November 14th is World Diabetes Day—and more than ever, the face of diabetes is changing. Of the three million plus Canadians living with diabetes, 90% of them have type 2 diabetes, which is largely lifestyle related. As challenging as a diagnosis of diabetes can feel, it is also an opportunity to re-evaluate your lifestyle and start transforming your health. Nutrition is a vital component of keeping blood sugars stable and maintaining a healthy weight; here are five effective back-to-basics tips to help you gain control of your diabetes and feel energized.
The healthiest foods on the planet—with very few exceptions— do not come in a bag or a box. Processed foods are often made from highly refined flour and sugar, a combination that spells disaster for blood sugars. All healthy diets begin with 7–10 halfcup servings of vegetables and fruits. Add 100% whole grains, lean proteins and dairy, nuts and seeds and you have the raw ingredients for an energizing, blood-sugar-stabilizing diet.
Ditch the Sweet Tooth
One of the first things diebetics look for are artificially sweetened alternatives of their favourite foods. Unfortunately, these foods simply contribute further to a processed-food lifestyle. Try to avoid diabetic-friendly meal bars, desserts and snacks in favour of whole-food options. Instead of drinking juice drinks or diet sodas, try soda water flavoured with just a splash of real fruit juice. Switch to unsweetened nut butters and top with slices of apple or banana for a sweeter taste. Buy plain nonfat yogurt and top with thawed blueberries for a flavour explosion— without the sugar.
Fibre is critical for maintaining a healthy digestive tract and a healthy weight. Men need 38 grams and women need 25 grams per day. Worried that it’s a lot? Build your fibre intake slowly to give your body time to adjust. Getting your daily intake can be a snap with just a few simple swaps. Try eating a bran bud cereal with yogurt or sprinkled on soup; swap your conventional bread for sprouted grain bread; and eat beans in soups, salads and casseroles.
Eating protein at each meal and snack will keep hunger at bay and blood sugars stable. Many of us neglect protein at breakfast, a critical meal for your metabolism. If you are a cold cereal lover, try a higher protein (but low-sugar) cereal and top with 1 full cup of milk or soy milk plus 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds. This combination will provide roughly 25 grams of satisfying protein to keep you fuelled all morning long.
Portions Still Count
Eating whole foods that are naturally lower in calories will assist with weight loss, but portion sizes still count! To maximize fullness, make sure half your plate is fruits and vegetables and then add ½–1 cup of whole grains and 3–4 ounces of lean protein for a well-balanced plate. Use a light touch with added oils. When it comes to snacks, keep them small and balanced: an apple with a tablespoon of almond butter, a few slices of turkey and tomato on a high fibre cracker or a small scoop of raw trail mix should do the trick.
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