Healthy Eating And Diabetes
Created on August 13th, 2018 · Last updated on April 6th, 2019 ·
Medically reviewed by Shahzadi Devje, Registered Dietitian & Certified Diabetes Educator
Oh my gosh nutrition and diet information – is everywhere!
And each expert tries to lead you in their direction because they know best and their advice is going to help you. Right?
And we seem to be accepting of self-proclaimed gurus, who dispense such advice.
Everyone has heard the intense focus on how much you eat. The calorie narrative has been beaten into our psyche, and we accept it without a second thought.
While how much you eat does affect blood sugars, weight, and energy level – it’s certainly not the holy grail of health and effective diabetes management.
Let’s focus a bit more on the often overlooked benefits of what you eat and drink and how you eat and drink it.
What Not To Eat When You Have Diabetes
The following foods should be kept to a minimum if not completely avoided.
- Fried foods including foods high in bad cholesterol
- High sodium foods
- Fries are okay provided they are baked and not fried
- Baked goods
- Energy drinks
- Limit the intake of alcoholic beverages as it can dramatically lower your blood sugar level.
- If you want to drink alcoholic beverages you have to make sure you eat some food to somehow control your blood sugar.
Limit Packaged Snacks And Baked Goods
Aside from all the sugar, junky white flour, sodium, and preservatives they contain, packaged snacks and baked goods like chips, pretzels, crackers, cookies, doughnuts, and snack cakes often have unhealthy trans fats. Trans fats increase your bad cholesterol, lower your good cholesterol, and raise your risk of heart disease. They’re also even more dangerous than saturated fats, especially for people who have type 2 diabetes, who are already at increased risk of heart disease, explains Kimberlain. In fact, theres no amount of trans fats that you can safely include in your diet, especially if you have type 2 diabetes, she notes.
The good news is that trans fats are now listed right below the amount of saturated fats on food labels, making it easier to steer clear of them. Look for labels that list 0 grams trans fat, but keep in mind that according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration , products with less than 0.5 g can claim 0 g, so they may not be trans-fat free. Check the ingredients list as well to make sure the product doesnt contain any partially hydrogenated oils, a major source of trans fats. Seek out healthy fats in salmon and other fatty fish, as well as in nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive and canola oils.
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Type 2 Diabetes Prevention
In one study, participants on the Mediterranean diet were 52% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than a control group over the span of four years, even without any calorie restriction!
In another study of people with type 2 diabetes, following a Mediterranean diet was linked to both lower blood sugars and lower hba1c levels, most likely due to the fact that eating fewer processed foods improves insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin resistance.
The Biggest Risk For Diabetes: Belly Fat
Being overweight or obese is the biggest risk factor for type 2 diabetes. However, your risk is higher if you tend to carry your weight around your abdomen as opposed to your hips and thighs. A lot of belly fat surrounds the abdominal organs and liver and is closely linked to insulin resistance. You are at an increased risk of developing diabetes if you are:
- A woman with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more
- A man with a waist circumference of 40 inches or more
Calories obtained from fructose are more likely to add weight around your abdomen. Cutting back on sugary foods can mean a slimmer waistline as well as a lower risk of diabetes.
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Be Smart About Sweets
Eating a diabetic diet doesnt mean eliminating sugar altogether, but like most of us, chances are you consume more sugar than is healthy. If you have diabetes, you can still enjoy a small serving of your favorite dessert now and then. The key is moderation.
Reduce your cravings for sweets by slowly reduce the sugar in your diet a little at a time to give your taste buds time to adjust.
Hold the bread if you want dessert. Eating sweets at a meal adds extra carbohydrates so cut back on the other carb-heavy foods at the same meal.
Add some healthy fat to your dessert. Fat slows down the digestive process, meaning blood sugar levels dont spike as quickly. That doesnt mean you should reach for the donuts, though. Think healthy fats, such as peanut butter, ricotta cheese, yogurt, or nuts.
Eat sweets with a meal, rather than as a stand-alone snack. When eaten on their own, sweets cause your blood sugar to spike. But if you eat them along with other healthy foods as part of your meal, your blood sugar wont rise as rapidly.
When you eat dessert, truly savor each bite. How many times have you mindlessly eaten your way through a bag of cookies or a huge piece of cake? Can you really say that you enjoyed each bite? Make your indulgence count by eating slowly and paying attention to the flavors and textures. Youll enjoy it more, plus youre less likely to overeat.
