Healthy Eating for Diabetes
Diabetes and elevated blood sugars greatly increase the risk of heart disease and stroke and may lead to other long-term complications such as nerve and kidney damage. The good news! By making lifestyle changes such as increasing your activity, losing 5 to 10% body weight (if overweight) and following a healthy dietary pattern can have a huge impact on managing your blood sugars. Even if you don’t have pre-diabetes or diabetes, keeping blood sugars in balance is helpful for weight maintenance and reduction, managing stress hormones and inflammation, sustaining a good energy level and prevention of diabetes.
When it comes to healthy eating the same dietary principles for a healthy heart diet apply to managing diabetes including choosing a variety of whole foods, limiting processed foods and cooking from scratch. There are several strategic ways to achieve this.
Blood sugar Management Strategies
Proper portion sizes - Even healthy foods eaten in improper portions can be problematic. Portion sizes will differ depending on your size, activity level and nutrition goals, but generally ½ the plate should be vegetables (some fruit), ¼ protein and ¼ whole grains.
Balancing of meals - Balanced meals tend to be more satisfying, sustain your energy level longer and can help curb cravings. Having some protein and a little fat with each meal is helpful in flattening the rise of your blood sugar curve.
Timing of meals - Eating 3 meals a day, at regular times and spacing meals 4 to 6 hours apart. Blood sugar rises after eating, therefore leaving time in between allows blood sugars to decrease before eating your next meal or snack (if needed).
Choosing higher fibre, slow release carbs - Limit refined carbohydrates like white bread, potatoes, pasta/ rice noodles, white rice and sugary breakfast cereal. Focus on complex carbohydrates, high in fibre that digested more slowly like whole grain breads, pastas, and flour; brown and wild rices, barley, quinoa, oatmeal, yams, sweet potatoes (with skin), vegetables, berries, some fruits, legumes, such as black beans, lentils, chickpeas.
Limiting sugar sweetened beverages - Beverages with a high content of sugar (natural or added) spike blood sugars. These include regular pop, energy drinks, sweetened kombucha, store bought smoothies, sugary coffee drinks (Starbucks), fruit juices and some alcohol. Make water your beverage of choice, tea and coffee in moderation, low sodium tomato or V-8 juice, milk, favoured carbonated water and herbal teas.
Be smart with sweets - No need to eliminate sugar all together, but choose what you eat wisely:
Read labels for added sugar, buy unsweetened foods and sweeten them yourself (eg. plain Greek yogurt and berries, large flake oats and cinnamon & a drizzle of maple syrup or use a natural sugar substitute like “Whole Earth”).
When baking, reduce sugar by about ⅓ . Most recipes work well without a noticeable difference.
Find healthier ways to satisfy your sweet tooth. Add a few chocolate chips to your oatmeal, melt a little peanut butter mixed with cocoa powder & drizzle over your popcorn, roll chunks of banana in melted chocolate & freeze.
Take smaller portions of the dessert you normally eat (use a smaller bowl) or purchase pre-portioned treats (a smaller vs larger Haagen Dazs bars), eat fruit more often. Or enjoy a small chunk of good quality dark chocolate rather than a milk chocolate bar.
Eat less carbohydrates at your meal and replace with a little dessert instead.
When you indulge in your favorite treat, eat it mindfully and savour every single bite.