National Nutrition Month guest post by Jamie Thompson, RD
If you don’t have diabetes, great! Let’s keep it that way. If you do, let’s manage it and keep you healthier longer! Here are some pointers regarding carbohydrates:
- Work with your dietitian or doctor to find the right balance of carbohydrates that works for you and with your medication (if you are taking any).
- Everyone needs carbohydrates, even those with diabetes. Avoiding them altogether is not only hard on our kidneys and other organs; it is unrealistic long term.
- Not all carbs are created equal. Try to reduce the amount of candy and desserts and instead enjoy fruits, vegetables, and whole grains when you’re craving something sweet or ‘starchy.’
- Try not to eat carbs on an empty stomach. When carbohydrates are paired with protein and/or (healthy) fat, they are digested differently and the sugars are released into our bloodstream at a slower pace.
Instead of focusing on foods to avoid, think about the foods to add to your diet: More vegetables and fruits, more whole grains, fish, lean meats, vegetable protein, and more water.
Fruits and vegetables can be confusing when it comes to diabetes management. Some say, ‘no white foods’ or no ‘starchy’ vegetables or fruits. The truth is, all fruits and vegetables are healthy and full of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Yes, some have more carbohydrates than others, and it is something to be aware of, especially if you are counting carbs to keep them consistent and managed. But none should be avoided. Simply don’t eat the higher carb ones on an empty stomach; pair them with protein and/or healthy fat. Great combinations are an apple or banana with peanut butter, celery or carrots with hummus, and sweet potatoes with roasted chicken.
Whole grains are still healthy! Try different types like barley, quinoa, lentils, or buckwheat. Whole grains have loads of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber just like fruits and vegetables. These nutrients help keep our hearts healthy which is key for diabetes management and longevity. Remember, keep every snack and meal balanced with protein, carbs and fat and you can still enjoy your grains. Check out this easy and delicious recipe for Orange & Walnut Quinoa from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN).
There’s always much emphasis on protein when discussing diabetes. However, just like carbohydrates, not all proteins are created equal. Because heart health is so important with diabetes, try to switch up your protein sources. Save red meat for special occasions and be reasonable with your portion size. Lean meats like fish, chicken and turkey (minus the skin) are great meat choices. However, your protein doesn’t need to come only from meat. Vegetable protein sources are also very important for a healthful diet. Lentils, beans, nuts, and tempeh are some great foods to incorporate into your diet. Check out this recipe for Baby Spinach and Lentil Salad.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the term healthy fats, but do you know what they are? The two healthiest are monounsaturated fats (e.g., olive oil and avocados) and omega 3 fats (e.g., cold water fatty fish, walnuts, flax seed oil). These fats are important for everyone but especially those with diabetes because the risk for heart disease is greater. Try substituting good fats for the less healthy ones. The absolute worst fats are trans fats. These are called ‘hydrogenated oils’ and are primarily found in processed foods like cookies, crackers, cereals, and packaged baked goods. They are PRO-inflammatory and wreak havoc on your cells, lipid levels, and cholesterol. Saturated fats also need to be limited. Saturated fats are found in meat and animal products like eggs and dairy products.
Water and physical activity are the other keys in diabetes management and for anyone trying to live a healthier life. If there is one single thing we can do for our health it is to limit/avoid sweetened beverages like soda! Start by drinking more water and start first thing in the morning. I tell all my clients that the first thing to do in the morning is to drink 2 cups of water. We wake up in a dehydrated state; this will get us going for the day.
Start slow with activity; make goals that you can achieve even if it is 5 minutes a day. Eventually, you can work up to 30 minutes a day of walking, lifting weights or swimming.
Diabetes doesn’t have to mean lack and limitation, and actually, everyone can benefit from eating a “diabetes-friendly” diet. Use these tools to make smart decisions and you can still Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right!
Jamie Thompson has been a dietitian for almost 6 years and has been in private practice focusing on holistic nutrition and health coaching for almost 5 years. She loves helping people find their personal health and navigate the very confusing nutrition world out there. Her goal is to make each one of her clients their very own nutritionist so they can make healthy decisions for themselves. Jamie works in the Columbus, Ohio area. If you’d like to know more, check out http://jamiefood.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.