Happy New Year! For many, especially those living with diabetes, that may mean setting New Year’s resolutions focused around food, weight, and health. Are you taking a closer look at your diabetes management plan and eating habits? If so, consult with your health care team about the guidelines that best fit your diabetes and nutrition needs, and then consider these six small steps toward healthier eating in the New Year:
1. Focus first on total carbohydrate (carbs).
While there are many nutrients you can track, I generally advise clients to focus first on total carbs as an effective means to help manage blood glucose. Trying to keep carbs consistent from meal to meal and day to day, as much as you can may help even out blood glucose. Your healthcare team may help you set a target carb goal for each meal.
2. Get in touch with the foods that you eat.
It’s not necessary to know about everything in the grocery store – the key is to know about your favorite foods. Through years of reviewing clients’ food diaries, I’ve found that people commonly have about three typical breakfast meals, five types of lunches, and ten dinners, often incorporating similar core foods from week to week. If you know what you like, try to compile a list of items you frequently eat and drink. Then, explore the carbs, calories, and other nutrients (as your healthcare team may recommend) in the portions you consume using the following tools:
- Check out and compare food labels.
- Search free online food databases for nutrition information (such as CalorieKing1).
- Consult food tracking apps.
You may be surprised by what you learn and inspired to make different choices!
3. Make “moderation not deprivation” your mantra.
Food is a pleasurable part of life, and most foods can fit in a healthy diabetes meal plan (which is different than what one might have heard twenty years ago). To control carbs, the key is how often and what portion size. For example:
- Craving something sweet? Enjoy a couple of bites of dessert – just remember to include it in your carb count. One idea: try a “fun-size” chocolate bar in place of a “full-size.”
- Enjoy bagels at breakfast? Downsize from a 4 ½- inch large bagel to a smaller 3-inch version, remembering to account for how these carbs may fit into your daily totals.
4. Ask the tough question – “Is it worth the carbohydrate (or calories)?”
Although most foods can fit into your meal plan, try getting into the habit of asking yourself if a food, beverage, or portion size is actually worth the total carbs (or calories). If the answer is yes, then enjoy, and include it into your carbohydrate count. Here are a few examples:
- Fresh baked roll at your favorite restaurant? Yes, worth every carb and calorie!
- Pre-meal cracker basket? Pass, save carbs for something more tasty.
5. Do a periodic portion check.
Get in the habit of checking your portions, especially of commonly consumed carbohydrate-rich foods. Doing so helps to stay in touch with the portions you eat and prevent portion creep over time. After all, as portion sizes creep up, so do the associated carbohydrate, calories, and other nutrients. Start by checking portions one or two days a week. Once you’re feeling pretty practiced, help maintain focus with routine monthly checks (such as on the first day of the month). Many of my clients even schedule this on their calendars. Some tips to get started:
- Use a quarter- or half-cup measure to serve your food rather than a spoon.
- Determine which size measuring cup your fist equals, then use your fist to help gauge portions when you don’t have a measuring cup handy.
6. If weight management is a goal, check out calories and cut when you can.
Trimming just 100 calories a day may help you lose ten pounds over the course of a year. Simple switches to save even small amounts of calories include:
- Eat a small orange instead of drinking twelve ounces of orange juice.
- Dip peeled cucumber slices, rather than tortilla chips, in salsa.
Slow and steady behavior change is my favorite approach for helping to manage diabetes. If your diabetes plan is due for a tune-up, schedule a meeting with your diabetes care team about a plan and goals that may be best for you. Is it time for a new you?
Tami A. Ross, RD, LD, CDE* is the president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the author of What Do I Eat Now? A Step-by-Step Guide to Eating Right with Type 2 Diabetes and Diabetes Meals on $7 A Day – Or Less! Ross is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
1CalorieKing is a registered trademark of CalorieKing Wellness Solutions, Inc.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience