Is there a best eating pattern for diabetes? This is a frequently asked question and one about which a lot of research has been done. Let’s break this down.
The term “eating pattern”, which is quickly becoming a more commonly discussed concept, simply means a combination of foods or food groups that one eats day in and day out. For example, you eat foods, like a slice of bread or piece of chicken, that are in essence packages of nutrients that contain varying amounts of carbohydrate, protein and fat – from some of each to none of one nutrient and a good bit from one or the others. And due to the combination of nutrients in our foods and the way we tend to eat, there’s only so much wiggle room, particularly if you want to eat healthfully, to eat more carbohydrate and less protein and fat or visa versa.
Over the last decade or so research has been done on a variety of different eating patterns to determine whether they that can help people eat healthfully and at the same time prevent common chronic diseases like in prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. Specifically for people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes do they help people achieve and maintain their glucose, lipid and blood pressure goals.
Several eating patterns were reviewed in the most recent American Diabetes Association nutrition recommendations, from vegetarian, to Mediterranean-style, to lower fat and higher carbohydrate, lower carbohydrate and higher fat and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan (developed for the NIH DASH study in people with high blood pressure).
There’s a varying amount of research on these eating plans and varying number of studies on them conducted in people with diabetes. As researchers love to say, more research is needed! At this point in time, because nutrition research is ever evolving, it’s clear that there is no one best eating pattern for diabetes. For that matter the same can be said for the best diet for weight control.
What this research does show is that the RIGHT WAY for YOU is to through exploration find an eating pattern that you can follow now and in the future – one that fits your needs and lifestyle. There’s no ONE RIGHT WAY. What’s RIGHT is what YOU can implement and continue to follow long term.
Reality is, and research shows this, as human beings we just aren’t willing and don’t vary our eating pattern much. We may be willing for a short time, but we then gravitate back to our old ways. The approach that is more likely to succeed is making slow and steady tweaks to your current way of eating. Learn how here.
Lastly, what and how much you eat is not the only lifestyle factor you can modify to get and stay healthy. Study after study shows that other health behaviors in addition, such as being physically active, minimizing sedentary behavior (hours of sitting), not smoking, getting adequate quality and quantity of sleep at the right time of day, and limiting stress are ALL key features of a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight.
Learn more about healthy and helpful eating patterns for people with prediabetes and diabetes in my book Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy.