Ten Rules to Live by for Diabetics

Jessica Caricato

A large part of healthy diabetic living is based in diet, so most of these rules are centered around eating, but true control lies in your ability to harmonize a better diet with good lifestyle changes, and this list offers tips to serve as a jumping-off point for those who are looking to gain control of their diabetes.

1.       Include more plant-based proteins in diet.

Protein is of course essential to any diet, but with animal based proteins you get high amounts of saturated fats that don’t exist in plant-based proteins. One of the major plant proteins is soy, which is found in many varied forms: tofu, edamame, soy milk; all of which are excellent additions to your diet. Some plant-based proteins are not considered “complete” because they don’t contain all of the essential amino acids, and so they need to be combined with another food containing those amino acids in order to create a complete protein. For example, brown rice and lentils are not complete proteins on their own, but when served together they are.

2.       Increase physical activity, starting with 30 minutes of walking per day.

Many individuals who have not incorporated physical activity into their schedules in a while are intimidated by general suggested exercises. It is important to know that it’s okay to start small and work your way up! Some initial changes you might want to make include walking a few more blocks, parking in a distant parking spot that involves more walking, taking a flight of stairs instead of an elevator, or taking leisure walks on days with nice weather. From there, you can begin to work your way up!

3.       Include fresh vegetables as often as possible.

Veggies are one of the keys to great health, and a way to keep yourself excited about vegetables is to look forward to finding out which fresh, beautiful, in season vegetables are available locally. This will constantly add an element of variety to your diet so you continue to look forward to new vegetables.

4.       Aim to eat 25-30 grams of fiber each day.

Fiber is a mysterious concept to many people, but it is especially important for diabetics to understand how crucial an adequate amount of fiber is, because dietary fiber helps to control blood sugar. Carbohydrates release into the blood at a slower rate when consumed with fiber, and so making sure that you not only get at least 25 grams of fiber, but also spread that fiber evenly across your meals in snacks, is very important in helping to prevent spikes in blood sugar.

5.       Make and pack your own lunch for work.

Packing your own lunch gives you more control over your diet for several reasons. Of course, there is a major advantage to knowing exactly what has gone into your meal and leaving nothing up to chance. An additional bonus is knowing that the size of the meal you prepared matches the serving size that you intended to eat.

6.       Include nuts and seeds on the side instead of processed snacks.

In the same vein as packing your own lunch, including snacks to maintain your blood sugar through the day gives you access to foods that may not be available once you are at work, such as unsalted nuts and seeds that provide enough energy to last through the day, without leading you to turn to the sugary or salty snacks that are available in most office vending machines.

7.       Choose water over sugar-sweetened beverages.

Many people don’t realize how many calories in their diets are attributed to sugary drinks, or that while these drinks contain a lot of calories, they have no real nutritional value. Water is always the winner when it comes to drink choices. If you don’t find water to be particularly exciting or appetizing, you can make changes such as having sparkling water, or squeezing in fresh lemon juice, or using frozen berries as ice cubes.

8.       Always choose whole grains, explore different grain options such as spelt.

Whole grains are high in fiber (see tip 4), and there is a much larger variety in your options for whole grain products over refined grain products, especially when you factor in grains besides wheat. Spelt may produce less of an insulin response. Spelt bread products can be found at Whole Foods, as well as most health food stores.

9.       Check blood sugar levels multiple times per day.

Not only is the awareness of this critically important to help you to normalize high and low blood sugar levels, but also testing blood sugar after meals will help you to learn which foods produce which responses in your body, and you can increase or avoid those foods in order to find your ideal balance.

10.   Choose foods that have gone through as little processing a possible, preferably in their natural form. Always read the labels on prepackaged foods so you are aware of what they contain.

Foods in their whole form are ideal, and you should aim to choose foods as close to this form as possible, meaning they have experienced the least amount of processing (cooking or altering in any form) and they have as few ingredients added to them as possible.