Many people’s first reaction, when they receive a diagnosis of diabetes, is that suddenly their diet is incredibly limited, say Jill Shriver, registered dietitian, and Colleen Farrington, RN, patient education specialist, at Ascension Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg.
In fact, diabetics often don’t need to limit their diets as much as they think, Shriver and Farrington say, especially if they follow a few tips for maintaining a healthy diet.
While diabetics need to watch their diets carefully because of their disease, these four tips from Shriver and Farrington can help all of us eat healthier.
- Watch your portion size. “Most foods can fit into a healthy eating plan,” Shriver says, “as long as it is in limited quantities. Portions that are too large may not only cause your blood glucose to skyrocket, but can also cause you to gain weight.” This can cause the progression of type 2 diabetes, Farrington says, as well as the development of cardiovascular disease.
- Limit your intake of sugary foods. “While occasional, small portions of sugary foods are allowed,” Shriver says, “it is important for diabetics to remember to count them in their carbohydrate restriction. And remember, just because a food is sugar-free, it doesn’t mean it is carbohydrate-free, or even low-calorie.” In addition, some sugar-free foods can still cause blood glucose levels to rise because of the ingredients used in them, such as flour or fruit.
- Decrease your fat intake. A high fat intake, especially saturated fats, increases your risk for developing cardiovascular disease. “Because having diabetes also increases this risk, eating a diet high in fats is a double whammy,” Farrington said. Limit your intake of fried foods and added fats, including butter or margarine, mayonnaise, sour cream, full-fat salad dressings and cooking oils. Improve your eating plan by substituting lower-fat or fat-free versions of the foods you love.
- Increase your fiber intake. “While there is nothing wrong with eating white foods — such as white rice, white potatoes, and white bread — whole-grain foods are much better choices,” says Shriver. Foods high in fiber content, including whole grains, can help with overall glucose control, because the fiber slows down the rate at which the glucose is released from the digestive tract into the blood stream, said Shriver. Just remember o limit the amount of carbohydrate eaten at a single sitting. Choosing whole-grain pasta and whole-grain bread over their white counterparts can help you reach your blood-glucose goals, Farrington says.