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Plan Your Pantry for a Diabetes-Friendly Kitchen

One trick to eating healthier is keeping healthier choices around — how simple is that? The truth is that even the most detailed plans, including your menu, need to be adjusted sometimes, even if it’s only because you don’t feel like preparing what’s on today’s plan.

You can fight the urge to hit the fast-food drive-through and whip up a convenient and healthy breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack if you keep the right foods handy. Your list of healthy items to keep on hand should include all six food groups.

Grains and starchy vegetables

Grains and starchy vegetables are excellent sources of carbohydrate and fiber. Keep 100 percent whole wheat or rye bread, low-carbohydrate/high-fiber tortillas, and whole grain crackers around for sandwiches, rollups, or spreads.

Whole grain pasta, brown rice, and potatoes or sweet potatoes are common staple starches, and consider trying quinoa, a whole grain that includes protein. Whole grain dry cereal or oatmeal make a super breakfast, and for healthy snacking keep some low-fat popcorn or baked chips around, but watch your portion sizes.

Some fresh starchy vegetables keep well — potatoes, sweet potatoes, and hard-shell squashes are good examples — and frozen peas or corn can be ready for the table in a jiffy.

Nonstarchy veggies

Nonstarchy vegetables are the foundation for healthy eating and should occupy half of your plate. Again, fresh, frozen, or canned are equally good for you, but watch for added fat and especially sodium.

Frozen or canned vegetables like green beans, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and stir fry mixtures can be scooped up when on sale so you always have a selection ready at a moment’s notice. Always keep salad greens on hand for a quick and healthy meal and for some fun with your salad spinner.

Fruits

Fruits are the healthiest way to enjoy sweetness, and fresh, frozen, or canned are equally nutritious as long as there is no added sugar. Keeping fresh fruit in plain sight can go a long way toward changing your snacking habits for the better.

Just remember, all fruit includes carbohydrate, and the 15-carbohydrate-gram portion size varies somewhat from fruit to fruit. The portion size for dried fruit like raisins is only two tablespoons, for instance.

Healthy proteins

Healthy protein choices should include canned tuna or salmon (canned in water), peanut or almond butter, low-fat cheeses and cottage cheese, eggs or egg substitute, tofu or other meat substitutes like tempeh, frozen fish fillets (not breaded), and low-fat meats and ground meats like 96 percent lean ground beef, ground turkey, pork tenderloin, and beef filet or flank steak.

Low-fat dairy

Low-fat dairy products would include 1 percent or skim milk, and no-fat regular or Greek yogurt. Remember that milk products include carbohydrate, and adding fruit to yogurt increases the carb content.

Healthy fats

Healthy fats are an important part of a healthy diet, protecting your organs, insulating nerves, transporting some vitamins, and forming cell membranes. Healthy fats include healthy oils like olive and canola oil, vegetable nonstick cooking spray, low-fat salad dressings, spray or tub margarines, nuts, and avocados. The objective is to limit saturated fats and to avoid trans fat. You can find that information on the nutrition facts label.

Spices and seasonings

Spices and seasonings are not a food group, but using a variety of flavorings not only enhances your eating pleasure, but also can help you avoid adding salt. Garlic and garlic powder, onions and onion powder, cinnamon, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cumin and chili powder, vinegars, and low-sodium broths can all add pizzazz to your food.

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