Metabolic diseases like diabetes affect how you turn the foods you eat into energy. Your body relies on a hormone called insulin, which comes from your pancreas, to help transfer glucose (sugar) from the foods you eat into your cells. Your cells use the hormone as energy to function.
People with diabetes either produce no insulin at all or become insulin resistant, which causes glucose to build up in their bloodstream with nowhere else to go. While specific treatments vary from person to person and according to the type of diabetes, all people with diabetes benefit from altering their diet to be diabetes-safe.
While there are always personal preferences to consider when planning a meal, anyone can benefit from learning the basics of building a meal that diabetics can safely enjoy.
At Westmed Family Healthcare in Westminster, Colorado, our board-certified family physicians Clifton Etienne, MD, Michael Cavanagh, MD, and Flora Brewington, MD, are well-versed in diabetes health care and familiar with the dietary needs of diabetics.
If you’re planning a dinner and need it to be diabetes-friendly, look no further.
Opt for lean options
When it comes to serving meat and other sources of protein, you should choose lean options over fattier choices. Whether or not to include meat in the meal is up to you. Lean protein foods have fewer calories than fat protein foods for equal amounts of protein.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to choosing lean proteins for your meals, a few reliable options are:
- Chicken (white meat without the skin)
- Hemp seed
- Nutritional yeast
- Peanut butter
- Wild salmon
While salmon has a bit more fat than other items on this list, it’s generally still a good option for diabetics. Salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are a good type of fat that helps reduce inflammation and improve cardiovascular health.
Include plenty of fruits and veggies
Anyone with even a basic understanding of meal planning and nutrition knows you can’t go wrong with a diet built around foods that grow in a garden. While it’s best to eat them fresh, you can still enjoy the majority of their benefits by baking or steaming them.
Be sure not to fry your veggies or cook fruits and veggies in sugar or oil respectively, as these processes counteract the benefits and make the foods less friendly to diabetics.
Fruits and vegetables are full of a myriad of micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, which improve many processes in your body from digestion to neurological function.
Leafy greens are particularly important to include in a diabetes-friendly meal. In fact, research shows that just a cup of leafy greens a day like collard greens, kale, or spinach lowers your diabetes risk by 14%. For those who already have diabetes, these veggies are low in carbohydrates and help protect against complications like heart attack or stroke.
Stay away from sugar and processed foods
A diabetes-friendly meal should include whole foods with little or no processing. Watch out for foods that are manufactured to be stored, like canned or frozen foods, as well as baked goods and savory snacks. You can read nutritional labels on various items at the grocery store to see just how many ingredients are in them and keep tabs on their sodium, fat, and sugar content.
While dessert might be on your to-do list for a diabetes-friendly meal, it’s important to limit sugar. Diabetics can still enjoy sugary treats every once in a while, but too much sugar is harmful. Many people with diabetes measure their blood sugar with continuous glucose monitoring, and sometimes a low blood sugar reading calls for a sugary drink, snack, or glucose tablet.
Any diabetes-friendly meal is full of healthy options for everyone at the table. To learn more about diabetes and dinner planning, schedule an appointment at Westmed Family Healthcare by calling our office or booking online today.