After many issues with your health, you find out you have diabetes. Now you have to watch what you eat and how much of it. This is very similar to a diet; however, the sugar content and carbs in foods is a high priority to watch out for now. Some foods you can eat on a diet you can’t eat if you have diabetes. Keep in mind, the foods don’t have to taste like cardboard, there are many different things you can do to make the food taste just as good, if not better, if you are a diabetic.
There are 3 different types of diabetes: Type 1 is insulin dependent, Type 2 can be controlled with a good diet and Gestational diabetes is during pregnancy, and can cause serious issues for the mother and child if not controlled.
With Type 1 diabetes, you must watch your carb intake; otherwise, it will throw you completely off balance. Carbs will raise your blood sugar levels. A great way to keep the sugar down in your body if it gets too high is to walk around for a bit. A quick walk, 10-15 minutes after eating, with lower your blood sugar level to an appropriate amount. Physical activity is not only a great way to keep in shape but it’s also helpful with blood sugar levels. Replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats is good as well. You can also eat more vegetables and fruits, along with whole grains. By all means, if you can help it, don’t use tobacco products, drink a lot of alcohol or add sugar to food you are eating.
Foods for Controlling Type 1
By eating these types of foods below, will help you to maintain your blood sugar levels as well:
- Lean meat and poultry
- Fish (includes shell fish)
- Nuts and seeds
- Low fat dairy products
- Organic chicken or turkey
These vegetables below have no starch in them and are great for your healthy diet
- Greens (lettuce, kale, cabbage, spinach)
- Bell peppers (green or colored)
- Zucchini and egg plant
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Raw fresh peas
Fiber-friendly foods for you
- Nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, Brazilian nuts)
- Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, chia and hemp)
- Beans (black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans)
Diabetics also have what is called a “Super Food” list they can use as well.
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruits
- Sweet potatoes (replacing the regular potato and adding a little sweetness to your diet, try adding a little cinnamon on top)
- Berries (any kind; (fresh or unsweetened frozen; no fruit roll ups or canned, as these contain more sugar than you need )
- Tomatoes (vine, roma or grape)
- Fish (high in omega-3 fats, Salmon, herring, sardines, trout and albacore tuna)
- Whole grains (whole oats and grain barley)
- Milk and yogurt (Vitamin D whole milk is high in fat, so you can choose 2% or 1%; light yogurt for less fat & sugar content)
- Apples (fresh, dehydrated, applesauce (unsweetened), apple juice)
- Avocados (actually belong to the berry family; be sure to choose the ones that are less “squishy” when picking them out. These are a lot easier to eat and taste better)
- Bananas (yellow/greenish skin; avoid banana chips as they have added sugar, unless you make your own)
- Kiwi (ripe, not too hard)
- Mango (ripe, not hard; no dried mango or other frozen mango desserts, as they also carry a lot more sugar)
Eating Tips for Type 1
Vinegar (white or apple) has all kinds health benefits that people aren’t aware of. Vinegar has an antiglycemic effect on people with Type 2 diabetes. After eating a high carbohydrate meal, vinegar actually helps reduce blood glucose concentration, therefore it keeps your blood sugar from spiking; it’s also been known to help people lose weight. Using vinegar can also decrease the risk of heart disease, which is associated with diabetes.
Try this: So instead of that creamy salad dressing you always use, drizzle balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil on your salad. You can also add some balsamic vinegar to your chicken marinade for a fantastic tangy kick.
Vinegar can’t be added to all your foods, obviously, but it can add a different flavor to some of your foods. You can also add a little white vinegar to your steamed spinach.
Oatmeal is another fantastic food you can eat as well. This is like a Mother Nature miracle food. Plain oatmeal can literally get rid of all the bad cholesterol in your body and help guard against heart disease. Who wouldn’t want that? The oatmeal turns in to a gel substance in your body, which helps absorb the bad stuff and will help to stabilize your blood sugar. Add some yogurt, toppings like berries, bananas or nuts to it. Not only is it healthy for you to eat, it also helps with energy levels and gives you a full stomach in the process.
Foods for Type 2
Type 2 diabetes is a little easier to control, as it does not require insulin just a good diet with plenty of exercise. There are several foods, much like Type 1 diets, that you can eat:
- Fatty fish (Salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, anchovies)
- Leafy greens
- Chia Seeds (these lower your blood sugar and also help you to lose weight by making you feel full)
- Greek yogurt (this contains 6-8 grams of carbs per serving versus the regular yogurt, plus it tastes creamier)
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Flaxseeds (Omega-3 fats, fiber and also help to lower blood pressure)
- Apple cider vinegar
- Strawberries & Cranberries
- Garlic (raw, not powdered or salt)
- Squash (acorn, butternut, pumpkin, zucchini and Italian)
- Shirataki Noodles
As you can see, there are a few different foods listed here for the Type 2 than for Type 1. For the most part, the diets are very similar.
Tips for Controlling Gestational Diabetes
Gestational diabetes is only in pregnancy and a lot more common than most know. It can happen to any woman that is pregnant, without having diabetes run in the family. Not only is it vital, as with the other two types, to watch what you eat; it can also have adverse effects on the mother and child during the pregnancy. Although this usually disappears after child birth, those women that have this condition are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later in life. Blood sugar level for this can also be controlled by diet and exercise, and following the same diets as Type 1 diabetics.
With pregnancy cravings, it can be difficult to maintain at times, but with portion control and just enough to satisfy the craving, it’s not hard to do. After every meal, I would suggest taking a little walk to help maintain and lower the blood sugar. Exercise is good anyway, especially if you are pregnant. Taking care of yourself during this time is very important. Those that don’t have problems during delivery, the babies are born bigger than normal and usually have health issues.
Keep a journal of your diet to show your doctor, because when you have Gestational diabetes, you are watched very carefully and monitored with what you eat. Also, keep a record of your blood sugar each day, as many times are you doctor wants you to test. This is very important for all. I had Gestational diabetes when I was pregnant, and at first it was really scary for me. I followed the diet, I followed the rules of my doctor, I kept a journal for my appointments and I had a healthy baby girl. I only gained 6 pregnancy pounds during my whole term. Her weight was good, mine was good and I have had no issues at all afterwards. This was the most important thing I could have done for myself and my daughter. Not following my doctors’ orders could have been devastating. Everything I have listed below is what I ate, and I didn’t deviate from it. You also have to remember that you are considered “high risk” for pregnancy if you test positive for Gestational diabetes.
Follow what you doctor says, at all times.
What to watch for:
- Avoid regular potatoes, French fries
- No white rice (only brown)
- No candy (sugar-free if you must)
- No soda is best
- No other sweets (milk chocolate, candy bars, suckers; a little bit of dark chocolate is fine)
Foods to eat:
- Air-popped popcorn (very minimal (or none at all) salt/butter, as this causes your feet to swell)
- Hard-boiled egg (great source of protein)
- Baby carrots, sliced cucumbers or grape tomatoes
- Celery sticks (with/without hummus; depends on your taste)
- Low-fat cheese and wheat crackers
- Apple slices (with/without peanut butter)
- Sugar-free Greek yogurt
- Toasted wheat bread with peanut butter
Common diabetic food and diet myths
- Avoid sugar – while it’s good to not have sugar if you are diabetic, it’s ok if you do. As long as you do it properly and take in to consideration the “hidden” sugar of what you are about to eat. Plan accordingly.
- Cut carbs completely – carbs are an important part of any diet, but it depends on the “type” of carbs you are consuming and how much. Always try to go for the whole grain ones and not the ones full of starch. The starchy carbs are the ones that will cause issues.
- Diabetics need special food – this is simply not true. There are special foods for diabetics out there, and they are usually expensive and offer no real benefit. “Normal” food is fine, just be careful of what you eat and how much.
- High-protein diets only – this is another thing that isn’t true. While protein is great for any diet, too much of it (especially animal protein) will cause insulin resistance. Our bodies need protein, fat and carbs to maintain a good function. As with anything, the key to all of it is balance.
Practical steps you can apply today to improve your health
Being smart and informed is the best way to go about it. It doesn’t mean you forget all the foods you love; it just means doing it in moderation and substituting things when you can, for a healthier option. You can reduce the cravings of your sweet tooth by slowly reducing the sugar you eat. This will not shock your system, it give your body time to adjust. If you want to have dessert, don’t eat the bread (or pasta) at dinner. Eat a smaller portion that normal. If you are going to have sweets, eat them with other things in your meal, not by themselves. Eating them alone will cause your blood sugar to spike and you don’t want that. Eat slowly. Enjoy every bite you eat.
