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Twelve Tips for Eating Well With Diabetes

February 2015

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Many people today are living with diabetes or have family members who have diabetes. Managing diabetes means choosing healthy foods while carefully monitoring carbohydrate intake. It's easy to keep track of what you're eating when you're in charge of putting nutritious food on your plate. For better control of your diet, take the following steps to cook more healthful meals and snacks:

  1. Switch to Whole Grains - Use brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Look for 100% whole wheat flour along with breads and grains such as oats and barley. Save time with frozen, cooked brown rice that you can microwave.
  2. Get More Fiber - Aim for at least 8 grams of fiber per meal. Choose foods high in soluble fiber found in: peas, legume-type beans, oats, and barley. Fruits like apples, mangoes, plums, kiwis, pears, blackberries, strawberries, peaches, citrus fruits, and figs are also good sources of fiber. Vegetables like artichokes, celery root, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, acorn squash, potatoes with skins, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, and beets are good sources of fiber as well. Soluble fiber found in fruits, vegetables and legumes helps lower the rapid rise in blood sugar that tends to happen after eating carbohydrates. A fiber-rich diet is beneficial as it lowers the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  3. Replace Some Carbs with Good Fat - Monounsaturated fats found in nuts, avocadoes, olive oil, and canola oil can help lower blood sugar. Add nuts and avocado to salads and entrees. Use olive and canola oils for cooking. Keep food portions modest so you don't get too many calories from the added good fats.
  4. Eat Foods that Won't Spike Your Blood Sugar - Foods that aren't likely to cause a big rise in blood sugar include meat, poultry, fish, avocados, salad vegetables, eggs, and cheese. These foods will help balance carbohydrate-containing foods included in your meal.
  5. Choose Recipes with Less Saturated Fat - Look for high protein foods such as fish, extra-lean beef, pork tenderloin, skinless poultry, soy products, legume-type beans, egg whites and low-fat dairy products. Replace butter and shortening with canola or olive oil. Both are better choices and are rich in monounsaturated fat. Canola oil is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids which are beneficial for everyone including those with diabetes.
  6. Know the Nutritional Values in the Recipes You Use - Find out the amount of carbohydrate, fiber, and fat per serving. Stay close to the appropriate portion sizes by serving food on small dinner or luncheon plates.
  7. Prepare Salads Ahead of Time - Store a large spinach salad or vegetable-filled romaine lettuce salad without dressing in an airtight container. You can have a crisp, wonderful salad with your lunch, dinner, or as a snack for the next several days. Veggies are high in nutritional value and relatively low in carbohydrates. Remember, half your plate at meals should be made up of vegetables and some fruit.
  8. Make an Easy Fruit Salad - Turn a few pieces of fruit into a beautiful fruit salad. Drizzle lemon or orange juice over the top. Then toss to coat the fruit. The vitamin C in the citrus juice helps to prevent browning. Keep the portion size to ½ cup fruit per serving.
  9. Choose Drinks Wisely - Instead of soda, sweetened drinks, or fruit juice, drink protein-rich beverages such as non-fat or 1% milk. Another option is to sip no-calorie tea, coffee, or water.
  10. Cut Out Evening Snacks - Avoid late-night snacking unless your blood sugar is too low or your doctor or certified diabetes educator recommends having an evening snack. Try a cup of caffeine-free tea instead or a small glass of water. Keep your meals and snacks healthy and take small steps toward improved health.