Diabetes Cookbook For Dummies
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Planning what you eat, your activity level, and the amount of food you eat are all powerful steps to improving your health. Managing diabetes means prioritizing your health and the way that you feel. Choosing the best foods and discovering how to combine them is key to achieving the best, most delicious, enjoyable, and sustainable diet.

How a healthy lifestyle can prevent, reverse, and manage diabetes

Evidence shows you can live better with diabetes by following certain lifestyle measures. Preventing, managing, and even reversing diabetes is possible with positive and beneficial changes. Here are lifestyle measures you can take:

  • Control blood glucose with whole grains and low glycemic index (GI) foods combined with healthful fats and proteins at each meal.
  • Make sure that each of your meals contains all three macronutrients in their best forms — a portion of a complex carbohydrate, a healthy fat, and a lean protein.
  • Take control of your health. Accept that living your best life is ultimately your responsibility and that you can make changes that will help you.
  • Get regular exercise that you enjoy daily
  • Take up a sport or active hobby such as gardening that you can do with friends or family.
  • Enjoy the outdoors.
  • If you have the opportunity to measure your blood glucose either continuously or intermittently, you can identify which foods give you the best control over your blood glucose.
  • Get good quality sleep and naps. They’ve been shown to benefit physical and mental health including a healthy gut microbiome and an improved glucose profile during the day.
  • Practice mindfulness and tend to your emotional and psychological health. Poor mental health, stress, and anxiety cause you to want to eat more and eat less nutritious foods.
  • Be part of a community and socialization. This includes having supportive people in your life to help your mental and physical health as well as your dietary habits. Those close to you can provide you with valuable support to meet your goals in diabetes control.
  • Adopt a positive outlook on life. Practice gratitude and focus on the good. Feeling balanced in your life will help you to regulate unhealthy cravings and support great choices in what and when you eat.

If you can’t do these items, consider enlisting help: a nutrition professional to help you determine which foods to eat and when, a health coach to keep you on track with goals, a positive confidant to provide moral support, and/or an exercise buddy to get the physical activity that you need.

Choose the best foods for your best nutrition

Selecting the best ingredients keeps you healthy, optimizes your blood glucose control, and protects you from complications of diabetes.

You can consider the following general principles when shopping or eating out:

  • Choose natural foods and build your meals from legumes, vegetable and wholegrains.
  • Stick to low GI carbohydrates, high quality proteins especially from plant sources, and healthy fats.
  • Buy organic or locally grown foods when you can from producers you trust to take care of the environment.
  • Keep a copy of the Mediterranean diet or other Heritage diet pyramid in the kitchen to remind you what should fill your cupboards and refrigerator.
  • Explore new plant food flavors including bitterness and pepperiness.
  • Eat a rainbow. Remember that colorful fruits and vegetables often contain bioactive compounds that may have beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Look for added sugar or artificial sweeteners in foods. Either may have an adverse effect on your blood glucose, weight, and gut microbiome.
  • Avoid processed foods and foods that contain lists of ingredients that include preservatives, artificial flavorings, and stabilizers.
  • Limit or remove processed meats from your diet, especially those with preservatives such as sodium nitrite.
  • Feed your trillions of gut microbes with healthy pre- and probiotic foods.
  • Use extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) for preparing, cooking, and finishing.
  • Add herbs and spices to meals, and snack on unsalted nuts and seeds every day.

Living with diabetes: how to improve eating habits

You can take simple steps to improve your eating habits for healthier living with diabetes. Follow these simple tips to make a difference in your health:

