The more you eat, the less the flavor; the less you eat, the more the flavor. -- Chinese proverb
All diabetics should work to improve portion control and aim for around 1500 to 1,800 calories per day. The typical American diet lacks calcium, fiber, potassium, magnesium, carotenoids in A vitamin, vitamin C, and vitamin E, so focus on foods that provide these important nutrients but are low on the glycemic index. Nutrients and vitamins are ideally obtained through foods, not supplements, because of the lack of sufficient research identifying supplement sources.
Include these foods in your diet:
Dark green, leafy vegetables: Green vegetables such as kale, collards, and spinach are low in carbohydrates and calories, but they pack a nutrient punch.
Citrus fruits: Lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and limes add high doses of vitamin C and soluble fiber to your diet.
Starches: Sweet potatoes are good alternatives to regular potatoes and provide a good dose of fiber and vitamin A.
Berries: All types of berries, including blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries, provide fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. You can create your new favorite dessert by mixing berries into nonfat yogurt.
Tomatoes: This fruit packs in essential nutrients such as vitamin E, iron, and vitamin C.
Omega-3 rich fish: Salmon is rich in omega-3. A weekly diet should consist of 6 to 9 ounces of fish.
Nuts: Just an ounce of this tiny food can manage hunger and deliver healthy fats to the body. Nuts contain heart-beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids and provide fiber and magnesium. Like fish, flax seeds and walnuts also provide omega-3 fatty acids.
Dairy: We’ve known for years that milk and yogurt strengthen teeth and bones because of the calcium they provide, but dairy products also offer the body a good source of vitamin D. The relationship between good health and vitamin D is a hot topic in emerging research.
Eat whole grains and vegetables
The Obesity epidemic we are facing today is due to eating excessive refined carbohydrates, processed foods. Refined grains and their food products are inferior foods. If you decide to consume grains, it’s important to choose the most nutritious options. Whole grains are best because they are high in fiber, phytochemicals, minerals, and vitamins. You can make the best choice by reading labels.
Sugar-laced, white-flour-based foods should be your last choice when eating starchy food. Refined white flour and enriched wheat flour are not whole grains. These only contain the grain’s starchy part and lack most of the nutrients present in their whole-wheat counterparts.
Whole grain pasta, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat tortillas, and 100% whole-wheat bread are all examples of whole grain foods. But finding these items can often prove difficult. Don’t be fooled by packaging that says whole grain on the front— some only contain a small proportion of whole grain. Instead, look at the ingredient list. It will provide information about the number of whole grains in the item. Find the first ingredient listed and look for key sources, including wild rice, whole grain barley, whole rye, brown rice, whole grain corn or cornmeal, whole oats or oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, millet, and quinoa.
When buying cereal, choose options with less than 6 grams of sugar and a minimum of 3 grams of fiber. Typically, there are 15 grams of carbs in 1 ounce or 1/2 cup of a grain or starchy food. Pumpkin and winter squash are an exception, with 15 grams of carbs per 1 cup of the starch. Rice is another exception, with 15 grams of carbs per 1/3 cup of the starch. Consider avoiding white rice completely and substituting it with brown rice, wild rice, or quinoa.
Vegetables can be either starchy or non-starchy. Kernels, bulbs, and roots are all starchy vegetables. This category includes yams, squash, pumpkin, zucchini, potatoes, parsnips, peas, and corn. Of these examples, peas, corn, and potatoes contain the most carbohydrates. These starchy vegetables typically have 15 grams of carbohydrates. One serving is about 4 ounces or a half a cup.
The flowering parts of plants are generally considered non- starchy vegetables. Examples of non-starchy vegetables include tomatoes, peppers, onions, mushrooms, spinach, cucumber, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, and lettuce. This vegetable category typically has less than 5 grams of carbohydrates. Because they have fewer carbohydrates, one serving is about 8 ounces or 1 cup (uncooked). If cooked, the serving size shrinks to 1/2 cup or about 4 ounces.
Remember, only about one-quarter of your plate should be dedicated to starchy foods—3/4 to 1 cup. The less processed and closer to nature a food, the better. This is the basic consideration when using the glycemic index to choose foods. For example, instant oatmeal, which has been more processed, has a higher glycemic index than whole, rolled oats. Starchy vegetables with a lower glycemic index include lentils and dried beans. While potatoes have a higher glycemic index, you can still eat them in small amounts.
You can satiate your appetite well with non-starchy vegetables. Because these vegetables have fewer calories but pack a punch with phytochemicals, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, we should all enjoy more of them more often.
Choose canned, frozen, or fresh vegetables and vegetable juice with no supplementary sugar, fat, or sodium. Make sure any cans or packaging state “no added salt” or “low sodium.” If you must use a canned or packaged vegetable with sodium, drain and rinse the vegetable before consumption. If you’re cooking the vegetable, use fresh water and don’t add salt. This will reduce the sodium sticking to the vegetable.
For optimal health, it’s recommended we eat between three and five servings of vegetables a day. But this is a minimum, you can and should aim for more! A typical vegetable serving size is 1 cup raw or ½ cup cooked.
Lean, high-protein foods should make up one-quarter of your plate. This means 3–4 ounces of meat such as chicken breast or fish.
