At NYCC we see the power of healthy diet and lifestyle in improving and preventing chronic disease. Our doctors and dietitian work closely with patients to help them make realistic changes in their diet and activity patterns. Here are some tips to control blood sugar and improve your diabetes.
Please note: While these suggestions are generally safe, keep in mind that everyone’s health situation is unique. Always consult with your primary care physician before making changes to current dietary intake and/or lifestyle. While making dietary changes and losing weight can improve your diabetes, it is important to keep taking your medications as prescribed. For all cases of diabetes, but especially when taking insulin, it is important to work closely with your provider to ensure your diet is appropriate for your insulin regimen. Visiting a registered dietitian can also help you fine tune your diet to control your blood sugar and prevent the health problems associated with uncontrolled diabetes.
Tips for Healthy Eating with Type 2 Diabetes
When you have diabetes, controlling your blood sugar is key to maintaining a healthy heart. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease, vascular disease, neuropathy, vision loss, amputations, and kidney disease. A diabetes diet is a healthy-eating plan that is rich in non-starchy vegetables and lean proteins, moderate in carbohydrates, and low in saturated fat and calories. Losing weight can dramatically improve or even eliminate many cases of type 2 diabetes. In general to control diabetes, aim for balance and moderation in your diet and lifestyle.
IF YOU WANT TO IMPROVE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL, FOLLOW THESE 3 BASIC RECOMMENDATIONS
- Healthy Weight: Maintain a healthy weight or if you are overweight, work on reducing your weight.
- Regular Activity: Aim to do at least 30 min. of activity most days.
- Control Carbohydrates: At each meal or snack, limit your intake of foods containing carbohydrates.
HERE’S SOME TIPS TO GET STARTED ON YOUR DIET & LIFESTYLE TO IMPROVE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR CONTROL
AIM FOR BALANCE
- Eat a variety of healthy foods with an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins (lean meat, fish, lean dairy, beans, egg whites, etc.)
- Spread your intake throughout the day by eating 3 regular meals as well as 1-3 snacks if desired.
- Consume a healthy breakfast each day. If you are used to skipping breakfast, try including a small morning meal that contains some lean protein such nonfat/lowfat yogurt, nonfat/lowfat milk, or egg whites.
- Choose fiber-rich foods to slow down digestion of carbohydrates and prevent sugar spikes. Fiber intake also helps to control blood cholesterol, fullness, and regularity. Aim for 25-35 grams of fiber each day. Foods high in fiber include vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grain products, and nuts.
- Consume a calorie-controlled diet that allows you to maintain a healthy weight or gradually lose weight if you are overweight.
- Include moderate physical activity (such as brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Regular activity helps to control blood sugar, improve your heart health, and increase weight loss.
- If you are testing your blood sugar the following are general blood sugar targets but always work with your provider to identify what your blood sugar targets are.
- Before meals: 90 to 130 mg/dL (preferably around 100 mg/dL)
- Two hours after meals: Less than 180 mg/dL (preferably less than 130 mg/dL)
- When to check your sugar:
- If you are prescribed blood sugar testing materials, follow your provider’s instructions about when to check your sugar.
- In general, it is useful to check your waking fasting sugar each day. To understand how different foods and portions influence your blood sugar, test your sugar 1-2 hours after eating. If your find your meal caused your blood sugar to go up a lot, think about the carbohydrate content of the meal and your portion sizes. Next time, try replacing some of the carbohydrate with non-starchy vegetables or lean protein.
- Eat heart-healthy fish at least twice a week. Fish can be a good alternative to high-fat meats.
- Fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which promote heart health by improving inflammation, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels in the blood.
- Consult your provider to determine if you would benefit from a fish oil supplement.
AIM FOR MODERATION
- Control your portion sizes to reduce calorie and carbohydrate intake.
- Limit the amount of carbohydrate foods you eat at each meal and snack. Carbohydrates are the foods that most raise blood sugar.
- Foods that contain carbohydrates include:
- Include bread, rice, pasta, cereal, crackers, baked goods.
- Opt for high fiber whole-grain options but remember while these are healthier foods they have similar carbohydrate content as white/refined products.
- Opt for fresh or frozen instead of higher carbohydrate fruit juices, jams/jellies, and dried fruits.
- All kinds of fruits are good choices as long as you do not overdo the portions. Berries are especially good lower-carbohydrate fruit choices.
- Starchy vegetables
- Include corn, sweet peas, potato, yam, plantain, yucca, cassava.
- These are digested quickly so be particularly aware of your portions.
- Sweets & sweetened drinks
- Include anything sweetened with calorie containing sweeteners including sugar, honey, corn syrup, and juice concentrate.
- These are usually low in healthy nutrients and high in unhealthy fats, so limit your intake and slowly savor small portions when you do have them.
- If you want to have a sweetened drink use diet drinks (i.e. diet soda) instead of regular sweetened drinks or juice which are very high in carbohydrates.
- Beer & sweetened alcoholic beverages
- Alcohol is high in calories and does not have a lot of nutritional value.
- Alcohol can influence blood sugar in unpredictable ways and increase blood pressure, so it is especially important for diabetics to consume it in moderation and take alcohol with food.
- Beer has more carbohydrates than wine. Light beer has less carbohydrates than regular beer.
- Include pigeon peas, lentils, chickpeas and other types of beans.
- Beans are a combination of carbohydrate and protein so they are lower in carbohydrate than grains and a great substitution for rice or pasta.
- Beans are high in healthy fiber and can help to improve cholesterol levels.
- Regular (full-fat/whole) milk is a combination of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.
- Always choose lowfat/nonfat dairy because full-fat milk/yogurt, cheese, cream, and butter are high in unhealthy fats.
- Milk, yogurt, and sweetened dairy products like ice cream contain carbohydrates.
- Greek (strained) yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheese contain very little carbohydrate and more protein than milk. Nonfat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are especially healthy protein sources.
- Healthy diabetic plate
- A healthy diabetic meal is ½ non-starchy vegetables. Try filling up first on non-starchy vegetables (salad, broccoli, spinach, green beans, etc.) to help you control your carbohydrate portions.
- Include an adequate portion of lean protein (skinless chicken, fish, lean meat, beans, etc.).
- Limit the carbohydrate portion of the meal to no more than ¼th of your plate. Choose healthy whole-grain sources of carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole-grain pasta, and whole-grain bread.
- Read labels to assess the carbohydrate and calorie content of products.
- Check the “Total Carbohydrate”, not the “Sugars” to assess the carbohydrate content.
- The amount of carbohydrate listed on the label is the amount in the listed “Serving size”. Your portion may be larger or smaller than the listed “Serving size”.
- Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Avoid artery clogging artificial trans fats and minimize intake of saturated fats found primarily in meat, poultry skin, and full-fat dairy.