  • Make lists of healthful foods in each food category (vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, lean poultry, dairy, fish, herbs, and spices).
  • From these lists, decide which foods that you like in each category.
  • Make a separate list with all the healthful foods that you enjoy eating and base your meals around them.
  • Keep a food diary.
  • Figure out why you eat the way that you do and what you want to change.
  • Avoid missing a meal; eat at regular times.
  • Eat with others as often as possible
  • Sit down for meals, pause before eating, and decide to eat slowly and enjoy the food.
  • Use water in place of caloric drinks.
  • Include various vegetables in all meals and try to eat multicolored vegetables throughout the day.
  • Adopt good quality EVOO as your fat of choice and use vinegar or lemon juice with it for salad dressings
  •  Don’t add salt to packaged, prepared, and processed foods
  • Add a tiny amount, if needed, of unrefined sea salt to homecooked foods or use fresh baby dill for a salty flavor.
  • Flavor with large amounts of fresh herbs and spices.
  • Use the best quality ingredients that you can find and try to eat as much fresh food as possible.
  • Be sure to enjoy a serving of beans or legumes every day.
  • If you’re not a vegetarian, try eating fresh fish a few times a week.
  • Avoid packaged, processed, and fast food as much as possible.
  • Follow portion sizes. To determine the size of a portion, compare it to something you see regularly. For example:
    • Three ounces of meat is the size of a deck of cards.
    • A medium fruit is the size of a tennis ball.
    • A medium potato is the size of a computer mouse.
    • A medium bagel is the size of a hockey puck.
    • An ounce of cheese is the size of a domino.
    • A cup of fruit is the size of a baseball.
    • A cup of broccoli is the size of a light bulb.

Essential Pantry Items to Keep on Hand

You can set yourself up for success by having the following items in your pantry. Pantries aren’t just storage space for things that you purchase in bulk. Up until a century ago, kitchens all over the world required pantries in order to be able to provide balanced meals on a daily basis. Nowadays, a good pantry can set you up for cooking flavorful and nutritious meals in less time than it takes to order takeout.

Here are some essentials:

  • Cereals, pastas, and grains:
    • Whole-wheat pasta (various shapes) preferably slow-dried
    • Brown rice — short, medium, and basmati
    • Barley
    • Wheat berries
    • Quinoa
    • Millet
    • Pearl couscous and smaller grain couscous
    • Stone-cut oatmeal
    • Farro
  • Beans and legumes:
    • Dried and/or no-sodium-added canned chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, and your favorites
    • Lentils of all varieties: red, green, brown, and black
  • Nuts, dried fruit, and seeds:
    • Unsalted almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, pine nuts
    • Seeds: Sesame, chia, flax
    • Dried fruit: dates, raisins, unsweetened dried apricots, cherries, and cranberries
  • Condiments and flavor enhancers:
    • Extra-virgin olive oil — the freshest and best quality you can find
    • Unrefined coconut oil, if desired
    • Low-sodium tamari
    • No-sugar-added mustards
    • Spices such as allspice, anise seeds, black pepper, caraway seeds, cilantro, pure Ceylon cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seeds, ground ginger, green cardamom pods, herbes de Provence, marjoram, mint, nutmeg, oregano, paprika, peppercorns, red pepper, saffron, sage, sumac, tarragon, thyme, turmeric, unrefined sea salt, za’atar
  • Drinks:
    • Coffee
    • Teas
    • Tisanes (herbal teas)
  • Canned and jarred goods: Buy fresh, seasonal vegetables when possible. Frozen vegetables are also good to keep on hand. That said, stocking up on shelf-stable items to carry you through times that shopping isn’t possible is important. Rinse and drain these well before eating and add additional extra-virgin olive oil, herbs, and spices to your taste.
    • Canned or jarred tuna in water
    • Sardines
    • Olives
    • Artichokes
    • Roasted Red peppers
    • No-sodium-added jarred vegetables of your choice
  • Baking ingredients:
    • Flours: almond, whole wheat, barley, cornmeal
    • Leaveners: baking powder, baking soda, dried yeast
    • Raw honey
    • Almond, soy, or rice milk
    • Raw cane sugar
    • Vanilla extract

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Dr. Simon Poole is a medical doctor, author, speaker, and consultant. Simon cares for and treats patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes from diagnosis onwards.

Amy Riolo is an award-winning author, chef, television personality, food historian, and culinary anthropologist. She is known for simplifying recipes for the home cook. She leads culinary tours in Italy, is the co-founder of A.N.I.T.A. (National Italian Academy of Food Traditions), and has her own line of private-label Italian products.

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