One Powerful Word - Planning

In early 2013 Wiley Publishing invited me to author Diabetes Nutrition and Meal Planning for Dummies. I quickly agreed, but I had one immediate request – put “Meal Planning” before “Nutrition” in the title (and we did). For a registered dietitian to suggest that meal planning is somehow more important than nutrition might seem odd to you, but there’s a simple explanation. Diabetes nutrition is what you need to know, but planning is necessary to put what you know about diabetes nutrition into practice.

I don’t use the word necessary lightly – it’s all about making wise decisions without distraction, and virtually nothing is more distracting than food. And, it’s not just food itself that’s distracting, but also pictures of food, the smell of food, or even thinking about food. Actually, distracting is too mild a word – overwhelming may be closer to correct. Food can overwhelm our ability to make responsible nutrition-related decisions because food stimulates intense emotional and biological responses that we don’t fully control, or even recognize.

The full explanation of the many ways food can have a subconscious influence on our eating decisions is too complex to explain here. The bottom line, however, is that it can be extremely difficult to make responsible decisions about food when you are standing face to face with food, like in a grocery store or restaurant.

If you want to eat healthier, try this. First, spend quiet time planning every meal for a full week, doing the carbohydrate “math.” Plan wonderful, diabetes-friendly meals. Plan the side dishes too, and plan for whatever snacks and drinks fit into your diabetes meal plan – your plan should be specific. Second, make your grocery list, and only buy what’s on your list – no grazing. Lastly, simply stick to that plan for the week.

The secret is making your eating decisions without being influenced by food – how it looks, how it smells, what memories it triggers, whether it’s on sale, or how advertisers depict your wonderful life with their food product. Give planning a chance to work for you, and you’ll see why I wrote Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies instead of the opposite.

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