World Diabetes Day: The way people with diabetes eat can improve their health
The boom of cooking programs on television has awakened the inner master chef of many people in the world. With our pre-COVID busy lives, we often turned to convenient and easy meals and did not have the energy nor time to get too creative in the kitchen. Nowadays, many people are working remotely or more flexible hours and now, more than ever, we may find ourselves with a little bit of extra time at home to try prepare new foods as well as to ensure we make them as healthy as possible. This has especially benefited people with diabetes who often have mostly unhealthy food options to choose from when out at the office or on the road. Let us not forget those tempting but oh-so-unhealthy snacks at the office canteen. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), more than 463 million people have diabetes around the world1. Research indicates that a majority of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented through healthy eating and regular physical activity1. A healthy eating plan includes the following2:
- Emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and skim or skim milk and dairy products
- A variety of protein foods such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, nuts and seeds.
- Low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars
- It stays within the daily calorie requirement
Preparing your food at home can allow you to choose healthier options and limit treats and indulgent foods to special occasions. Of course, this is a learning process and a journey so do not feel like you have to do everything all at once. When trying to cook healthier at home, some food categories are true allies. A great example is dietary fiber - found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. In people with diabetes, fiber — particularly soluble fiber — can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels3. Be sure to include, for example, source of fiber like oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits, carrots, barley and physlum when preparing meals.
Another good tip to follow is food portioning. Make sure you are not eating too much and ask your Healthcare Professional for a portion size guide or feel free to make use of our Carb Counting booklet, which can be found under Educational Content. In the Carb Counting booklet, you will find easy ways to estimate the correct portion sizes using your hand as well as many other valuable tips around healthy eating. Remember, there is no need to give up your favorite foods either – talk to your healthcare team regarding their recommendations as occasional treats in moderation may be fine.
There is not one meal plan that will work for everyone with diabetes. The best approach is to seek the guidance of a diabetes educator and/ or nutritionist to learn how to prepare practical, tasty, balanced dishes that work best for you, your lifestyle and your diabetes management. The ability to cook healthy meals as regularly as possible with good nutritional quality is vital to your health and wellness. Eating well is an important step in self-care but aim for progress, rather than perfection. Life happens and we need to allow ourselves a little flexibility. For example, set a goal of cooking at least two to three dinners at home each week and then gradually work your way up. Every step you take toward improving your health is worth it! When you do have a bad day, do not beat yourself up – you are always only a meal away from a healthy choice!
- Type 2 diabetes [Internet]. International Diabetes Federation. 2020 Oct 16 [cited 2021 Nov 08]. Available from: https://www.idf.org/aboutdiabetes/type-2-diabetes.html
- Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). April 19, 2021 [cited 2021 Nov 10]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html
- Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet [Internet]. Mayo Clinic. 2021 Jan 06 [cited 2021 Nov 08]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eatin...