Dieting For Diabetics
by: Marcela De Vivo
Wondering what to do now that you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes? Doctors usually drone on through a slew of lifestyle changes, including giving up your favorite foods (no!) and incorporating more exercise (the horror!). Instead of thinking of this as a massive overhaul, however, start adding in little changes to help manage diabetes. Studies have shown that people are more likely to stick to a new diet and exercise plan if it is incorporated gradually, through small and simple changes to what you eat everyday.
As someone who has a special needs member of the family, I understand how restricted diets can be a pain. A picky eater is doubly difficult to cook for when I have to consider all the dietary needs my son has in regards to his condition. But after cooking for him for several years, I’ve picked up a few tricks and have some of suggestions could really work well to help you manage your diabetes and weight loss with a minimum of lifestyle changes.
First off, the big “E” word. Exercise is key if you want to manage and lose weight safely with diabetes. You don’t need to start heavy weightlifting like the Terminator, or try insane high intensity interval workouts in order to reap the benefits of exercise. Simply walking when you “run” your errands actually accomplishes much of your daily exercise requirement.
And the added bonus of all that walking? You can save a lot on gas by doing all your trips to the grocery store or drugstore on foot. And you won’t be able to buy nearly as much as you have to schlep it back on your back—a half gallon of ice cream becomes much less tempting when you consider how heavy it is after a mile and how melt-y it is once you get it back to the house a half-hour later.
Dietary changes can be a little more challenging. Giving up favorite carb- and sugar- laden comfort foods can seem nearly impossible, especially if you’re under stress. However, becoming someone who pays attention to macronutrients and how many versions of sugar (glucose, fructose, sucrose, HCFS, dextrose, corn syrup, refiner’s syrup, the list goes on and on) appear in your food is a good place to start.
You may have to give up those tempting goodies for something a little healthier, but you just might start fitting into jeans that haven’t seen the light of day in the last decade.
However, it isn’t all deprivation. While watching sugar, carb and sodium content of snacks and meals will become important, there are an array of satisfying substitutes for old favorites, or ways to improve on the original versions. Nuts come in wide variety of flavors now—you can get cocoa covered almonds if you’re jonesing for a chocolate fix. Nut clusters are also amazing—sugary, salty, crunchy, and absolutely fantastic.
While cucumber slices will never replace tortilla chips, dip them in enough guacamole and anyone (ok, most people) can overlook their lack of carb-y-ness. Mini-cheeses are adorable and great as a snack on the run.
I’ve also seen benefits in food pairing when it comes to a “cheat” moment. If you are going to eat something that will cause your blood sugar to soar (like some fruits and all desserts), make it a point to combine it with some fat and protein to slow down the absorption of the sugar. Apple slices with peanut butter is actually pretty delicious (and addicting—I do not recommend eating straight from the jar unless you have better self control than I do). Dried fruit brings the flavor to some unsweetened, plain Greek yogurt for breakfast.
Try to focus on what you can eat. Substitutions are much easier than they were in the past, what with the low-carb craze and the rise in popularity of paleo-friendly diets out there. Spaghetti squash with turkey meat sauce? Yes, please! Losing weight on a healthy, diabetic-friendly diet has never been more delicious.
Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area who has written on everything from marketing, technology, and real estate, as well as a variety of health and wellness topics. She’s learned so much from her son and loves sharing that knowledge with others.