Type 2 Diabetes Meal Plan
We know that one of the hardest parts of adjusting to a diabetes diet can be the feeling like youre giving up a lot of your favorite foods.
Thats why weve put together a database of recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, and snacks that will make you feel like youre not missing a beat! See how a week might look in our sample meal plan.
You can reach out to our coaches if youd like help putting together one of your own.
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Whats The Diabetes Diet
There is no such thing as a special diet exclusively for people with type 2 diabetes. No two people with diabetes are the same. So there isnt a one-size-fits-all way of eating for everyone with diabetes.
In the past, people with type 2 diabetes were sent away after their diagnosis with a list of foods they weren’t allowed to eat, or often told to cut out sugar. But our advice is to make healthier choices more often, and only have treats occasionally and in small portions.
Because we know that making healthier food choices is important to manage your diabetes and to reduce your risk of diabetes complications, like heart problems and strokes, and other health conditions including certain types of cancers.
Try and make changes to your food choices that are realistic and achievable so youll stick with them. This will be different for everyone, depending on what you eat now and the goals you want to achieve. Here are some examples of goals think about yours and write them down if that helps:
- I want to reach my target blood sugar level
- I want to reduce my cholesterol levels
- I want good blood pressure
- I want to be a healthy weight
- I want to be in diabetes remission.
Youre more likely to achieve your goals if you get some support whether thats from your healthcare team, your family and friends or other people with diabetes. There are millions of people with type 2 diabetes wondering what they can eat youre not alone in this.
Diabetic Diet: All About Making Calculated Food Choices
There are different types of diabetes, determined mainly by your bodys ability to produce and use insulinthe hormone necessary for getting sugar out of your blood and into your cells where it is used to produce energy.
The symptoms of all types of diabetes are similar, so the steps you need to take to control your blood sugar remain the same. Your diet plays a very critical role in managing your diabetes by keeping blood sugar levels stable throughout your lifetime. You are in control of what you eat, so this is one area you can and should learn to manage wisely.
For people with type 2 diabetes, your pancreas produces plenty of insulin that is not sensed by the cells so your body is unable to properly use the insulin you make. Usually, type 2 diabetes can be controlled well with lifestyle changesparticularly shifting from processed carbs to high fiber foods, and walking daily as needed with the addition of medication.
Some people with type 2 diabetes may also need to begin taking insulin at some point, says Sandra Arevalo, MPH, RD, CDE, a diabetes expert and spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It can depend on your age and your individual ability to control your blood sugar with diet and exercise. However, when type 2 diabetes is found early enough and weight loss is achieved, in most cases, insulin is never needed.
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What Is A Paleo Diet
Paleolithic diets include a moderate amount of protein, and have gained a lot of attention recently. The theory behind this dietary pattern is that our genetic background has not evolved to meet our modern lifestyle of calorically dense convenience foods and limited activity, and that returning to a hunter-gatherer way of eating will work better with human physiology. This has been studied in a few small trials, and it does seem beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes.
The Paleolithic diet is based on:
- Lean meat
- Any extra addition of salt
The Paleo Diet doesn’t specify macronutrient balance or caloric intake goals.
In reality, when people in a study followed the Paleolithic diet, it turned out the diet was lower in total energy, energy density, carbohydrates, dietary glycemic load, fiber, saturated fatty acids, and calcium but higher in unsaturated fatty acids , dietary cholesterol, and several vitamins and minerals. Research also demonstrates that people with diabetes are less hungry, have more stable blood sugar, and feel better with lower carbohydrate diets.
Sliced Apples With Peanut Butter
Sliced apples paired with nut butter make for a delicious and healthy snack thats great for people with diabetes.
Apples are rich in several nutrients, including B vitamins, vitamin C and potassium, while peanut butter provides significant amounts of vitamin E, magnesium and manganese, all of which are known to help manage diabetes (26, 27,
You can also try pairing other types of fruit with peanut butter, such as bananas or pears, for similar health benefits.
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What Foods High In Protein Are Good For Type 2 Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association recommends lean proteins low in saturated fat for people with diabetes. If youre following a vegan or vegetarian diet, getting enough and the right balance of protein may be more challenging, but you can rely on foods like beans , nuts and nut spreads, tempeh, and tofu to get your fix, notes the Cleveland Clinic. Just be sure to keep portion size in mind when snacking on nuts, as they are also high in fat and calories, according to Harvard Health. The American Heart Association counts a small handful of whole nuts as one serving. If you opt for unsalted almonds, 1.5 ounces will provide 258 calories and nearly 23 g of fat, per estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture .
Meanwhile, processed or packaged foods should be avoided or limited in your diabetes diet because, in addition to added sugars and processed carbohydrates, these foods are often high in sodium, according to the AHA. Getting too much sodium in your diet can increase your blood pressure and, in turn, the risk of heart disease or stroke, notes Harvard Health. And heart disease and stroke are two common complications of diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic. Its important to keep your blood pressure in check when managing diabetes.
Best options, according to the ADA:
Best options , per the ADA and the NIDDK:
- Wild or brown rice
Prevent Low Blood Glucose
Because physical activity lowers your blood glucose, you should protect yourself against low blood glucose levels, also called hypoglycemia. You are most likely to have hypoglycemia if you take insulin or certain other diabetes medicines, such as a sulfonylurea. Hypoglycemia also can occur after a long intense workout or if you have skipped a meal before being active. Hypoglycemia can happen during or up to 24 hours after physical activity.
Planning is key to preventing hypoglycemia. For instance, if you take insulin, your health care provider might suggest you take less insulin or eat a small snack with carbohydrates before, during, or after physical activity, especially intense activity.4
You may need to check your blood glucose level before, during, and right after you are physically active.
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The Best Foods For Those With Type 2 Diabetes
If current trends continue, by 2050, one out of every three Americans will have Type 2 diabetes. This isnt just a problem in the U.S it affects people across the globe.
According to the World Health Organization, the global prevalence of diabetes among adults over 18 years of age has risen from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014.
With statistics like that, you can understand why its so important to find the best foods for those with Type 2 diabetes
The good news is that diet, exercise and a proactive health care plan can go a long way toward preventing diabetes or avoiding some of the serious complications that can result if you already have the disease. These complications include high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
Simple Steps To Lowering Your Risk
Control your weight
Excess weight is the single most important cause of type 2 diabetes. Being overweight increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes seven-fold. Being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone with a healthy weight.
Losing weight can help if your weight is above the healthy-weight range. Losing 7-10% of your current weight can cut your chances of developing type 2 diabetes in half.
Get movingand turn off the television
Inactivity promotes type 2 diabetes. Working your muscles more often and making them work harder improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose. This puts less stress on your insulin-making cells. So trade some of your sit-time for fit-time.
Long bouts of hot, sweaty exercise arent necessary to reap this benefit. Findings from the Nurses Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study suggest that walking briskly for a half hour every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30%. More recently, The Black Womens Health Study reported similar diabetes-prevention benefits for brisk walking of more than 5 hours per week. This amount of exercise has a variety of other benefits as well. And even greater cardiovascular and other advantages can be attained by more, and more intense, exercise.
Tune Up Your Diet
Four dietary changes can have a big impact on the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Light to moderate alcohol consumption
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Is The Mediterranean Diet Helpful For Type 2 Diabetes
The Mediterranean diet is an eating pattern that emphasizes plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, dried legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. It also limits red meat and includes small portions of fish, poultry, egg, and dairy products.
The Mediterranean diet aims to be rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats. Its low in cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fats, and added sugars.
A 2014 review of research found that people with type 2 diabetes who follow the Mediterranean diet tend to have lower blood sugar levels than those who follow a conventional American diet. The Mediterranean diet has also been linked to reduced weight and decreased cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Whats more, one
The Best Type 2 Diabetes Diet
So what does the best type 2 diabetes diet look like? We break foods down into three categories: green light, yellow light, and red light foods.
Green lights you can eat as much as you want, period. Yellow lights are okay, but shouldnt be daily staples. And we recommend removing red light foods from your diet and your pantry.
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Why Is Food Portion Size Important
Controlling your portion size can be a really helpful way to stabilise or lose weight. It can also help you to manage your blood sugar levels better. Top tips for portion control include:
- Use smaller-sized plates.
- Measure out portion sizes.
- Fill your plate with low-calorie food, such as salads and vegetables, before adding other types of food.
- Drink a glass or two of water about 15 minutes before a meal.
- Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register how much you’ve eaten, so if you eat fast you may have overeaten long before your brain tells you you’re full.
- Don’t do anything else while you’re eating. Research shows we all tend to eat more if we’re distracted .
- Resist the temptation to return for seconds.
Example portions: 30 g cheese, a palm-sized piece of meat/fish/poultry, 2-3 tablespoons rice, pasta or cereals, 1 slice of bread. You can find fruit and vegetable portions above.