Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD
Having diabetes may influence certain decisions you make about your diet, but you are still ultimately in control of what you eat. It's important to maintain a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet to keep your diabetes in check, and your doctor or nutritionist can help you with this by developing a meal plan that will work for you over the long term. There are plenty of tips and tricks that you can use to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, and some are easier than you might think.
1.) Research Your Carbohydrates.
Many people assume when they're dieting that carbs are out, and as a diabetic you likely know much more than the average person about how much carbs can affect your blood sugar. But there is a difference between starch and sugar, and sometimes it comes down to the amount of food that you're putting on your plate rather than the amount of carbohydrates that are present per serving.
Also, make sure that whole grain item you are buying at the store shouldn’t have quotes around the “whole grain” part. In other words, make sure the whole grain is listed as the first ingredient. Whether you have diabetes it’s good to get into the habit of reading the labels of foods that you buy, and select those that have the fewest ingredients and additives. A whole grain carbohydrate full of nutrients, vitamins and fiber, for instance, can go a long way toward maintaining your energy level without upsetting your blood glucose levels, so long as you don't have too much of it.
2.) Portion Control.
We all know how important it is to control our portion sizes, but what difference will a few extra chips on a special occasion make? Well, if you had your own personal nutrition drill sergeant, he or she would immediately want to know exactly how many extra chips, and how frequently you decide it’s a special occasion.
When you have diabetes and you're also watching your weight, you have to be extra careful about this kind of thing. It’s human nature to let things slide, and before you know it, you could end up eating the way you did back before you were diagnosed with diabetes.
So, if you are into measuring things, talk to your dietician and consult the charts to find out what measurements of food are best for you, in consideration of your height and body type. If you don’t love measuring things, you may prefer the plate method, whereby you don’t worry as much about the measuring cup or scale, but then you have to follow the rules: try to limit your meals to a smaller plate, and divide the plate in half. One half should be non-starchy vegetables, while the other half can be split between lean protein and a whole grain side item.
3.) Introduce Whole Grains Strategically.
Sometimes it takes a bit of strategy to create a new, healthy habit. Many people know whole grain foods are good for you, but many people also find it challenging to swap out their refined carbs for whole grain products. For instance, if you cook for the family and have ever tried to switch from regular pasta to whole grain pasta, you may find your family in a full rebellion, especially if you have young children.
Try different brands. Some whole grain pastas seem to be more palatable than others. Also, try easing in your healthier options more slowly. If you bake your own bread, try mixing half white and half whole-wheat flour at first, until the taste begins to grow on you. If you only eat store bought bread, select a loaf that is half and half or somewhere near that. You can also slowly introduce whole grain rice and pasta by mixing it in with the white starches for a little while.
4.) Don't Give Up On Sweets Completely.
When you are craving something sweet, you can still indulge on occasion, but there are several things to keep in mind. You can count sugar as a carbohydrate, but you have to be careful. Stick to small meals when you're looking for sweets. And, rather than raiding the cookie jar, blueberries or blackberries with banana and yogurt will give you that sweetness you crave without spiking your blood sugar too high.
5.) Watch What You Drink.
Most people seem to know about avoiding sugary beverages and sodas. But if you still sneak a sip every now and then, consider making a switch that will allow you to have more than a sip. Unsweetened herbal iced tea is a good choice, or if it is the feel of fizz in your throat that you miss, try flavored seltzer or put a small splash of natural unsweetened cranberry juice in your seltzer water.