Creating a diabetes-friendly diet simply involves choosing healthy foods in moderate amounts and sticking to regular mealtimes. Everybody is different, so if you have diabetes or prediabetes, work with your doctor to determine what's best for you. However, here are some tips to get you started in the right direction.
It's a great recommendation for everyone − not just diabetics − to work on eating foods that count or have the most nutritional value. Here are some categories to think about.
- Healthy carbohydrates. Carbohydrates do provide energy for the body, but simple carbohydrates break down much quicker into glucose, raising blood glucose levels. Avoid processed foods and foods with added fat, sugar and sodium, instead opting for fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
- Fiber. Dietary fiber moderates digestion and helps control blood sugar. Aim for high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and whole grains.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Eat heart-healthy, blood-pressure-lowering omega-3 fatty acids found in fresh fish. If you're not a fan of fish, look toward nuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, soybean oil and canola oil. Just remember to eat these oils and fatty foods in moderation, as they do add quite a bit of fat to your diet.
- Healthy fats. Fats are not the enemy, as long as you're eating polyunsaturated fats to help lower cholesterol. Look toward avocados, nuts, and oils like canola, olive and peanut.
Here are some foods to consider including in a healthy, diabetes-friendly diet:
- Raw, cooked or roasted vegetables, which add color (antioxidants), flavor and texture to your meals. Fill up on low-carb vegetables like mushrooms, onions, eggplant, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and zucchini.
- Greens. Add some green to your diet in the form of spinach, kale, chard or other leafy greens like arugula. These are low in carbohydrates and high in nutrients.
- Low-calorie drinks. Don't forget that you are also what you drink! Nix the high-calorie fruit juices and sports drinks in favor of water, flavored with lemon or cucumber. If you like hot tea, add a little flavor with some lemon or a cinnamon stick.
- Melon or berries. These low-carb beauties are great for you. Eat them with yogurt, atop healthy granola or cereal, or just by themselves. Try freezing them into some ice cubes to flavor water.
- Whole grain, high-fiber foods. Fill up on legumes like dried beans, peas and lentils. These are filling, high-fiber foods that will keep you satisfied and away from unhealthy snacks.
- A bit of fat. As mentioned above, add healthy fats to your meals, like fish, avocado and olive oil.
- Protein. Keep yourself full and fueled with some healthy protein. Pair whole-wheat crackers with lean cheese or Greek yogurt. Eat lean meats with your meals. Even try a little peanut butter with your celery. It's delicious and will keep you going until the next meal.
Making a Plan
Create a diet plan that works for you, and stick with it. You can try the plate method, which emphasizes filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, a quarter with lean protein and a quarter with healthy, high-fiber grains. Add a small amount of healthy fats, and a serving of fruit or dairy.
Many diabetics simply count their carbohydrates, limiting them because they break down to glucose in the blood stream. A dietician can teach you how to measure food portions and accurately count carbohydrates.
Another way to go is to calculate the glycemic index of your foods in order to keep blood sugar low. Your dietician can help you with this method.