Diabetes Diet Tips: Eating Right to Keep Blood Sugar Levels in Check
An estimated 23.6 million people were affected by diabetes in the United States in 2006 alone, according to National Institute of Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association. In 2007, diabetes was the fifth leading cause of death from disease. Since diabetes is preventable and controllable, people at risk for diabetes can make certain changes to their diet and lifestyle to stay healthy.
While there isn’t a special “diabetes diet”, there are certain foods you can eat to keep your blood sugar levels under control. In addition to eating a balanced diet, you need to exercise regularly and may need to take medications that help to keep blood sugar levels stable. The food and activity choices you make on a daily basis can help prevent and even reverse diabetes.
Making Healthy Food Choices to Control Diabetes
Fluctuating blood sugar levels can put you at risk for developing diabetes and related health problems. What you eat every day makes a big difference in how your body digests food, assimilates nutrients and converts food into energy. When blood sugar levels are erratic, you may be at risk for gaining weight, heart problems and experience extreme fatigue on a regular basis.
In order to keep blood sugar levels stable, you need to:
- Eat more healthy fats
- Eat mostly fresh, plant foods and eliminate processed food or “junk” food
- Consume small meals throughout the day, instead of eating three large meals
- Monitor your portion sizes so that you are not overeating at any given time
- Make sure your daily diet consists of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and unprocessed food
- Reduce how much soda and juice you drink
- Substitute brown rice for white rice, and wheat flour for white flour whenever possible
- Substitute sweet potatoes and winter squash for white potatoes
- Eat more nuts and seeds to add more healthy fats to your diet
Unless your doctor prescribes a special nutrition plan for you, you don’t have to eat special diabetic meals each day. You just need to make sure that each meal is comprised of healthy carbs, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and foods that are low on the glycemic index. These foods help to keep your blood sugar levels in check, and are also filling and satisfying.
Eating Sugar on a Diabetes-Friendly Diet
Many people think that they must eliminate sugar entirely when trying to keep diabetes under control. The key to reducing sugar in the diet is to avoid carbohydrate-rich foods made with white flour, white rice, potatoes and corn. There are also several sugar substitutes that can help you manage your sweet tooth, without having a negative impact on your blood sugar level or calories.
Sugar-free chocolate and candy can be great substitutions for the real thing when you’re trying to reduce sugar consumption. You can also try eating fresh fruit and sorbet for dessert, instead of calorie-laden, high sugar sweets and baked goods. Bake your favorite treats at home so that you can control how much sugar, and what type of sweetener is used in the recipe.
Speak with your physician about dietary counseling options if you are at risk for diabetes, or if you have diabetes. You can still enjoy a wide range of foods, but will need to be more mindful about the types of foods you eat on a regular basis.