How to Eat Right and Get Out of the Fad Diet Trap
Low-carb or low fat? Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig? Paleo or vegan? With over 30 popular diet plans widely available today, how do you know which diet is the best for diabetes? Most experts can agree on one point –eating more real whole foods in their natural form is the basis for eating right.
Eat the right carbs
Refined grains have had the bran and germ layers removed, leaving only the starchy, nutrient-poor endosperm to be ground into white flour. Refined carbohydrates are typically found in white bread, cakes, cookies, sugar-laden cereals, and processed baked goods. These carbs can make blood sugar spike and worsen diabetes symptoms. But you don’t need to give up carbs all together; in fact, some carbohydrate rich foods—such as fruits, beans, low-fat milk and whole grains—are healthy! Instead, be selective. Here are some tips:
- Search the ingredients list for “whole wheat” or “whole grain”. It should be one of the first ingredients. Quinoa, spelt, oats and popcorn are generally whole grain.
- Look for the whole grain council label.
- When buying fresh bread, ask the baker whether they use 100% whole grain flours. Some dark breads may look healthy, but just have coloring to make them look that way. Once you know it’s all whole grain, try to choose the seeded varieties and give whole grain rye and pumpernickel a try. Seeds in whole grain products add healthy fats and fiber to keep your appetite and blood sugar under control.
Eat the right fats
Low-fat diets can lead to unrestricted carb intake, many “low-fat” food products have to replace the fat with simple sugars to make the product taste similar to the original. These products can actually make weight loss and blood sugar control more difficult. Instead of cutting out fat, choose healthier fats. Here’s how:
- Avoid trans fats completely. Even small amounts are not recommended. Current food labeling regulations allow for food products to state 0g of trans fat on the label for products that have .5g or less of trans fats per serving. Checking for “partially hydrogenated” oils on ingredients lists are a giveaway that there are trans fats, regardless if there is a 0g trans fats claim.
- Try to replace saturated fats with healthy fats. In general, saturated fats are found in animal products such as red meat, high-fat cheese, and ice cream. Healthy, unsaturated fats are found in plant-based foods and fish; examples include avocado, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, olive and canola oil, salmon, sardines, anchovies, and shellfish.
- Small changes in our daily choices can make a big difference over the course of several weeks. Try these changes:
- Order pizza “light on the cheese” and add extra vegetables, sundried tomatoes, or olives to boost the flavor.
- Add slices of avocado or sunflower seeds to salad, and use vinaigrette in place of creamy dressing.
Eat the right proteins
Plant proteins, such as beans, nuts, and tofu provide fiber and phytochemicals that ward off disease. Added bonus—getting most of your protein from plants makes it easy to limit your intake of cholesterol (which is only found in animal foods). Here are some tips for adding more plant-protein into your diet:
- Choose bean entrees such as hummus, falafel, bean chili, or bean burritos. Check out these low-cost high protein bean dishes.
- Try Asian dishes with tofu, cashews, or peanuts as the “meat”.
- Make nut butter sandwiches for lunch. Not only are they much healthier than processed deli meats, but the healthy fats help control blood sugar and will keep you feeling satisfied.
Eat more produce
Last but not least, the old adage to eat more fruits and vegetables holds true; and it’s something that all nutrition experts can agree on! Aim for at least 5 servings per day, and try to incorporate a different color of the rainbow everyday.
Remember to stay clear of anything that promises you quick and permanent weight loss that sounds too good to be true! Instead work on building healthy habits one step at a time.