By 2020, 1 in 2 Americans could have diabetes. But there's good news: what you eat can help prevent and manage diabetes. Eating well and moving more helps prevent the condition—even if your blood glucose level is already in what’s considered to be a “pre–diabetes” range. (And if you have diabetes already, a healthy diet helps keep glucose levels in check.) These 9 quick tips help you take control of your eating, one step at a time.
Research shows that it is the total amount of carbohydrate of a meal or snack that most affects blood glucose levels, not whether the source of the carbohydrate is starch or sugar. And sugar–free does not mean carbohydrate–free. Compare the total carbohydrate content of a sugar–free food with that of the standard product. If there is a big difference in carbohydrate content between the two foods, you may want to buy the sugar–free food. If there is little difference in the total grams of carbohydrate, choose the one you want based on price and taste.
It’s no fun to whip out a measuring cup every time you eat—so how can you dish up a meal that’s balanced and just the right size? Try this trick: Divide your dinner plate. Fill one half with vegetables, and split the other half into two quarters. Fill one quarter with a lean protein, such as fish, skinless poultry, beans or tofu. Fill the other quarter with a grain– or starch–based side dish, preferably a whole–grain food, like brown rice, whole–wheat pasta or a slice of whole–grain bread. Think Small—Portion–Control Savvy.
“White” flour is usually made by refining (whole) “red” wheat. The process strips away the germ and the reddish–colored bran—as well as most of the grain’s minerals and fiber. If you prefer the taste and look of “refined” flour, good news: many brands now offer loaves made from a milder–tasting white whole–wheat flour. Look for products labeled “white whole–wheat” or check the ingredients list.
You may know the benefits of eating whole–grain products—more vitamins, minerals and fiber—but find it too hard to make the switch from your old refined favorites. Phase in a whole grain by mixing it half–and–half with a refined one—for example, a blend of whole–wheat and regular pasta, or brown and white rice. Gradually increase the proportions until your palate—and digestive tract—adjust.
Take a trip to a natural–foods store and check out the bulgur (cracked, steamed and dried wheat kernels), whole–wheat couscous, quinoa and millet. Explore EatingWell’s healthy whole grain recipes for some exciting ways to deliver these nutritional powerhouses to your tired taste buds.
Appealingly brown–colored bread or crackers labeled “multi–grain” or “cracked wheat” are sometimes made mostly from refined white flour. The only reliable guide to ensuring that your choice is a true whole grain is to check the ingredients list: the term “whole” or “whole–grain” should precede the grain’s name, such as “whole–grain rye.”
If you’re diabetic, sugar can be counted just like any other carbohydrate, but since most foods containing sugar—think cream–filled cookies—are usually low in other nutrients, it’s best to limit high–sugar snacks and go for mini meals that give you more nutritional “bang for your buck.” But who says you can’t have sweet and nutritious?
Try this: combine ½ cup low–fat vanilla yogurt with half a sliced banana and ¼ cup blueberries. Don’t like blueberries as much as you like blackberries? That’s OK, substitute. Either way you cut it, this snack packs calcium, probiotics, potassium, antioxidant power and only 2 carbohydrate servings.
Every college student’s dream phrase, and now it should be yours too because “free” foods have 0 carb servings.
This “free” snack also packs protein and soy power: Cook ¼ cup frozen edamame (in pods) according to package directions. Sprinkle with coarse salt and enjoy.
The average 12–ounce can of regular soda supplies about 150 calories and 38 grams of carbohydrate—the equivalent of more than 9 teaspoons of sugar. Replace your soda with herbal iced tea or seltzer water with just a splash of cranberry juice: both drinks are low in calories but still refreshing and tasty.