If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or are teetering on the brink, your doctor has no doubt counseled you to follow a healthy diet to maintain safe blood glucose levels. As a patient with adult-onset diabetes, however, chances are pretty good that not understanding the basics of a healthy diet is what got you here in the first place!
The key to healthy eating is to plan meals in advance and to always keep a supply of high fiber multi-grain snacks, fresh fruits and vegetables at the ready to avoid making poor choices when hunger strikes. Eating smaller meals and frequent healthy snacks will help you to maintain steady blood sugar levels throughout the day. Remember to eat before and after periods of exercise or exertion as you burn off more sugar and carbohydrates.
A well-balanced meal should include a lean protein like chicken or fish, a small portion of healthy starch or grain such as brown rice or beans, and a heaping portion of vegetables. Skip the fried foods and replace all fats and oils with olive oil as much as possible. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins and iron, olive oil contains mostly beneficial monounsaturated fat and has been shown to modestly increase HDL cholesterol without adversely affecting LDL cholesterol, and is considered a heart-healthy, diabetes-friendly fat.
Daily Portions of Meat and Fish
A recommended portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, and lean meats such as fish and poultry are the best bets. Cold-water fish like herring, salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting meat consumption to no more than six ounces (two decks of cards) per day, i.e. one portion with lunch and one with dinner. Beans are also an excellent source of protein and contain no animal cholesterol unless prepared with some form of meat or lard. Foods to avoid are red meat, bacon, lard, processed foods, which may contain trans-fats and cholesterol, and high-fat dairy products such as whole milk and many types of cheese.
Healthy Fruits and Vegetables
While the term unhealthy fruits and vegetables would seem an oxymoron, there are a few fruits that are high in sugar and should be avoided such as grapes, watermelon, pineapple, apricots and raisins, which may cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels. Stick to fruits that are lower in sugar and high in antioxidants such as cranberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, grapefruit, cantaloupe and cherries. All vegetables are good choices, but keep in mind, the richer in color they are the higher the vitamin content they possess.
Starches to Eat and to Avoid
While starches are readily converted to blood glucose, they are nonetheless an important part of a healthy diet because they provide valuable minerals, vitamins and fiber. However, gluten and grains contribute great to diabetes, so the ideal complex carbohydrates to eat are fresh fruits and vegetables and occasionally brown rice. Avoid oats and corn. Also avoid snacks like potato chips, candy bars and other packaged snacks that have no real dietary value anyhow.
Dairy Products and the Diabetes Diet
Dairy products provide an important source of calcium and high-quality protein as well as Vitamin D. The best choices for dairy products are skim or 1% milk, non-fat or light yogurt with no added sugar and fortified, unflavored soymilk for the lactose intolerant. When considering carbs, one cup of milk or yogurt is equal to one small piece of fruit or one slice of bread.
Managing type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to mean completely giving up your favorite foods, merely limiting them to very small, infrequent portions, and learning to embrace healthy, whole grains and foods that are low in fat and high in vitamins and antioxidants. A healthy diabetes diet is a healthy diet for life, and will result in increased energy, improved digestion and a host of added benefits for health and longevity along with healthy blood glucose levels!
About the Author: Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.