What you put on your plate can make a huge impact on your ability to prevent Type 2 diabetes. This serious disease affects 9 percent of all Americans and 25 percent of those over age 65. Type 2 diabetes can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks, and stroke. Keeping your blood sugar low and eating a healthy diet are critical to avoiding this disease. Here are a few simple tips to help you do just that:
Read labels. Because sugar adds flavor and is an effective preservative, it’s hidden in all types of foods, from spaghetti sauce to cold cereals. I recommend checking nutritional labels before using prepared items in your cooking.
Forego processed and fast foods. They’re not just high in fat, but high in added sugars too. Cheeseburgers, tacos, French fries, burritos and frozen foods are usually best avoided. Crackers, chips, white bread, white rice, instant cereals and pasta contain lots of sugar and few nutrients.
Save sweets for special occasions. Cakes, cookies, ice cream, pop and candy should be eaten in moderation. This is true of juice as well. All-natural fruit juice is still just sugar. If you’re craving something sweet, choose whole fruit. The fiber slows down and even reduces how much sugar your body absorbs.
Beware of so-called health foods. Milk has protein, but no fiber, and many yogurts have a lot of added sugar. Both can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar. Honey is another food that, while natural, isn’t healthy for people watching their sugar intake.
Half of creating a diabetes-resistant approach to eating is learning what foods to avoid. The other half is discovering what foods to include — and how to stick with it.
Choose fresh foods and whole grains. Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins and low in sugar. Consuming a variety of colors helps ensure you’re maximizing flavor and getting all the nutrients you need. Whole-wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, barley, brown rice and buckwheat and rye flour are all complex carbohydrates that will give you the energy you need without the sugar boost. Nuts, beans, lean meats and fish are also part of a healthy diet.
Set yourself up for success. Limiting the sugary foods you have available in your home can be a good way to avoid eating things that aren’t healthy. When you go to the grocery store, focus on shopping the perimeter and avoid buying things you’ll struggle to avoid later.
Eat at home. Making food at home and eating it with family or friends allows you to control sugar, salt and fat quantities, as well as portion sizes. It also minimizes the number of times you eat out each month, lowering calorie and sugar consumption.
Changing your diet requires patience, persistence, and support. If you want to learn more about what you can do to eat healthier and lower your risk of diabetes, talk to your doctor.