Diabetics often get sick and tired of all those lists of what not to eat. No cookies, no white bread, no sodas – no wonder the diabetic diet can get a little monotonous. That’s why one of our Facebook fans, Lori, asked us what diabetics can do to spruce up their diets, while still staying healthy.
Fruits: It can be awfully hard to turn away all the sugary treats, but some sweet fruits can help fill the gap. To control your blood sugar spikes, worry most about carbohydrate counts – as long as you control those you can still satisfy a sweet tooth. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some sweet fruit options that each have about 15 grams of carbs:
- 1 1/4 cup whole strawberries
- 1 1/4 cup cubed watermelon
- 1/2 medium banana
- 1/2 cup cubed mango
Other great options are apples, cranberries and raspberries, which have been shown to lower bad cholesterol. Blueberries may help stabilize blood sugar and even help prevent diabetes. Plus, all these fruits contain cholesterol-lowering fiber to help keep you full.
Vegetables: Vegetables should be the cornerstone of all diets, not just diabetic ones. Vegetable highlights include asparagus, which may help keep blood sugar down and increase insulin, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, which may help fight heart disease, and leafy greens like spinach and kale which may lower diabetes risk.
Dairy: Don’t deprive yourself of dairy. Low-fat or Greek yogurts are delicious ways to get your daily calcium and vitamin B-12. Studies have shown that people who eat yogurt daily are less likely to get diabetes, and it can help promote healthy digestion. Just watch out for added sugars and check out our Greek yogurt cheat sheet to find the best yogurt for you. Reduced-fat cheeses, 1% milk, and cottage cheese are other healthy options for diabetics.
Protein: Lori’s right to be concerned about the effect of protein on the kidneys. For people with diabetic-related kidney damage (also known as diabetic nephropathy), diets lower in protein may slow the development of kidney problems, though studies on this topic yield conflicting results. However, protein is still an important part of the diabetic diet, because diabetics are at increased risk for protein malnutrition.
Lean proteins are the best choice. Try to eat fish at least twice a week – especially fatty fish like salmon that will give you heart-protecting omega-3s. Other meats such as chicken and turkey (remove the skins) and lean cuts of beef or pork (pork loin and sirloin tend to be leaner cuts) are also good in moderation. Bake, broil or grill meat to keep it healthier. Other great sources of protein include eggs, tofu, and baked or stewed beans.
Breads and grains: Carbohydrates are the main culprit when it comes to rising blood sugar. But complex carbohydrates are absorbed more slowly than simple carbs, and won’t cause you to spike and crash as fast. Aim for whole-grain or multi-grain breads and cereals, brown rice and oatmeal.
Treats: Just because you’re diabetic doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your snacks. Stick to baked snacks, like baked potato chips, corn chips and puffed rice. Popcorn is also a tasty high-fiber snack – just skip the buttery and sugary toppings. A little bit of reduced-fat mayo and low-fat or citrus-based salad dressings can keep your sandwiches and salads satisfying. If you can’t seem to kick your soda habit, tried flavored sparkling water or unsweetened tea with lemon. Light beer and small amounts of wine are also okay.
Check out these easy diabetic-friendly recipes.