Diabetes Diet: Healthy Foods for Your Pantry
Stocking Your Pantry for Diabetes
Healthy eating for diabetes starts with being aware of the added sugars, unhealthy fats, and refined grains that could be lurking in your pantry, and then replacing those items with a wide variety of healthy foods for diabetes. Better diabetes nutrition not only helps you control your blood sugar levels, but also lowers your blood pressure and cholesterol, areas of health concern common in people with diabetes. Knowing how to stock your pantry can make it easier to stick to your diabetes diet — even when life gets busy and time is short.
"For people with diabetes, the pantry should be stocked with foods that are high in fiber and protein to help keep blood sugar levels in check," says Christine Hurley, RD, CDE, LDN, a certified diabetes educator and licensed dietitian nutritionist with the Main Line Health System in Philadelphia. Carbohydrates are typically digested within two hours of being eaten. Protein and healthy fats are digested more slowly, in about three to five hours. By incorporating more protein and healthy fats into your diet, unhealthy spikes in blood sugar can be prevented, Hurley explains.
Get the Advantages of a Healthy Diabetes Diet
Over time, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause health problems, such as nerve damage or kidney or eye problems. You’re also at greater risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol if you don’t already have these conditions, both of which threaten heart health. Proper diabetes nutrition protects your heart health while it helps control your blood sugar.
A review of 20 randomized controlled trials that compared a wide range of diets revealed that low-carbohydrate and high-protein diets are among those most effective at reducing the risk of heart disease in people with diabetes. The study, published inThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,concluded that these diets should be part of the overall strategy to control diabetes.
Join the Pantry Revolution
To help you stick to a healthy diabetes diet, you need to know what to store in the pantry and what to take and leave off the shelves.
What to avoid:foods that contain saturated or trans fats, high levels of sodium, refined grains, and added sugars. These ingredients are typically found in processed foods and snacks, desserts, cereals, and high-calorie beverages, as well as many condiments, sauces, and salad dressings
What to stock:foods that are low in sugar, salt, and saturated fats, and rich in fiber and protein, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
For specifics, Hurley recommends:
- Whole wheat flour
- Whole oats and oatmeal
- Pearled barley
- Brown rice
- Wraps or flat breads
- Whole grain, high-protein, high-fiber cereals
- Whole grain, high-fiber pasta
Beans and Legumes
- Canned beans such as black, red, lima, cannellini, garbanzo, and pinto
- Dried peas such as black-eyed and split peas
- Low-fat refried beans
- Vegetarian baked beans
- Nut spreads, such as almond butter and peanut butter
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
Fruits and Vegetables
- Canned fruit or fruit cups (without added sugar)
- Canned non-starchy vegetables, such as:
- Diced tomatoes
- Green beans
- Citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes
- Sweet potatoes
- Canned or pouched sardines, tuna, or salmon (light, packed in water, no added salt)
- Whole grain, low-carb crackers
- Whole grain, multi-grain tortilla chips
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
- Dried fruits (no added sugar)
Seasonings and Condiments
- Sugar-free jelly
- Sugar-free syrup
- A variety of herbs and spices to replace salt
- Almond milk
- Low-sodium soup
Be Mindful of What You Eat
To control diabetes, it's not just what you eat that's important. Hurley notes that knowing how much to eat and when to eat it is essential for effectively managing diabetes.
Try these tips for a healthy diabetes diet:
Be consistent.Avoid skipping meals and then trying to make up for those lost calories with larger portions later in the day. If you travel, plan ahead and pack healthy snacks or meals. ·
Limit serving sizes.Eating smaller portions throughout the day helps keep blood sugar levels steady. "The four-ounce fruit cups made for children are perfect,” Hurley says. They typically have less than 15 grams of carbohydrate. Two tablespoons of nuts is also a healthy portion. ·
Study food labels.Aim to limit your sodium and carbohydrate intake. It's also important to avoid saturated or trans fats and added sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup. For instance, choose natural or regular peanut butter. Reduced fat varieties of foods often have added sugar, Hurley says.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Proper diabetes nutrition will vary from person to person depending on a number of factors, including height, weight, age, and level of physical activity. Whether you’re grabbing breakfast on the go, looking for a snack, or making dinner for the whole family, having a pantry stocked with the right foods can help you stick to a healthy diabetes diet that’s right for you.
Video: Dr. McDougall and Mary McDougall, Webinar 07/07/2016
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