glucose levels. It’s not necessary to eat only low GI foods. Intermediate (moderate) GI foods are okay, too. But you should include at least one low GI food at every meal.

3. Fat-intake Should be Predominantly Non-Saturated

– Choose lower-fat meats and dairy foods.
– Trim all visible fat.
– Eat regular fish (any type).
– Eat butter/margarine sparingly.

4. Eat Enough Omega-3 Fats

– Choose unrefined cooking oils.
– Try oils containing omega-3 fatty acids: (eg.) canola, flax oil.
– Alternatively, include regular oily fish in your diet.

5. Eat More High-Fiber Foods

Unless otherwise advised by your doctor, make sure your daily diet includes sufficient dietary fiber (both soluble and insoluble) for your needs. A ballpark figure is 25-30g per day. When increasing your fiber intake, do so gradually.

6. Beware Hidden Fats and Sugars (and Sodium)

Much of our intake of fat and sugar and sodium is typically from packaged or prepared foods, such as: sauces, packet foods, sodas, candy, soups and so on. You can’t avoid these types of food, but you should check the label and choose brands that are lower in sugar, saturated fat (”hydrogenated” or “trans-fats”) and sodium.

7. Choose Healthy Snacks

Snacking is a universal and very healthy eating habit. Eating regularly throughout the day maintains stable blood-glucose levels (thus reducing the build-up of hunger) and helps maintain optimum metabolic rate. For healthy snacks, choose chopped fruit, chopped vegetables, nuts and seeds, wholegrain sandwiches, fresh lean meats, and mineral water.

Okay, you may not be able to eat these healthy foods all the time, but include them in your diet as often as possible!