About 10% of the U.S. population has diabetes — that equates to 34.2 million people! If you're one of the many who happens to have this disease, you may struggle to keep your blood sugar at an acceptable level. After all, how are you supposed to maintain your diabetic-friendly diet when even the smell of cookies makes you drool? Luckily, there are ways to stay true to your diet without compromising flavors or your favorite meals.
1. Make Meals and Avoid Processed Foods
Processed and packaged foods often contain excessive amounts of sugar, sodium, and preservatives to keep them from expiring. Plus, they usually contain artificial ingredients that you can't even pronounce.
Choosing to eat these foods can be detrimental to your diet. Instead, make meals for yourself using fresh ingredients. Take time to meal prep on the weekends so you aren't tempted to pop a frozen meal in the microwave mid-week when you don't feel like cooking.
For individuals managing diabetes, exploring the best meal plan for diabetes can offer valuable guidance on creating nutritious and balanced meals.
2. Find Low-Sugar Snacks
Late-night munchies are a real thing and, if you don't have healthy snacks in your arsenal, you'll likely reach for candy, chips, or cookies to satisfy your cravings. These foods are carbohydrate-rich and can spike insulin levels in an instant.
Rid your cupboards of these tempting treats and replace them with low-sugar ones like berries, nuts, and seeds. These foods will actually fill you up and provide your body with fuel instead of filling you with empty calories that will have the opposite effect.
3. Replace Processed Meats With Lean Ones
Highly-processed meats may include sausage, hot dogs, lunch meat, or bacon. These foods are typically high in sodium and saturated fats which may further put you at risk for heart complications.
Replace these meats with leaner options like salmon, turkey, and plant proteins like tofu and beans. You might also try eating more eggs to up your protein intake.
Every now and then, treat yourself to a steak, just be sure to trim that excess fat off, first!
4. Swap Whole Grains for Refined
White bread, pasta, and rice all get their pasty color from being refined. The refining process strips grains of their fiber-rich germ, husk, and bran. Yet, fiber is essential in preventing spikes in blood sugar levels. Keep your levels down by switching out refined grains for whole ones. Choose brown rice over white or substitute with quinoa. You can even make diabetic-friendly homemade pizzas using whole-wheat flour instead of white flour. In this way, you can still enjoy your favorite meals without compromising your health.
5. Eat Dark Leafy Greens Instead of Light Ones
While light-colored greens like iceberg and romaine lettuce may not be bad for your health, they don't do much in the way of helping it, either. These greens mostly consist of water and are of very little nutritional value.
Instead, choose dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and arugula. These veggies are full of vitamins and will help you feel and stay full. Add them to a salad, smoothie, or other dishes to get a nutritional, colorful boost every day.
6. Choose Baked Foods Over Fried
Fried foods are incredibly high in fat and calories. Plus, they contain advanced glycation end products which, at high levels, contribute to diabetes and heart disease.
Replace fatty, fried foods with baked ones. You might also choose to saute, broil, roast, or grill your food before consuming it to reduce your calorie intake and preserve the food's nutrition. This will ensure your blood sugar levels stay low and your heart remains healthy.
7. Opt for Whole Fruits Instead of Juice
Fruit juices are notorious for containing added sugar and high levels of natural sugars. In fact, some orange and apple juices may actually contain more sugar than soda.
Plus, fruit juices don't contain the fruit's pulp or skin which are rich in fiber and slow down sugar absorption.
Therefore, it's best to opt for whole fruits, skin, and all and include berries as well. If you're craving a flavored beverage, try green tea, black coffee, or water with lemon or cucumber instead.
8. Keep an Eye on Portion Size
While the above substitutions should help you stay the course and maintain your diabetic-friendly diet, there is something to be said for portion sizes. Even the healthiest of meals can turn into unhealthy ones if you don't learn to control your portion size.
Moderation is key, here. Help yourself out by placing meals on smaller plates and eat slowly. You might also drink a glass of water before each meal to avoid overeating.