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March 8, 2004

Meal Planning, Food and Diet

Question from Monrovia, Liberia:

A 17 year old female friend has type 1 diabetes. Her sister, who was also a type 1 diabetic, died not too long ago. Both girls were being taken care of by an older sister. Now, this sister is trying to do what would be best for this sister who is having some very high sugar levels. We live in Liberia and, as you may know, we have just had 14 years of civil war in our country which has deprived us of modern technology, absence of the insulin injections, as well as shortage of food which usually is hard to find for diabetics. In our country, we do have rice, beans, potatoes, plantain, eddoes, cassava, chicken, cow meat, a lot of fish, greens, eggplant, bitter balls, okra, pepper etc. Can you provide us with information on the diet, as well as proportions, which could help us to follow up our patient in a better way? What are nutritious foods which could be eaten by a diabetic and their proportions?

Answer:

Meal planning for persons with diabetes is individualized nowadays. Portion sizes are very important to pay attention to rather than restricting certain foods. All of the foods that you mentioned can be worked into a meal plan. Foods which contain more carbohydrate, especially rice, beans, potatoes, and plantains, need to be portioned appropriately. Protein, fat, and non-starchy vegetable, such as meats, greens, eggplant, etc., will not raise blood sugars as much or as quickly as carbohydrates. I would suggest you have your friend speak with a health care professional, preferably someone with nutrition expertise, to individualize a meal plan to meet your friend’s caloric needs and help obtain optimal blood sugar control.

JMS