12 Dietary Tips to Help Prevent and Manage Diabetes
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

12 Dietary Tips to Help Prevent and Manage Diabetes

It’s National Diabetes Awareness Month. We celebrate every November to spread knowledge and resources about this serious disease. Because diabetes prevention and management is so closely linked with what we eat, the tips below are great for everyone: those who have no risk of diabetes, those at risk, those with prediabetes, and those with diabetes.

  1. Gradually, over several weeks, substitute less healthy foods for healthier items during regular meals. For instance, replace soda with seltzer, sports drinks with diluted fruit juice (1/4 juice to 3/4 water or seltzer), and sugary coffee drinks with unsweetened ones.
  2. Substitute fruit for sweets or snacks. The sugar in fruit is balanced by fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels. Fruit also includes a lot of water, which is good for hydration and leaves you feeling satisfied.
  3. Focus on fiber. Beans, nuts, fruits and veggies (with skins, like apples), and whole grains are great sources of sugar-neutralizing fiber.
  4. Add protein and fat to carbohydrates. Protein and fat slow the breakdown of food, which helps regulate blood sugar. For instance, if you are going to have an English muffin for breakfast, make it a whole grain or multi-grain one and enjoy it with a tablespoon of peanut butter.
  5. Keep healthy non-perishable foods on hand, including dried or canned beans, canned tomatoes, peanut butter, canned meat and fish (like chicken and tuna), seed crackers, nuts and seeds, frozen berries, frozen vegetables, whole grains, canned mushrooms, whole grain or high-protein pasta, olive oil, and dark chocolate. Learning to combine these foods into meals is a worthwhile challenge.
  6. Especially when you can’t choose whole unprocessed foods, read food labels. Know how much total added sugar, sodium, and fiber are in the foods you are eating. Look to the percentage of your daily recommended value for an understanding of how many servings of the food or others like it you can afford to eat each day.
  7. Work salads into your meal routine. A salad with chicken or fish, plenty of vegetables, and olive oil dressing is a healthy and delicious meal.
  8. Embrace spices, vinegars, and vegetables for flavor. Onions, garlic, ginger, and grated carrot can be swapped in for salt, sugar, and cheese.
  9. Watch portions of high-carb foods, especially rice, pasta, oatmeal, grits, bread, tortillas, dinner rolls, crackers, potatoes or sweet potatoes, fruit, and milk. Speak with a diabetes educator or nutritionist for the portion sizes that are best for you and measure to be sure you are not getting too much at a time. 
  10. Avoid fried foods. Instead roast, broil, grill, steam, or bake. This will help manage weight. Being overweight is a primary risk factor for diabetes.
  11. Don’t skip meals. When you eat regularly, your body can use the fuel more efficiently.
  12. Make and savor special foods for special occasions.

Slowly learning these tips and incorporating them into your routine will help you improve your health, whether you are trying to prevent or manage diabetes or you just want to live a long and healthy life. If you need help or would appreciate support, ask your primary care provider for resources. You may be able to see a registered dietitian or certified diabetes educator at no cost to you.

Jill Robart, RN, CDE, is a certified diabetes educator and nurse at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care in Bennington. She sees patients at SVMC Internal Medicine, SVMC Northshire Campus, and SVMC Deerfield Valley Campus.

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