Eat Like a Diabetic

Brian King2/15/14

One of the biggest myths about diabetes is that there’s a specific “diabetic diet.” Food and fluid intake are crucial to help diabetics have healthy lives and minimize complications from the disease. But is there a perfect diet for the millions who live with diabetes?


The truth is…Yes and No. A perfect diabetic diet is rich in nutrients; low in processed foods; emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains; is low in calories and fat; and is divided into five smaller meals, eaten at regular intervals to keep weight and blood sugar under control. That diet is also perfect for most Americans.


Diabetics will want to individualize their diets based on weight, amount of exercise and other health risks. Follow your physician’s recommendations and also those of a dietician your physician may recommend.


If you or a loved one is diabetic, these tips are good for the whole family.  They’re a healthy eating plan for life, not a restrictive diet.


Complex carbs are best


All carbohydrates break down into glucose (sugar) and they have the greatest impact on blood sugar (glucose) levels. To stay within your target range and keep glucose at a constant level, choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, brown rice and pasta, nuts, fruits and vegetables. Avoid simple carbs that make your blood sugar spike and leave you feeling hungry in a short time. Simple carbs are found in snack and processed foods made with white flour, trans fats or a lot of sugar or salt.


·         Eat 6-11 servings a day of whole-grain bread or crackers, bran cereal, beans, peas and lentils or brown rice.


          Try fresh/frozen fruit on your breakfast cereal; a salad for lunch with low-fat protein; vegetable-based soup with dinner; and snack on carrot, celery and cucumber “sticks” or a handful of nuts.


Protein comes in many forms


·         Eat 2-3 servings a day of protein. Bake, roast, broil or boil rather than fry fish or poultry without the skin. Eggs and lean cuts of beef and pork are fine as long as they don’t dominate your daily protein choices.

·         Cut back on processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs and packaged lunch meat.

·         Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans), peanut butter, and beans also provide protein. They contain healthy polyunsaturated oils that help lower cholesterol levels. Watch your portion size because they are calorie-dense.

 ·         Eat 3 servings a day of low-fat dairy such as milk, yogurt or cottage cheese. A serving is one cup of milk or a half cup of yogurt or cottage cheese.


Load up on fruits and veggies


·         Eat 3-5 servings a day of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit. An easy way to get more veggies is to include a salad every day, as long most of it has a variety of veggies rather than just lettuce. Fresh fruit is better than high-calorie fruit juice.

·         Eat your favorite veggies raw for a satisfying “mouth crunch.” They make a great appetizer before dinner and save cooking time, boost fiber intake and are low in calories.

·         Experiment with new veggies and try healthier ways to prepare old favorites that don’t use sauces, butter or salt.

 ·         Fruits, veggies and whole grains are naturally high in fiber and keep glucose under control. Generally, one serving is a half cup or one cup of salad.


Cook with healthy fats


·         Switch to extra virgin olive oil, canola or peanut oil for cooking.

·         Avoid trans fats by limiting processed foods like chips, doughnuts, cookies, pie, or foods made with shortening or stick margarine.

 ·         Limit fatty foods and those high in saturated fats like hamburgers, cheese or butter.


Watch out for empty calories


·         If you drink alcohol, drink with a meal and work toward no more than 2 drinks a day for men; 1 for women.

 ·         Desserts and other sweets are high in fat and sugar and none of us need those. Slowly decrease your portion sizes and consider sugar-free options or fresh fruit.


It’s your choice


Healthy substitutions are easy. Try one of these each week to slowly adjust your taste to a healthier eating plan: More fish and fewer hamburgers and red meat; more whole grains and less white bread; fresh fruit instead of pie or cake; a small piece of dark chocolate instead of a brownie; a glass of wine with a meal instead of three cocktails before dinner. 


It’s all about the choices YOU make. Good choices mean a trim and fit body and a long and healthy life without disease. It’s up to YOU.


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