Living with diabetes can sometimes feel like you’re in a world of pasta, bread and bowls of rice. And this is often the reality. However, eating to control your blood sugar may be easier than you think. Incorporate these tips to get started.
1. Make a fist. Use your hands to keep portions in check. Carbohydrate needs vary based on your height, weight, age and activity level. The size of a woman’s fist or a tennis ball roughly equals a 1 cup portion. Let this be your visual guide. Fill the rest of the plate with veggies.
2. Choose whole grains. Not only do whole grains help control hunger, components like beta-glucan found in oats and barley can help improve blood sugar.
3. Fill up on veggies. Non-starchy vegetables like spinach, green beans, peppers, broccoli and cabbage are low in carbohydrates and bursting with nutrition. Fill half your plate with veggies at each meal, even at breakfast.
4. Be sweet on fruit. Select fruits that are lower in carbohydrate like berries and melons. If you choose frozen fruit, skip the ones in sugary sauces. Enjoy fruit for dessert, as a snack or to sweeten salads or cereal.
5. Eat heart smart. Having diabetes increases your risk for a heart disease. In fact, 2 of 3 diabetes-related deaths are due to a heart attack or stroke. To keep your ticker in tip top shape, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and choose lean protein sources from beans and tofu to fish, chicken breast or lean beef.
6. Nosh on nuts. With a tasty balance of fiber, protein and heart-healthy fats, nuts are a diabetes friendly snack that helps control hunger and blood sugar. Sprinkle nuts on salads or into hot cereal for a little crunch.
7. Be salt savvy. High blood pressure is common among people with diabetes. Use lime juice, flavored vinegars, herbs, spices and aromatic vegetables to season your food instead of salt.
8. Skip the sugary beverages. There’s room for almost everything in moderation but sugary beverages are a tough fit. The concentrated sugar will increase blood sugar levels and when overused these beverages can lead to weight gain which makes managing your diabetes much more difficult.
9. Read the label. Sure you peek at the nutrition label but are you getting the full story? It’s not just about the sugar. At a minimum, take time to review the ingredient list, serving size, total calories and total carbohydrates. Note how that food fits into your eating plan.
These are only the tip of the iceberg. To get a custom eating plan to manage your diabetes, consult a registered dietitian in your area.
Marisa Moore, MBA.RD.LD. is a registered and licensed dietitian in Atlanta, GA. Marisa works with corporations, groups and individuals to improve health outcomes in wellness, weight management, heart health and disease prevention. She also works with the food industry to develop healthy recipes, products and campaigns.
She is a media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and adjunct faculty at Georgia State University. Moore holds a BS in nutrition and dietetics from Georgia State University where she also earned a master’s degree in business administration.