Cutting down sugar is easy if you know how to do it. Reducing soda or juice in your diet is a good way to start. You can try a half a glass of juice and fill up the rest of the glass with water. Make lemon/lime water. Unsweetened tea is another good choice, but I would avoid it if it’s close to bedtime. Sweeten all your foods/drinks yourself. This way, you know exactly how much you are putting in. Avoiding any processed or pre-packaged foods is always good too. There tends to be a lot of “hidden” sugars in foods these days. You see what sugar is added to the product but don’t see the amount of sugar already in the food itself. Curving your sweet tooth doesn’t have to be hard at all. You can blend up some frozen fruit, like bananas; add some strawberries for a nice, creamy dessert. You can also have a small chunk of dark chocolate. Another way to help is to eat half the normal dessert you usually do and add fresh fruit to the mix.
Being diabetic does have its challenges; there is no doubt about that. It’s not a death sentence. There are perks and there are downfalls to being diabetic. This is with anything really. Truth be told, diabetics are probably healthier than most because of the diets they follow. There are different types of ingredients you can add to your food so it tastes better to you. Ms. Dash has a variety of flavorings you can use to spice up any meal. The lemon pepper is a favorite and very good on tomatoes or sliced cucumbers. The more fresh foods you eat, the better off you will be.
Some things that may help in your journey would be a Diabetic Carb Counter Chart, which you can find if you search on the internet, or your doctor should have one they can give you. The websites have amazing charts for you to use. There are different kinds to choose from. Checking labels of the food you buy and paying attention to the serving sizes, sugars, saturated fats, carbs and proteins. Get a food measurer to help with portion control. They have digital and regular scales to help get the measurements just right. After a while, you won’t even need it, as you will know exactly what you need to do. The thing is not to panic. It can be overwhelming for some but it doesn’t have to be. The more equipped you are with information, the better off you will be. Just like with anything else that is new, the more you know (or learn about it), the easier it is.
If you find yourself in a position of low blood sugar, which it does and most likely, will happen; there are some things that can be done, in case of an emergency. You can eat a banana, apple or orange. Also, it’s good to drink some juice, like orange or apple juice. This actually gets in to your system quicker than eating one. You can also have about a half a cup of regular soda or about a tablespoon of honey/jelly. This will help get you back to a state you can function on, because having low blood sugar makes your very lethargic and tired.
What do you do if your sugar is too high? One thing that works very well if this happens is to walk. Walk around the block, walk up and down the street, walk circles in your house. Just walk. This lowers your blood sugar fairly quickly. Drink a lot of water. This helps flush out excess sugar from your blood. If this continues to happen, and you are following your doctors’ orders, then you may have to change medication. IF you are Type 1 diabetic, then you must check your urine for ketones. You should have these strips if you are Type 1. High ketone levels will show diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is a complication of diabetes which can lead to a coma or even death, in severe cases.
If there are people in your family that have diabetes, it’s a good idea to be checked during a normal visit to the doctor. It does run in families but not all people get the same type of diabetes. Chances are, you will also become diabetic. The earlier you catch it, the better off you will be. Do you research on the type of diabetes you have, ask questions, keep a journal and be sure to keep it updated. As long as you pay attention to what you are doing and eating, you will be alright. Be smart about it; don’t treat it as a whim or something you will “get over”. If you take care of yourself properly, there is nothing you can’t do.
As previously mentioned, being diabetic is not a death sentence. Although, Type 1 is much more serious than the other two; as it does require insulin to survive. The important thing is to always watch what you eat, count carbs, no sugar (or less of it), exercise and pay attention to the little things that others usually don’t. Taking care of you is the best thing you can do. Being mindful of what you eat and watching your portions. Always ask your doctor if you aren’t sure if you should try something, whether it is medication to help lose weight, control blood sugar or a food someone told you about. The doctor is there to answer any questions. Searching the internet is a good source for information, but take note on where you read it. Write your questions down so you don’t forget. That is the best way to get all the information from your doctor.