Diabetes: Eating Right (Part 1)
Whether you have Type 1, Type 2 or Gestational Diabetes, the key to staying healthy is to eat right. Everyone knows that having diabetes means watching your carbohydrates (carbs). What most don’t know is that your body absolutely needs some carbs; you simply need to monitor the amount you have and how often you have them. When you have diabetes, you either don’t produce enough insulin, are insulin resistant or both. Insulin is what carries the sugar in your blood to the parts of your body that then turn it into energy. Without insulin, the sugar builds up in your blood; hence the phrase high blood sugar. High blood sugar can lead to all kinds of complications (that we will talk about later). It’s necessary to know all this so that you understand exactly how important it is to eat right when you have diabetes.
When you are first getting started, the easiest way to monitor your carb intake is to avoid “white” foods. “White” foods would be pasta, rice, potatoes and bread. I’m not saying don’t eat them at all; I’m saying you need to limit them. There are also substitutions you can make for all of these foods. Here are a few to get you started:
For pasta, try using wheat pasta. If you don’t like that (my husband hates it), Dreamfields makes a low-carb pasta that tastes just like regular pasta. It’s a bit more expensive, but your health is certainly worth the price. Another option for spaghetti is to use spaghetti squash. I promise, even if you don’t like squash, you will like this. It works, I swear! (I like it best with a little olive oil and parmesan cheese – yummy!)
For bread you have many choices. First, use wheat or whole grain bread, not white. You can also buy low-carb bread. Personally, I like the slender bagels sold in my local grocery store. The white are 20 carbs, while the wheat are only 17; they make great sandwiches, although I prefer them with cream cheese. Another option is to use pita bread or tortillas, both of which are lower in carbs than regular bread. They even have a low-carb wheat tortilla which is terrific for wraps. (Hint – anything you can put on a sandwich, you can make into a wrap.)
Rice is a bit trickier. Most of us use long grain rice, which turns out to be not so good for diabetics. Instead, use brown rice or wild rice. The only trouble with these is the amount of time they take to cook (up to an hour), but they are delicious options. Also, once you start keeping track of what causes your blood sugar to rise, you may find that certain types of rice work fine for you. My husband has little trouble using the quick cooking rice, while white and brown both spike his blood sugar. Experiment and see which works best for you.
Potatoes are a favorite of just about everyone, but they can be a big no-no for diabetics. The trick with potatoes is to use the right kind and to have them in small portions. Most people buy russet potatoes because they are easily found and fairly cheap. They are also high in starch (carbs) and low in moisture, which makes them great for baking, frying and boiling. However, a better option would be red potatoes, Yukon gold potatoes or even fingerling potatoes, all of which are low in starch (carbs) and high in moisture. They are perfect for roasting and making potato salad. You can also boil them for mashed potatoes. Choose these potatoes and don’t eat more than 1/2 to 3/4 cup per serving and you will be good to go. For mashed potatoes, try using cauliflower instead. If you don’t like that, try using half potatoes and half cauliflower. I find the half and half recipe works best; especially if you are doing something like twice baked potatoes or fully loaded mashed potatoes (use low-fat cheese and low-fat sour cream, along with salt, pepper, butter and bacon crumbles – delicious!).
Eating a healthy diabetic diet isn’t as hard as you think. Start with small changes, like avoiding so many “white” foods, and you will soon see a change. It’s easier than you think! Here is one of my favorite potato recipes. Be sure to try them and let me know how you like them!
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