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Better Food Choices When You Have Diabetes

Author: Roberta Kleinman, RN, M.Ed., CDE

Date: July 10, 2013

Topic: Diet & Nutrition


Every day we make simple choices and hopefully some of them can promote health in a positive way.

Let’s examine a few things we can easily change in our daily lives to accomplish this and may even reduce your blood sugars.
  1. The research on drinking coffee keeps changing. The evidence at this point in time leads to no more then 2-3 cups a day and watch what you add to the coffee. Think about skim, 1%-2% milk, whole milk or regular cream in a small portion. You can add unsweetened almond, soy, coconut or rice milk. Keep away from flavored creamers with artificial ingredients that contain products you can barely pronounce. Fancy coffee drinks such as frappacino’s at chain stores tend to have added sugars and carbohydrates with calorie counts in the 500s! They sound delicious but try not to take in liquid calories since they add up quickly and send blood sugars soaring.
  2. Eating almonds prior to a meal may help lower blood sugars after that meal. They reduce LDL-cholesterol levels, are high in protein, vitamin E, calcium, fiber, and zinc plus they offer heart healthy mono-unsaturated fats. Almonds contain arginine which aids in blood flow. Even the almond skin has a host of nutrients including beneficial antioxidants. Another study showed that eating one ounce of almonds over 12 weeks, 5 days a week, helped decrease the A1C by 4% and even reduced (body mass index) BMI by 4%. You can mix slivers or slices into salads, yogurt or cereal. Add almond flour as filler in baking or for bulking up meat loaf, burgers or fish cakes.
  3. Make a bean dip or use beans in any recipe you can fit them into like soups and stews. Black beans, red beans, navy beans, white beans and pinto beans are great fiber sources, have a low glycemic index, make you feel full fast and do it without a lot of calories. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that beans reduce blood sugar response whether eaten alone or combined in a high glycemic meal. Black beans have also been shown to decrease DNA damage as we age and limit oxidative stress. Scientists feel that certain compounds in beans help slow alpha-amylase which breaks down starch to sugar; this reduces sugar release into your system.
  4. Barley which is a whole grain is also associated with high soluble fiber, is a low glycemic food and a better choice compared to other grains. Think about Quinoa as well.
  5. Dry fruit is more concentrated with larger sugar content and calories so choosing plums over prunes, grapes over raisins or any other fresh fruit over a dry one can be more satisfying with less blood sugar spikes. You get to eat more which is also important to some.
  6. Pizza crust sounds so harmless but the dough adds up in carbohydrate servings. Choose thin crust over regular crust and stay away from deep dish or cheese stuffed crust pizza. Small changes but many rewards still with fun flavor. Load up with vegetables instead of meat choices to reduce fat content. Remember lycopene in cooked tomato products like pizza/pasta sauce is excellent for the anti- cancer properties as well.
  7. Thin bagels- fresh or packaged over regular restaurant ones can change the carbohydrate count down to one quarter-one half of the amount. A deli bagel counts as 4 servings of a carbohydrate which is usually too much at one time if you are trying to monitor blood sugars.
  8. Spaghetti is fine in small portion sizes but try to add another like whole-grain or even spaghetti squash. Spaghetti squash is a vegetable with great flavor that is mildly sweet, nutty and is loaded with nutrients. It contains Vitamin C, B and omega 3 fatty acids. They are easy to cook if you get them split in half before leaving the grocery store. You can dress it with olive oil or tomato sauce and twirl away without a large blood sugar response.
  9. Purchase 6 inch flour tortillas or hard taco shells instead of 12 inch ones. Think about adding more protein and vegetables to the small serving sizes to keep you satiated and not miss the crunch. Add avocado for a filling addition with wonderful benefits.
  10. Granola is delicious but if not homemade it can have added sugar, high fructose corn syrup and allows you only a ¼ of a cup as a serving size which leads to hunger shortly after. Choose steel cut oats, such as Wheatena or Cheerios which offers a larger serving size with less impact on your blood sugars. Always add a protein to your cereal like eggs, cheese, or peanut butter to help decrease blood sugar response and keep you stay full longer.
  11. Choose flavored tea which is calorie/carbohydrate free and comes in fruit, spice and even chocolate. It may stave off the craving of a candy bar which adds calories, fat and sugar. Add cinnamon for better taste.
  12. Bake kale chips by cutting up kale leaves (green vegetables) and placing on a baking sheet drizzled with olive oil spray. They have a wonderful crunchy taste and are a better bet then potato chips. Choose thin pretzels instead of large sour dough ones for the flavor and texture without the big calories. Better yet is popcorn without salt or butter flavoring for crunch.
  13. Watch out for fruit smoothies which may have up to 80 carbohydrates per servings. Try to make your own and drink about 4 ounces to get the flavor without the consequences.

Here is a list of food choices which really do not deprive you of anything. These foods can provide an easy alternative which may be a bonus to your diabetes control! Eat well!

NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.

Browse through our entire library of newsletter articles for tips on Diet & Nutrition and related information. Read more articles by Roberta Kleinman, RN, M.Ed., CDE. Check our product listings for the biggest savings on your diabetic supplies and health care products.