If you think a diabetes diagnosis will limit your food choices, think again. Check out all your delicious options
Confused about what’s smart to enjoy (and avoid) after a diabetes diagnosis? “The good news is that you will still be able to enjoy a wide assortment of foods,” says Katy Hawkins, RD, LDN, a certified diabetes educator based in Pittsburgh. Follow these guidelines to help you plan healthy, delicious meals.
Keep Carbs in Balance
Our bodies use carbohydrates for energy in the form of glucose. Carbs may also provide nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. But if you eat more carbs than your body can use, the glucose remains and your blood sugar level rises. “Frequently people with diabetes question me about skipping carbs at one meal so they can double their carbs at the next meal,” says Hawkins. “But balance across the day is important.”
Many people with type 2 diabetes do well with 45 to 60 grams of carbs at each meal and one to two smaller snacks. Work with a nutrition pro who can take into account your activity level and meds. Carbs that contain fiber and protein don’t affect blood sugar as dramatically.
* Fiber-rich and colorful fruits and vegetables: apples, berries, beans, legumes, squash, and sweet potatoes
* Protein-packed dairy: Greek yogurt and low-fat or fat-free milk
* Whole grains: whole-grain pasta, high-fiber cereal (with 3 grams of fiber or more), oatmeal, bulgur wheat, and whole-grain breads
Sugar is just another carb, but it doesn’t supply the nutrients that other carbs do. Keep in mind that it’s also a simple carb, so any effect on your blood sugar level can be quick. And don’t fall into the sugar-free trap—those items may still contain carbs that need to be considered, says Hawkins.
Enjoy Free Foods
Nonstarchy vegetables are sometimes called free foods because they don’t affect your blood sugar. “These veggies are great for all of us, as they are rich in vitamins and minerals but low in fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrates.” says Hawkins.
* Allium: onion
* Cruciferous/Brassica: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage,
* Gourds: cucumber, zucchini and squash
* Legumes: green beans, peas and alfafa
Cooking certain vegetables may cause valuable nutrients, like vitamin C, to be lost. Try to eat cruciferous vegetables raw and cook asparagus, carrots and squash to reap the benefits.
Power Up with Lean Protein
Making good protein choices is important for healthy eating with diabetes as well. “Protein helps to keep you feeling full while slowing down the digestion of carbs,” says Hawkins.
* Seafood: salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and herring
* Poultry: chicken and turkey breast
* Lean beef: tenderloin, chuck and rump roast, 90% lean ground beef, and round, sirloin, T-bone, porterhouse, and flank steak
* Lean pork: Canadian bacon, tenderloin, loin roast, and pork chops
* Dairy: eggs and egg products and low-fat cottage cheese
* Soy: soy milk, edamame, soy nuts, tofu, and tempeh
* Meat substitutes
* Nut butter
* Beans and legumes
Many protein sources can be high in fat, so balance your intake. Fat is often introduced in the preparation, warns Hawkins. Choose broiling, baking, and grilling over frying, and check out fat grams on any condiments or marinades you use.
Add in Healthy Fats
Fats may not be a concern when it comes to managing blood sugar. But a balanced intake will help heart health (important if you have diabetes) and control weight, which can benefit blood sugar control. Use good monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fats in moderation.
* Nuts and seeds
* Animal fats (saturated fats): meats, cheese, butter, and full-fat dairy
* Trans fats: some margarines, shortening, and processed foods
* Coconut and palm oils