How much you can eat in order to maintain a healthy weight is determined by your age, gender, and general level of activity but there are general guidelines as to how many servings of each food group a person should have. (see Food Groups)
Protein: Each person should have 2 servings of protein per day (younger or people with large body frames may require 3). A serving of protein is a fillet of fish or meat of an equal size to the palm of your hand, two eggs, ¾ of a 200 ml cup of beans or lentils. Remember to choose lean meat and remove excess fat or skin to limit the intake of fat and boil, bake, grill or stew. Proteins do not affect blood glucose levels.
Fat: Fats should be kept to a minimum by reducing your intake of processed foods and choosing oils instead of solid fats where possible. A portion of fat could be one catering pack (individual portion) of reduced fat polyunsaturated or monounsaturated spread – this is sufficient per slice of bread but if possible try to use only half the pack. Remember if adding another filling that contains fat (mayonnaise), you might not need the spread. Most importantly, remember there is fat added to all processed foods so limit these as much as possible and choose ’low fat’/ ‘healthy’ or ‘diet’ options of dairy products. Fats have no direct effect on blood glucose levels.
Carbohydrates: All people with diabetes must monitor the amount of carbohydrates they eat because they form the mainstay of our diet and have a direct effect on blood glucose levels as well as contributing to weight gain. Starchy carbohydrates (see Food Groups ) should be included at each meal in an appropriate amount. Your Dietitian will help you to work out how many portions you should have with each meal. Examples of starchy foods include potatoes, breads, wraps, chapatti, rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, porridge, and crackers. The amount you can healthily consume is most influenced by level of activity – the more active you are, the more servings of carbohydrates (energy) required/used.
Dairy: Some dairy products (i.e. milk and yogurt) contain lactose (a natural sugar) and will have a direct effect on blood glucose. It is recommended that all adults have 3 servings of dairy products each day with younger men requiring up to 5 servings.
You can look at the food label which indicates what a serving is but NOTE these vary and you need to be aware of what the label sets as a serving and what you consider a serving. They may not be the same size.
To help you to recognise appropriate portion sizes, select a week and measure or/weigh your common foods and determine the portion size (serving) you are eating of each. You may be surprised at the difference between your intake and the general guidelines.
Fresh Fruit Portion sizes
1 medium apple/orange/peach/banana/pear
2 Small kiwi/plum/Satsuma/mandarin orange/passion fruit/ apricots
½-2/3 cup of berries
An average portion of fruit provides 80-90 calories per serving
Calorie content of vegetables
Vegetables generally contain very little calories and usually do not need to be counted as part of your daily calorie intake because the energy needed to digest them is equal/more than they contain with the exception of parsnips /carrots.
1 cup cooked parsnip/carrot = 40 – 50 calories