I’ve got diabetes on the brain. And not only because my mother, my father-in-law, my favorite aunt and uncle, and many friends and other family members are diabetic, or have the potential to be, if they’re not careful.
American Diabetes Month is observed in November, and the statistics are mind-boggling, but not surprising. Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion.
As the American Diabetes Association® celebrates its 75th anniversary, their message is clearer than ever. Eating, one of life’s greatest pleasures, if done properly and with nutrition as the main objective, can help with diabetes management. Their website proclaims, “Each week, the Association will share nutritious recipes selected by noted chefs and cookbook authors for every meal of the day, including snacks and special occasion treats. Not only that, but we’ll teach you how to choose, prepare, serve and eat healthy food that is both delicious and nutritious. From tip sheets to shopping lists, we’ll help you make healthy eating a fun and easy part of your daily life.”
Whether you have diabetes already or don’t plan on having diabetes, you should eat the same way. "The Dietary Guidelines for Americans dovetail perfectly with the American Diabetes Association's nutrition guidelines," says Angela Ginn, R.D., CDE, education coordinator at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Here is a list of five healthy eating tips to follow, no matter your health status:
Rate Your Plate
What are you eating? Are you eating mindfully? Take a look at your plate and your food choices. Your plate should be half full of fresh (not canned or processed) vegetables, a quarter with whole grain or starch, and the remaining quarter with a lean protein source. It’s best to avoid refined grains, solid fats, and unnatural sugars.
Avoid oversized portions. Too many calories translate to too much weight for your bones to carry around and for your heart to propel.
Choose Healthy Oils & Fats
Contrary to former belief, it has been decided that eating more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated sources is more important than eating less total fat. Limit the unhealthful saturated fats (including trans fats), especially if you have diabetes. Saturated fat is known to increase insulin resistance, the underlying cause of abnormal blood glucose, lipids, and blood pressure in people with prediabetes and type 2.
Carbs, carbs, carbs
The American diet is chock full of sugar, and sugars are 100 percent carbohydrate. Drink less regular sodas, fruit drinks, sports beverages, coffees and teas sweetened or topped with syrups, pastries, and sweets. The Dietary Guidelines suggests getting your carbohydrate from nutrition-loaded sources: vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy foods. And beware of the Nutrition Facts label. The count for sugars includes all sugars from foods as well as sugars added in manufacturing. Read labels for sucrose, corn sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, and fructose, and avoid them. All are loaded with calories and carbohydrate grams, and they offer nearly zero nutrition.
Dine in rather than out
It’s easier to control your calories, fat intake and carbs by making your own fresh food. Dining out, especially at fast food restaurants, is sure to put more pounds on you and fill you with empty calories as opposed to the nutrition your body requires to function well. Try making on-the-run breakfasts, taking brown-bag lunches, make salads more often, and every time you do, you’ll know you’re taking care of yourself rather than relying on someone else to do it for you.