Having diabetes generally means spending a great deal of time thinking about food. It is also accompanied by a lot of analyzing which foods are best for controlling your blood glucose levels and which tend to send them soaring. It’s likely you’ve even heard your fair share of ridiculous tips and empty promises, ranging from the curative powers of cinnamon to bogus miracle diets.
The point is: there are a lot of confusing ideas about what a “diabetic diet” should look like.
However, for the most part, people with diabetes don’t have to deviate all that much from the diet that is recommended to everyone. It’s all about choosing the right foods and portions. And in most instances, the focus doesn’t have to be on deprivation. Instead, the goal should be moderation—as long as you have a solid understanding of what moderation means.
That being said, if you’ve found yourself off course or have never really found your way to healthy eating, we’re here to offer some tips and tricks for cleaning up your diet! Take a look!
1. Get your daily dose of fiber
According to Joslin Diabetes Center, the average person should eat between 20-35 grams of fiber each day. Unfortunately, most people aren’t getting enough. While ensuring you get your daily dose of fiber is important for everyone, it’s particularly beneficial to people with diabetes. Why? Because high-fiber foods can actually help regulate your body’s production of insulin. Plus, they help you feel full longer.
Fiber is also an excellent way to stay regular. Consuming foods high in insoluble fiber helps keep your digestive tract functioning properly and can help with digestive problems like constipation and hemorrhoids. Soluble fiber absorbs water as it passes through your body, which helps you have healthy bowel movements. Given the increased risk of digestive issues experienced by people with diabetes, this is a huge benefit!
2. Focus on whole foods
Whole foods are foods that are close to their natural state or that have been minimally refined or processed. Whole foods generally contain limited added ingredients, like sweeteners and preservatives. Think of an apple versus fruit snacks, or carrot sticks versus potato chips.
The fruit snacks and carrot sticks are loaded with all sorts of added ingredients that aren’t necessarily healthy (extra fat, sodium, sugar, and preservatives). Conversely, by sticking to whole, fresh ingredients, you’re maximizing the benefits offered by the food you’re eating.
3. Consume healthy fats
While a lot of fatty foods can increase cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease (think trans fat and saturated fat), some are actually good for people with diabetes. Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats (nuts, fatty fish, avocado, and olive oil), can actually lower bad cholesterol and promote heart health.
Just remember that these foods are also high in calories and will still raise your triglyceride levels, so moderation is key.
4. Use healthy cooking methods
You can quickly zap the health benefits from the foods you’re preparing if you prepare them in not-so-healthy ways. For instance, fried veggies, while delicious, are significantly less healthy than those that have been steamed—particularly when you consider the creamy dipping sauce that typically accompanies the former.
When cooking, try to rely upon baking, grilling, steaming, broiling, poaching and roasting.
5. Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of insulin and oral medications, causing dangerous lows. However, it can also cause a big spike in blood glucose levels depending on what and how much you’re consuming. Plus, it’s full of calories and increases your appetite, making you more likely to eat outside your diet plan.
Alcohol also inhibits your liver function. Instead of focusing its efforts on regulating your blood sugar, your liver’s efforts are redirected to removing the alcohol from your blood.
Make sure you talk to your doctor about alcohol consumption. He or she can help you establish a healthy limit that may allow you to enjoy a drink, in moderation, while keeping your numbers in check.
L.D. and her eleven-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and are currently enjoying exploring their new city! She likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.