This week, we are talking macronutrients and in particular how each of them can support our lifestyle when managing Type 2 diabetes. A lot focus for new diabetics is to limit carbohydrates, eliminating a large proportion of our daily food, leaving lots of people feeling starved and restricted = unhappy.  This is a good idea, however first up we need to look at getting our meals more consistent.  And to do that, we need to build a healthy plate first.
So, with our focus on putting more good things in, our healthy plate will always start with our protein intake.
If we get this right first, we can help trick our brain into eating less. How?

Q:- What do nearly all successful diet have in common?*

A:- A consistent protein intake.
Thats right:-
✅ Protein is the most satiating (fuller for longer) macronutrient.
✅ Protein helps retain muscle when dieting.
✅ Protein also serves many functions in our body.
– Growth/Repair
– Immune function
– Cell structure
– Enzyme function
Meaning, that if you get your protein right first, we can take some of the pressure off carbohydrates helping us to feel full after our meal.  Which is the opposite way round to how most people think about their plate of food.
So, how much should I eat?
Obviously everyone is different, we don’t need to be high protein, so start at the minimum recommended by Public Health England (0.8g per kg of bodyweight) and try and increase to 1.5g per kg of bodyweight. Somewhere in between will set you right. This is evidence based with the references below.  [1].  As we age, there is also a requirement for an increase in protein to help counter osteopenia and sarcopenia which is bone and muscle degradation as we age.

Common sense values we can look to consume (per day)

👩‍🔧75kg female between 60g and 110g per day
👨‍⚖️100kg male 80g to 150g per day
This would equate to about 20-30g of protein per meal.
How much protein should i eat?

Next up – Fill half your plate with Veggies.

Winners will include one to two fist sizes of vegetables at every meal.  This counts as one portion, but could be made up of a number of different vegetables.  Its important to differentiate this from government guidelines which is frankly shocking how low they suggest.  If we truly want to put our diabetes into remission, we need to rely on low-calorie quality fibrous vegetables. A long term goal is to try and increase to 30 different vegetables per week.
It may take time to achieve that. It may not be achievable for everyone.  But we must try harder.  Maybe creative cooking or blending or baking them into cakes to hide them?
How many veggies should i eat?

Next up – Now add your carbohydrates

If you ask most people about what they know about diabetes they might say:-
“oh, that’s where you can’t eat carbohydrates” and to an extent that is true, a low-carbohydrate diet is ONE way of getting your diabetes under control. But it isn’t the only way.
Actually most people don’t even know what a carbohydrate actually is. If you ask those same people to name some carbohydrates, they will probably start with potato, pasta, then maybe bread, then move onto crisps, sweets, chocolate and cakes.
Which, whilst they do contain carbohydrates, are not exactly what we mean. We have become so confused about nutrition we don’t even know what they really are.

So to differentiate them from processed foods we name them – SMART carbohydrates.

Smart as in they are good for you.
Studies don’t ever show that carbohydrates are the cause of diabetes, its usually the mix of over-consumption and or inclusion of too many processed foods containing carbs that is the root of weight gain and maybe diabetes. I can assure you, no-one got diabetes from eating potatoes or fruit alone. (we have many plant based studies that prove it.
…Thats a myth busted!!
So what do we want?  See the image below.  Whole grains, slow release carbs, rich in nutrients, fibre and some even contain protein as well for the win.
So the take away from this post is….. You can safely include these smart carbohydrates in your diet that help you power through your day. You could try bunching them around exercise and lowering them on days when you may be stuck at work at your desk all day if you think you need to, as thats when they work best.
You can have low carb days and high carb weekends if that suits your preferences!!
Carbohydrates are our natural energy source. Eat them when you need them and limit them when you don’t

We just need to be aware of what they do for us.

How many carbohydrates should i consume?
best breakfasts for diabetes

Lastly – Now add your fats

Can you name all the different types of fat we consume in our diets each day? These are the main types we see. Save and share if you find this useful.
There is a full list in the bio.
In our short course, we explain in more detail about the biochemistry of dietary fat and its effect on the body, but for now, what we are highlighting is the different types of fat and which foods you can find them in. We need to be thinking about limiting the highly processed fats found in fast food and to an extent some of the higher fat dairy and meat products. Think of butter and full fat milk. You don’t have to exclude them, be aware there are healthier alternatives.
As diabetics we are usually at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes, and the evidence to swap from these processed and saturated fats can be quite strong. Even if its simply because they contain more calories and very little nutrients that the body can absorb and use, thats a good reason, as weight loss if high on the list of factors that can lower cholesterol levels and the chances of heart-related complications. If we can swap some of the items in the top half of the grid for low-fat versions (dairy) and/or mono- and poly-unsaturated fats in the lower half of the grid then we can help improve our insulin resistance, lower weight and enjoy the benefits of heart healthy fats instead.
✅ Reduce the number of fast food meals you consume
✅ Swap full fat dairy for low-fat alternatives
✅ Smaller portions of cheese/fatty cuts of meats
✅Swap sunflower oil for cold-pressed rapeseed oil
✅Dress salads with olive oil
✅Adding a small portion of nuts to meals
✅Including seeds in breakfasts

Oh and please, stop using coconut oil. It is not a health-food!!

These are all great examples of how you can include some lovely fats into your diet without worrying about the long term health risks that we used to associate with fat.
How much fat should I eat?

Putting it together.

Eating well is sometimes far easier than we like to make it. We have so many tools at our disposal but for some reason everyone likes complications. How we have evolved to this?
The “eat less, move more” mantra is slammed by so many people for being too simplistic. Difficult to interpret. Difficult to implement.
However our coaching experience has been very different. We know calorie counting is tedious, time consuming and complicated. Inaccurate even.
So since we started coaching we ask them to simply try to use their own body parts to guide them for a week or two.
It is so simple. And when we review peoples food diaries, we can see that nearly every overweight person we work with is UNDEREATING by one full days worth of meals per week. And not losing weight.  READ that again.
So why is this? Obviously if they were truly under-eating they wouldn’t be overweight, that is how it works?
But in reality what is really happening is that they are under-eating vital nutrients in proteins, vegetables and fats and over consuming not just smart carbohydrates but also processed convenience foods. They don’t think they are, but they are.
For real. Without even knowing it. We can see clearly in their food diaries (more on those next week) that they are nutrient deficient by about 2000 calories (one day).
Is it any wonder then, that they always feel hungry? Craving energy dense nutrient-poor food? No!!
So give it a go, try for one week to achieve these kinds of portions in your meals. Bonuses for breakfasts!!
If this resonates with you or you think it might help someone you know with diabetes and/or long term weight issues, please share this with them.
Diabetes Academy – New Programs start in March 2021.
Putting it together - portions
About the Author

James Belbin is the one of the UKs leading nutritionists and habit changes coaches. Specialising in Type 2 Diabetes,  I provide straightforward, personalised no-nonsense guides that help people make significant changes to their nutrition and lifestyle. As an evidence-based nutritionist and habit change coach I can identify the aspects of your diet and lifestyle that are working well for you and build on them. 

I’m a Type 2 Diabetic in remission and lifelong yo-yo dieter so I understand what you’re going through. 

If you’re trying to understand your diabetes diagnosis and how it affects your lifestyle I can help.  

James Belbin - Nutritionist

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