Diabetes keeps you on your toes 24/7. If you ignore your condition, you can end up facing severe consequences, such as diabetic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, and kidney damage — all potential complications if you don’t control your blood sugar.
So, when your body doesn’t regulate the sugar in your blood, you have to do it yourself, and that means regulating your diet.
At Millennium Park Medical Associates in The Loop and Lakeview communities of Chicago, Illinois, Dr. Farah Khan and our team treat and support folks living with diabetes through blood-glucose monitoring, medications, and insulin injections when necessary. But the best thing you can do for yourself is adjust your diet and exercise.
We come alongside you throughout your diabetes journey, teaching you appropriate exercises, helping you lose weight, if needed, and explaining the nutritional essentials you need to know to keep your diabetes under control. If you’re ready to overhaul your meals, here are some important changes you can make right now.
Cut back on carbs
Carbohydrates come in a few different forms, and it’s the refined carbs that cause most of the problems when you’re diabetic. These high-carb, low-nutrient menaces quickly raise your blood sugar and, of course, may lead to weight gain.
Refined carbs are found in white pasta, white bread, and white rice. If you eat these foods, opt for whole-grain versions instead. Fruit juices also contain a lot of carbs, so don’t be fooled into thinking the juice of fruit must be healthy; most are mostly sugar. And speaking of sugar, steer clear of the obvious culprits: candy, soda, pastries, etc.
Practicing portion control is one of the greatest skills to acquire as you work toward controlling your diabetes symptoms and losing weight. Studies show that you can lower your A1C level (which shows long-term blood sugar control) by losing just 5-10% of your body weight. Limiting the size of your portions automatically reduces the number of calories you eat and also supports more stable blood sugar levels.
Eat the right kinds of fats
Although everyone trying to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight should monitor the amount of fat in their diet, when you have diabetes, it’s also important to pay attention to the type of fat in your diet. Eat more unsaturated fats than saturated, and avoid trans fats completely
Examples of foods with healthy unsaturated fats include:
- Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive and flaxseed oils
Examples of foods that contain saturated fats are:
- Coconut oil
- Poultry skin
- Cheese, cream, whole milk
Trans fats are found in shortening, margarine, bakery items, and some snack foods, such as crackers.
Eat more nutrient-dense foods
Not all foods are created equal; some have more nutrients than others. Your body needs a full spectrum of foods to get all the nutrients it needs, and if you fill it with empty junk food, you’ll gain weight but actually be malnourished.
Nutrient-dense foods are packed with vitamins and minerals, and the richest ones include:
- Lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, and lean, grass-fed beef
- Fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Seeds and nuts
- Unsweetened yogurt
- Beans and lentils
But remember, that even though these foods are nutrient-rich, they also contain calories, and some contain carbs, so moderation is key. Dr. Khan can advise you about which foods to get more of, and which to eat in moderation.
We also help you with meal planning so you can learn to make daily changes that fit with your tastes and lifestyle. One approach to dietary changes for diabetes is to adopt the Mediterranean diet.
This is not a diet per se, but more of an eating style. People who live in Mediterranean countries tend to eat plenty of fruits and veggies, choose poultry and fish as their main protein, rarely eat red meat, and don’t consume a lot of sugar, processed foods, or refined oils. So take a cue from those who enjoy Mediterranean-type fare, and you’ll never feel like you’re on a diet at all.
To discover more ways to manage your diabetes symptoms, schedule an appointment with Dr. Khan today. Either call our friendly staff or book online at your convenience. We’ll help you start eating in a way that naturally keeps your blood sugar stable.