Approaches to Dietary Management, Part I.

For all of us—Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics, pre-diabetics, ex-diabetics, recovering diabetics—whatever we choose to call ourselves, we can choose to follow a specific dietary approach to diabetes management. Or not. We will discuss some of the main ways (or combinations thereof) that Adventist Vegetarian Diabetics deal with diabetes.

Goal: To keep A1C at or less than 7.0%.

Since March is National Nutrition Month, this is a good time to take a closer look at various ways of eating and how each affects our diabetic health.

Standard American Diet (SAD)

Here’s where many of us were at the time we were diagnosed as diabetic. We were pretty much eating whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, and as much as we wanted. Otherwise known as the Standard American Diet (SAD). Your primary approach to diabetes management is being diligent in getting your blood glucose tested when your doctor tells you to and taking your diabetes medications and insulin, if prescribed.

If you are following the “standard American diet,” you are not controlling your diabetes, even if you are taking diabetes medication and/or insulin. Adventist Vegetarian Diabetics will always support you, as a person, even though we may not support your way of eating. We want you to control your diabetes, not just manage it. So if you read our articles and get interested in trying some of the recipes, you may—just maybe—decide you’d like to take better control of your diabetes and avoid complications of diabetes and an early and painful death due to those complications.

You may have been Adventist non-vegetarian*, lacto-ovo vegetarian, or vegan, but still ate a “junk food” diet. Here is a characterization of the “standard American diet,” based on all that I have read:

  • high in refined carbohydrates, including sugar in all its forms
  • high in unhealthy fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil, trans fats)
  • high in processed foods, chemical additives, and GMO food products
  • low in whole foods, including vegetables

ADA – American Diabetes Association

If you paid attention to what your ADA-trained doctor and dietitian told you, you followed the ADA guidelines of limiting carbs to 150-200 grams/day and walking a minimum of 30 minutes/day for at least six days a week. Your goal was to keep your A1C at or below 7.0%.

An ADA-compliant diet may be non-vegetarian or vegetarian/vegan. It is described (by the ADA) as moderate-carbohydrate (about 45% of calories come from carbohydrate), 10% of calories from saturated fat, and focus on healthy or “good” fat sources (“good fats” include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), and 45% of calories from protein; 300 mg of cholesterol per day; 25 grams of dietary fiber per day; 2300 mg of sodium or less per day. In practical terms (eating 3 meals a day), this means 45-60 grams of carbs per meal, 135-180 grams of carbs per day, and 15-20 grams of carbs per serving. These grams are calculated as net grams (carbohydrates minus fiber and sugar alcohols).

The premise of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is, “Living with diabetes doesn’t have to mean feeling deprived.” The implication is that truly healthy eating makes one feel deprived. From what I can determine, ADA is very mainstream, middle-of-the-road, and compromised. ADA guidelines are very much “conventional wisdom” rather than “present truth.” ADA holds on to what they feel is “tried and true.” They seem to imply that anything other than ADA recommendations, such as low-carb high-fat or high-carb low-fat vegan, is a “fad diet.” However, if your goal is to follow ADA guidelines on nutrition, you probably have materials that you were given by your doctor or diabetes educator. You also can find handy food lists online. (Google “American Diabetes Association nutrition recommendations.” I can’t give you specific URLs because—at the time of this writing in March 2019—the ADA websites are not secure.)

Video: “How to Create a Healthy Plate”

After a few (or several) years, this ADA-compliant approach didn’t work as well and you found that, in addition to following ADA diet and exercise recommendations diligently, you had to take diabetes pills or injections and, eventually, insulin. And the dosages increased. You were told that your diabetes would get progressively worse. Still, you will manage to delay for a few (or several) years any diabetes complications, which lead to blindness, peripheral neuropathy and amputations, kidney failure, stroke, heart attack, and death.

More information at

Stay tuned for what you can do if/when the ADA dietary recommendations (plus diabetes meds and insulin) fail you….

* “Adventist non-vegetarian” refers to a non-vegetarian who eats only “clean” meat and fish, as described in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.

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