There are many ways to a healthy diabetes plate, so stop worrying about which diet is the perfect one for diabetes. The American Diabetes Association says that the principles of a healthy diet are the same for people with diabetes, as they are for everyone else. And, most importantly, having diabetes doesn’t mean the end of good eating.
The following tips—as surprising as they may be—will help you to live well with diabetes and enjoy the taste of eating right.
Eat Whatever You Want
There is no one-size-fits-all, or right way for a person with diabetes to eat, nor are there bad foods that have to be eliminated forever. When your blood sugar is in control, you can work any food in and enjoy it. However, if you’ve had several days of very high blood sugar readings, that’s not the best time to have dessert. When you do consume sugary treats, be sure to keep the amount within your carbohydrate budget by substituting those sweets for starch, fruit or milk in your diet.
Break Free of Sugar-Free
Contrary to popular belief, having diabetes does not translate into having to eat sugar-free versions of everything. In fact, I tell my clients to avoid too many sugar-free foods. That’s because many sugar-free cookies, candy, cakes and pies are sweetened with sugar alcohols. Eating too many of these foods can cause diarrhea and upset stomach. Satisfy you sweet tooth naturally with sweet fresh fruit instead.
Take Bigger Bites
A recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that the larger your fork and bigger your bite when you eat, the less you will probably eat. Translation: Weight loss! And, losing weight is one of the best ways to manage type 2 diabetes. Losing as little as 10-15 pounds, for example, is enough to improve blood sugar levels. Weight loss can also decrease insulin resistance with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which means you may require less oral diabetes medications and/or insulin to control blood sugar levels. So open wide, and eat up!
Make Fat Your Friend
Many people with diabetes (and lots of folks without it) believe that fat is harmful. However, research has shown that replacing carbs with healthy fat reduces triglycerides—the major storage form fat in the blood, and after-meal blood sugar. So, indulge, and include moderate amounts of healthy fats such as those found in avocados, and olive and canola oils.
Don’t Be A Slave To Snacks
People with diabetes used to be encouraged to eat every few hours to keep their energy up and control blood sugar. But, for some people, snacking just means more opportunities to overeat. Years ago, when there were few diabetes medications, snacking was recommended to avoid low blood sugar. Today, there are so many options for oral medication and insulin that snacking is rarely necessary.
Go Nuts at Every Meal
Eating a daily dose of nuts has been shown to help maintain healthy levels of blood sugar and cholesterol. You can add chopped almonds to Greek yogurt and sprinkle with cinnamon for breakfast; at lunch add peanuts as a side to a sandwich and at dinner sprinkle walnuts on salad, or top baked fish with walnuts or pistachios. Nuts aren’t low in calories, so trying using nuts in the shell. You’ll eat fewer if you have to crack each one open.
Use the Plate Method
The “plate method” can take much of the stress out of diabetes meal planning. When you serve yourself a meal, make half your plate non-starchy vegetables like spinach, cabbage, collards or broccoli; fill a quarter of your plate with starchy vegetables like potatoes, rice or pasta and the last quarter with fish, poultry or meat.
An award-winning registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and former spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of the Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World; The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes.