When you have diabetes, your diet is one of the cornerstones of your care plan. But, it’s not just what you eat that makes a difference. How you eat also impacts your blood sugar levels. Here are five unhealthy habits that you might want to focus on breaking so that your blood glucose is not dangerously affected:
1. Skipping breakfast
You might think that skipping breakfast is a good idea and that it might reduce your overall calorie intake, thus helping you lose weight. Or, your fasting blood sugar levels might be a little high and you believe that skipping a meal will help bring them down. This is not the case, however.
There’s a reason why breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. And, skipping it can have serious effects on your health. For one, you don’t have the required amount of energy to start off your day, which increases the chances of eating larger portions for later meals, especially dinner. This, in turn, leads to increased blood sugar levels later in the day, and also results in weight gain .
Having a well-planned breakfast that fulfils all your specific nutritional requirements of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats prevent your blood sugar levels from rising and keeps them balanced, thereby keeping your metabolism healthy.
2. Not having enough protein in your breakfast
Proteins are one of the three essential macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fats, and one of the main sources of energy for the body. When you have diabetes, not having enough protein can affect your blood sugar levels.
Research has shown that eating a higher amount of protein at breakfast makes you feel full for longer periods of time . This decreases your desire to snack later during the day, which keeps a check on your food intake, thereby contributing to controlling your weight. Your body also burns more calories in breaking down proteins , which means you could have a healthier metabolism. Finally, proteins have a less dramatic effect on blood glucose levels, unlike carbohydrates, which can cause sharp spikes and dips. Thus, not having the requisite amount of protein at breakfast can adversely impact your blood sugar levels.
A word of caution: when considering your options for high-protein foods, remember to choose those that do not have excess fat or are high in calories.
3. Having too many carbohydrates for dinner
Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for your body. But, eating large amounts of carbohydrates for dinner, which is your last meal for the day, will result in you consuming more calories than you require. If you consume more calories than your body can burn, the surplus gets stored as fat, leading to weight gain.
Carbohydrates, of all the foods that you eat, have the biggest impact on your blood sugar levels. Having too many carbohydrates for dinner will cause your blood glucose levels to increase and stay elevated for longer periods of time, even overnight.
The type of carbohydrates you eat can also affect your diabetes. Processed or refined carbs with a high glycemic index, such as white rice or white bread, have empty calories and provide little nutritional value, while carbohydrates with added sugar cause your blood sugar levels to spike.
4. Not adhering to meal times
It’s not just what you eat that impacts your blood sugar levels when you eat is just as significant a factor. Research has shown that eating your meals at regular times throughout the day, maybe an effective way to control your blood sugar levels. The regular meal times may vary from person to person, but being consistent with your timing is key to maintaining a stable blood sugar level.
By not following regular meal times, your body struggles to process the nutrients you consume because its natural cycle/rhythm is disrupted.
5. Continuous snacking instead of eating proper meals
People who have busy corporate lifestyles, with hectic work schedules and frequent meetings, often cannot set aside time for a dedicated lunch break. At such times, you might find yourself eating at your desk as you work or eating on-the-go. This leads to more continuous snacking instead of regular meals. When you have diabetes, this habit can be extremely detrimental to your health.
Not having complete meals leaves you feeling hungry, which leads to more snacking, usually on high-calorie and junk food. This means you end up eating more than you should. Irregular eating also causes your blood sugar levels to fluctuate.
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- Leidy H, Bossingham M, Mattes R, Campbell W. (2009). Increased dietary protein consumed at breakfast leads to an initial and sustained feeling of fullness during energy restriction compared to other meal times. British Journal of Nutrition, 101 (6), 798-803. Available from: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/increased-dietary-protein-consumed-at-breakfast-leads-to-an-initial-and-sustained-feeling-of-fullness-during-energy-restriction-compared-to-other-meal-times/EEFC58BB73B6FAE0D14DF5CC82A24EA5#fndtn-information. [Accessed: 24 May 2019].
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Protein, carbs, and weight loss. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2014/02/14/protein-carbs-and-weight-loss/ [Accessed 24 May 2019].
- Hutchison A, Regmi P, Manoogian E, Fleischer J, Wittert G, Panda S, et al. (2019). Time‐Restricted Feeding Improves Glucose Tolerance in Men at Risk for Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Crossover Trial. Obesity, 27 (5), 724-732. Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.22449. [Accessed: 24 May 2019].