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How does eating healthy help manage my diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition affecting your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar (glucose), which enters your body through the food you eat and drink. The body creates insulin to turn that glucose into energy. When you have diabetes, your body either does not produce insulin, or your body makes insulin, but not enough or does not use it well. In both cases, glucose collects in your body and causes serious health problems.

A healthy meal plan can help you control your glucose levels and prevent health complications. Proper nutrition can also lower high blood pressure, prevent organ damage and help you lose weight, which reduces your A1C levels and minimizes strain on the body. 

 

What are the best healthy food options for my diabetes?

Following a healthy eating plan is essential for people with diabetes. Good food choices include minimally processed foods and those low in sugar. Foods packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can provide additional health benefits. 

  • Beans have carbohydrates, fiber and protein.
  • Berries have essential vitamins and minerals and can help curb cravings for processed sugar. 
  • Dark green leafy vegetables have fewer calories and carbohydrates and high levels of iron and calcium.
  • Fish is high in the healthy fats that promote heart health.
  • Nuts have fiber and healthy fats and help keep you full longer.

The plate method ensures you are getting the right portion of healthy foods. How it works: 

  • Divide your meal plate into sections that each contain certain food groups. 
  • Half your plate should have non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli, asparagus or carrots. One-quarter of the plate should have grains, like brown rice. 
  • The final quarter of the plate should have lean protein.

Which foods should I limit or avoid? 

Patients with diabetes often risk developing heart disease. Foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol can stress the heart and increase your risk of stroke. To maintain a healthy diet, patients with diabetes should avoid the following foods or not eat them at all:

  • Fried foods
  • Pasta and bread made with white flour
  • Processed foods with added sugar, including cakes, cookies and donuts
  • Saturated fats and cholesterol (found in high-fat dairy products and processed meats)

Should I count carbohydrates?

Your body converts the carbohydrates you eat into sugar, which can cause glucose levels to spike. Counting carbohydrates helps manage blood glucose and insulin to avoid a dangerous spike. 

Food and drinks have carbohydrates. Avoid sugary sodas and fruit juices. Even salad dressings, condiments and other sauces can include sugar. So, make it a habit to read nutrition labels and choose lower-sugar options. Your primary care physician (PCP) or a diabetes care and education specialist will teach you to count carbohydrates and tailor a healthy eating plan to your needs.

 

Can I eat out at restaurants?

You can eat at a restaurant and still make healthy food choices. Follow these tips when dining out.

  • When your meal arrives, ask for a to-go box and put a portion in the container before eating.
  • Drink water or another unsweetened beverage with your meal. 
  • Eat a small snack before you get to the restaurant. 
  • Review the restaurant menu beforehand. Look for nutritious options and items low in fat and sugar.
  • Select a salad or vegetable that includes your favorite foods.

Find Care at Catholic Health

Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you. Diabetes Education Centers at Catholic Health hospitals and locations across Long Island offer personalized care for managing diabetes. Call 855-908-8989 to find a location near you. View our diabetes services.

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