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Keep it Simple: Mealtime Planning and Proper Nutrition for Diabetics

It's a big number: 23.1 percent of Americans (12.2 million people) age 60 and older are diabetic, and therefore require a therapeutic diet low in high glycemic carbohydrates, or carbohydrates that metabolize quickly and cause a drastic spike in blood sugar. If you’re considering the needs of a diabetic in mealtime planning, you’re not alone.

Meeting the Diabetic Challenge

Food is an important part of everyday life, and having diabetes shouldn’t mean that you have to compromise mealtime satisfaction or enjoyment. The good news is that planning a meal around proteins and low-glycemic foods is good for all of us. Creating a home health strategy as part of an elder care plan that includes good nutrition is of high importance. To keep it simple, “make portion control your mantra,” says Caitlin Hosmer, Senior Nutritionist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Hosmer also recommends high nutrient, low glycemic food choices.

“Finding your stride with a new diet can be especially challenging if medications, dental problems, decreased exercise, illness or sensory changes are contributing to a loss of appetite. Limited food preferences and the sheer difficulty of changing behaviors contribute to every version of this challenge,” says Hosmer. “It is much easier to ignore what’s going on if you don’t have the information in front of you. With diabetes, the long-term cost of lacking knowledge can be tragically high.”

Tips for Preparing Low-Glycemic Foods

1. Cook up a fresh omelet or begin the day with a hearty bowl of steel cut oatmeal, cream of wheat, muesli or bran flakes. Serve with yogurt or skim milk.

2. Pack your favorite sandwich items into a tortilla wrap, or serve up a homemade bowl of chili or bean soup from the Crockpot for lunch. Kidney beans, split peas, lima beans and lentils are all low GI beans and peas. If you’re making a sandwich, choose canned salmon over canned tuna.

3. Replace pasta and pizza with protein-rich whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, millet) and simple steamed vegetables. Broccoli, beets, carrots and corn are all low GI vegetables.

4. The best way to satisfy a sweet tooth is with a piece of fresh, ripe fruit. Low glycemic fruits include: cherries, strawberries, bananas, peaches and pears.

5. Check out the Mayo Clinic for healthy and tasty diabetic-friendly recipes.

Tips for Mealtime Success

Environmental and social factors can influence our feelings about mealtime and affect our food intake. To ease the transition from customary foods to more healthy choices and encourage healthy eating habits among seniors with diabetes, Homewatch CareGivers recommends the following mealtime tips:

1. Are your surroundings clean, comfortable and uncluttered?
2. Is the table height appropriate (at the table or in bed)?
3. Is food being served at the proper temperature?
4. Are hearing aids, glasses and dentures properly in place?
5. Who is eating with you — no one should eat alone.
6. Tell your family enthusiastically what is being served.
7. Create a warm atmosphere with music, conversation and/or lighting
8. Most importantly, take your time. Do not rush!

Homewatch CareGivers Can Help

Whether your loved one is perfectly capable of preparing meals on their own or needs someone to prepare meals for them, Homewatch CareGivers can provide customized oversight, support and/or quality companion time with meal preparation and planning.

More About Homewatch CareGivers

Homewatch CareGivers is a premier caregiver agency, providing home care for all ages. We invite you to visit, where you can read articles related to home health, Dementia Care Tips and home care news; or download PDF home care resources. From health care coordination and hospital discharge planning to home care transportation and daily living assistance, let our family of caregivers care for yours.

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