Fish, meats, cheese, and soy products are all high-protein foods. The biggest difference between these proteins is their fat content and, for nonmeat protein, the presence of carbohydrates.
Eggs, cheese, poultry, seafood, and plant-based proteins are the best sources of protein. Plant proteins have fiber, healthy fat, and quality protein, but make sure to consult the labels of vegetarian proteins to determine the number of carbohydrates and fat they contain and make the best decision for your plate.
Tip: Using the Glycemic Index
If a food doesn’t raise blood glucose levels (e.g., meats), it doesn’t have a glycemic index. Vegetarian Proteins with a low glycemic index include nuts, lentils, and beans. Protein, which has no glycemic index, should be included in every meal.
Beans are high in fiber, magnesium, and potassium. One-half cup of black beans, pinto beans, or kidney beans will give you about a third of your daily fiber. Although they’re a starchy food, 4 ounces of beans contain less saturated fat and the same amount of protein as 1 ounce of meat. Canned beans are easier to use than dried, but make sure to drain and rinse to remove as much added sodium as possible. Other good nonmeat protein sources include nuts, peanut butter, edamame, and peas (split, black-eyed, yellow, brown, and green).
Fish and seafood: Aim to eat fish at least two times per week. Salmon, sardines, rainbow trout, herring, mackerel, and Albacore tuna are all high in omega-3 fatty acids. Shellfish, including shrimp, oysters, scallops, lobster, crab, and clams, are also good sources of this nutrient. Although lower in omega-3 fatty acids, other good options include tilapia, halibut, haddock, flounder, catfish, and cod.
Poultry: To cut back on cholesterol and saturated fat, opt for skinless cuts when eating poultry. Examples of poultry include eggs, Cornish hens, turkey, and chicken.
Red meat: Avoid red meat if possible. Leaner cuts of red meat are labeled “Select” or “Choice grade” and have been trimmed of excess fat. Pork, lamb, and beef are all examples of red meat. Beef includes jerky, tenderloin, T- bone steak, porterhouse, flank, cubed, sirloin, round, rump roast, rib, or chuck. Lamb can be a roast, leg, or chop. You can buy pork as tenderloin, ham, or center loin chop.
Food with fat are high in calories, and it’s important to watch your portion sizes when you eat them. But you can keep your calories the same by cutting back on sources of saturated and trans fats and substituting with healthy fats—mono and polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3s. Instead of enjoying a cheese stick for an afternoon snack, try 12 almonds or cashews.
Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels, and high blood cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. Those with diabetes are already at high risk of heart disease, so limiting saturated fat can help lower your risk of heart attack or stroke. Everyone, whether you have diabetes or not, should aim to eat less than 10% of calories from saturated fat. For most people, this 10% is about 20 grams of saturated fat per day. That might seem like a lot, but it’s not. Just 1 ounce of cheese can have 8 grams of saturated fat. Foods with 1 gram of saturated fat per serving or less are considered low in saturated fat.
Foods with saturated fat include fatback and salt pork; high- fat meats such as regular ground beef, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and spareribs. High-fat dairy products include full-fat cheese, cream, ice cream, whole milk, sour cream, butter and cream sauces. Here are a few other common saturated fat sources: gravy made with meat drippings, chocolate, coconut and coconut oil, and poultry (chicken and turkey) skin.
Like saturated fats, trans fats are unhealthy and should be avoided. Trans fats are now listed on labels, and this makes it easier to identify foods containing them. Still, know that if a food has less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, its label can claim it has 0 grams. If you want to avoid as much trans-fat as possible, consult a food’s ingredient list. Keep your eyes peeled for words such as “hydrogenated oil” or “partially hydrogenated oil.” Select foods that either don’t contain hydrogenated oil or don’t list a liquid oil as their first ingredient.
Common sources of trans fat include processed snacks (crackers and chips), baked goods (muffins, cookies, and cakes) with hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil, and fast-food items (French fries).
Monounsaturated fats are called “good” or “healthy” fats because they can lower bad (LDL) cholesterol. Sources of monounsaturated fat include avocados, canola oil, almonds, cashews, pecans, peanuts, olive oil, peanut butter and peanut oil. The American Diabetes Association recommends we eat more monounsaturated fats than saturated or trans fats.
To eat more monounsaturated fats, try substituting olive oil or canola oil for butter and margarine when cooking. Sprinkling a few nuts or sunflower seeds on a salad, yogurt, or cereal is another easy way to eat more monounsaturated fats.
Like all fat sources, nuts and oils are high in calories. So, if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, eat smaller portions of these foods. Six almonds or four pecan halves have the same number of calories as a teaspoon of oil or butter.
Polyunsaturated fats are also considered “healthy” fats. The American Diabetes Association recommends you include these in your diet alongside monounsaturated fats. Like other healthy fats, you want to replace sources of saturated fat in your diet with polyunsaturated fats. Common sources of polyunsaturated fats include safflower oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, walnuts, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, soft (tub) margarine, and salad dressings.
Omega-3 fatty acids help prevent arteries from clogging. As I mentioned above, some types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids. The best fish include Albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, sardines, and salmon. Some plant foods are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These include tofu and other soybean products, walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, and canola oil.