How to Make a Plant-Forward Lifestyle a Reality With Type 2 Diabetes
Let the record be set straight: a plant-forward diet is not a fancy term for bird food or never eating dairy, fish, or meat. On the contrary, the plant-forward diet is a lifestyle that can satisfy the tastebuds of even the most dedicated carnivores. With endless health benefits, it’s no wonder people want to eat more green!
Make a plant-focused diet work for you
That being said, this plant-filled lifestyle doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing choice. So, use these easy-to-apply tips to find a happy balance of plant-based ingredients to better your health and diabetes management.
Benefits of a plant-based diet for type 2 diabetes
Plants can power your health with every bite. Specifically, a plant-forward diet may help protect against ischemic heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and more. It also tends to be higher in antioxidant intake, which may help reduce inflammation that may contribute to complications at greater risk to people with diabetes. Antioxidants can also improve arterial flexibility and blood flow for optimal cardiovascular health.1
How to get started with a plant-based lifestyle
You don't have to completely change your current diet or meal plan. You can slowly incorporate more plant-based food options into your daily life. Taking small steps towards a plant-based lifestyle for type 2 diabetes management is realistic!
Search for plant-based recipes that sound tasty
Challenge yourself to find plant-based recipes that make your mouth water. Whether you prefer old-school cookbooks or trendy Instagram accounts, there is are eye-catching plant-based recipes to suit everyone's preferences. Commit to trying one new recipe per week. This will eventually build a Rolodex of healthy yet delicious plant-based meals to cook.
Make small daily food swaps
Some ingredient substitutions can go completely unnoticed! Baking with plant-based butter, adding chopped mushrooms into your burger patty mix, or tossing beans into your pasta sauce are all easy-peasy steps towards living a more plant-forward lifestyle. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect; it simply has to progress.
Plan ahead and make a grocery list
After all, you can’t start a puzzle without all of the pieces. Create a grocery list of various whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and plant-based proteins to better equip your kitchen with plant-based items. Not sure what to grab? Check out the many ingredients below to help build your list.
Nutritious plant-based pantry items
There are a variety of pantry items to keep stocked in your kitchen that can be added to dishes that you already enjoy:
- Seeds: Do you prefer the smooth texture of flax seeds, the nuttiness of hemp heart, the crunchiness of sunflower seeds, or the mouthfeel of chia seeds? Sprinkle them anywhere and everywhere for a burst of wholesome nutrition.
- Nuts: Add to your favorite oatmeal, yogurt parfait, salad, smoothie bowl, and more. For a savory way to satisfy mid-day snack attacks, combine a variety of nuts with roasted chickpeas, edamame, and wasabi peas. Or create a trail mix that includes a touch of dark chocolate chips and dried fruit.
- Legumes: Legumes act as a complex carbohydrate and source of protein! Add them in soups, salads, pasta sauces, or transform them into a tasty puree. Opt for low-sodium beans or give them a quick rinse out of the can to remove up to 40% of their sodium.2
- Herbs and spices: Nobody has "thyme" for bland food! Seasonings are a great way to reduce the amount of salt without sacrificing flavor.
- Grains: Buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, and millet may not all be familiar, these staple ingredients play a key role in any plant-forward lifestyle. Whole grains help improve glycemic control for sustained energy and better diabetes management.3
Plant-based grocery favorites
Dairy alternative milk
These days, it seems like everything is getting transformed into milk. With options such as oat, almond, cashew, soy, and coconut milk, the milk aisle may feel more overwhelming than usual. But swapping dairy milk for a plant-based option can help decrease saturated fat. Aim for a choice that has minimal added sugars, additives, and processing. My personal favorite is unsweetened soy milk.
Reinvent the way you view plant-based proteins. Tofu and tempeh are seemingly under-appreciated options but provide an abundance of nutrients while kicking animal fats to the curb. But, just like any ingredient, the magic comes from the preparation. Seasoning tofu and tempeh well is the key to enjoying these protein-packed foods.
With the help of these tips and with the guidance of a registered dietician, you can realistically shift your diet over time to be more plant-focused!
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