You don't have to give up all of your comfort foods.
If you've been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, it's likely you feel a little scared about your health; wondering what you have to change to get your body back in order. There's good news: You don't have to give up your favorite foods completely, and paying careful attention to what you eat (and when) could be the key to stopping the disease's progression. Experts shared their best tips to overhauling your diet in a painless way, so you can reclaim control of your health once and for all.
It's no secret that these beverages can spike your blood sugar, says , M.D., an endocrinologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “Even a small glass of orange juice in the morning can set a patient up for sugar cravings the whole day," she says. To get a sweet fruit fix, try using a instead.
Avoid high-fat proteins like beef, lamb, or pork, along with processed, salty meats (yes, that means bacon), says , M.D., an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic. The best proteins are lean or plant-based, so skinless chicken breast, lean turkey, fish, low-fat dairy, tofu, and eggs are all great options.
Why do you need protein? “[It] can fill you up and help you cut back on overeating,” adds Kayla Jaeckel, M.S., R.D., a certified diabetes educator for . Just be careful not to overdo it — a portion that's about the size of a deck of cards is your goal.
We know it's hard, but all refined carbs have two things in common: They're white and high in sugar. White bread, rice, potatoes, and pasta can trigger an insulin rush that in turn causes weight gain and future carb cravings, Dr. Rettinger says. Opt for whole grains instead, such as brown rice, quinoa, farro, and whole-wheat pasta, Jaeckel says.
You can be mindful about what you eat without cutting out entire food groups, Jaeckel says. Yes, will net impressive results within just a few months, "but most people can't maintain this in the long-term and will go back to their old eating patterns as soon as it's over," Dr. Rettinger says. "A diet should be based on foods you like, foods you can afford, and food prep that's reasonable to you."
That doesn't mean you have to stick to dinner salads night after night (though we won't lie — those ingredients are great to fill up on). You can also eat broccoli, eggplant, peppers, onions, artichoke hearts, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts. As for the rest of your plate, fill a quarter of it with complex carbs (quinoa, farro, brown rice, etc.), and the last section with lean protein.
Even if breakfast isn't typically your thing, it's a smart idea to begin your day with a morning meal, Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis says. It'll help keep your blood sugar stable, as will eating consistently throughout the day. Plus, noshing on the regular means you're less likely to get "hangry" and give in to a binge-fest.
Nuts contain fiber and protein, both of which help with satiety, and they're a heart-healthy source of fat. Pro tip: Buy a in bulk, then bag 100-calorie portions of almonds that you can easily grab for on-the-go snacks, Dr. Rettinger suggests. You'll also want to steer clear of store-bought trail mix, as it's typically packed with sugary dried fruit and candy.
Reviewing menus before your meal (you know, when you’re not feeling ravenous) will help you commit to a healthier option in advance, Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis says. Of course, making food at home is still your healthiest option. Cooking means you'll know which ingredients are included, how they're prepped (with or without butter and salt, for example), and you can control the portions.
"Post-meal workouts will help to bring down your blood glucose levels,” Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis says. The best part: They don't have to be that long. , M.S., a registered dietician with UCHealth, says you should aim for 90 to 120 minutes of dedicated exercise each week, which breaks down to just 15 to 20 minutes a day. "Regular exercise improves insulin resistance, and having more muscle means a faster metabolism," she adds.
Writing in a or using a tracking app will help you identify which foods affect your blood sugar levels, as everyone's responses are different, Dr. Vouyiouklis Kellis says. You’ll only know what works for you —and what doesn’t — if you pay attention, Peters adds.
We know, we know: Who has time for that?! But eating slowly, chewing thoroughly, and ignoring all distractions makes it less likely that you'll overeat, Peters says. Try setting a timer or blocking out your calendar so you can sit down and really savor a meal.
Eating healthy and managing your condition are two big endeavors, so there's no need to take them on solo. “Get a support system in place,” Jaeckel recommends. Friends and family can help, as can experts. "Reach out to your doctor or endocrinologist, or ask for a referral to a dietitian or diabetes educator for helpful advice and tips," she adds. After all, they want to see you feeling your best, too.