6 Tips for Eating Healthy with Diabetes
Living with diabetes can be tough, but just because your food choices might be limited, doesn't mean you can't still enjoy an incredibly delicious (and healthy) diet every day. We've tapped two diabetes experts for their best tips on eating healthy with diabetes.
1. Have protein with breakfast.
"We naturally wake up more insulin-resistant in the morning due to hormones (like cortisol) that rise to help wake us up—if we start the day with mostly carbs for breakfast (i.e. oatmeal, cereal, bagels, grits, smoothies, pancakes, and waffles), the sugars from these carbohydrates combined with our hormones significantly elevates blood sugar," says Lisa Harris, a certified diabetes educator at Northwestern Medicine. "Eggs (any style), cottage cheese, plain yogurt with nuts, bread made from almond or coconut flour, or non-traditional breakfast items like meat and veggies are better choices for your blood sugar all the time, but particularly in the morning."
2. Buy quality foods.
"Spend as much as you can afford on quality protein, healthy fats, and vegetables in the grocery store today and you will save yourself a lot on medication and health care costs in the future" says Harris.
3. Track your meals.
"Track your food intake and activity on an app, such as MyNetDiary, MyFitnessPal or Lose-it," says Linda Sartor, RD, an advanced practice diabetes nutrition specialist at the Penn Rodebaugh Diabetes Center. "Research proves those who track, lose more weight and improve blood sugar levels."
4. Avoid sugary drinks as much as possible.
"People with diabetes should absolutely avoid sugar-sweetened beverages including soda, sports drinks, sweetened teas, and juice, unless these are using these beverages to treat a low blood sugar," says Harris. "Carbohydrates in liquid form spike blood sugars very quickly—they are great for treating a low blood sugar, but if someone's blood sugar is normal or high, they will send their blood sugar to the next level."
5. Look at food labels.
"When looking for on food labels, people with diabetes [should opt for] total carbohydrate of 30-40 grams per meal and 15 grams or less for snacks; protein levels of 8-21 grams per serving to give you fullness, satiety and to help balance blood sugar levels; and sodium levels of less than 140 milligrams for a snack and less than 500 milligrams per meal," says Sartor.
6. Eat your greens.
"People with diabetes can eat green vegetables and salads freely," says Sartor. "No one ever raised their blood sugar or gained weight from eating too many vegetables!"