America is leading the way in a global epidemic of diabetes, with approximately 285 million people currently having the disease — nearly as many as live in the United States. If you have recently joined this group, your diet has never been more important.
Here are some tips to help you eat well to manage your diabetes:
All carbohydrates break down — at varying speeds, but generally quite rapidly — into sugar. In order to manage your blood sugar, you need to start counting the number of carbohydrates you consume at each meal. Your doctor or dietician will help you develop specific guidelines for the number of carbs you should eat with each meal and how to balance that with your medication.
Don’t eat too much
Many people who develop Type 2 diabetes do so as a result of their lifestyle. Being overweight and sedentary contributes to the risk of developing diabetes. Many diabetics have found that they can control their blood sugar with diet and exercise alone. Returning to a healthy weight may allow you to get off your oral medications. (Most diabetics that become insulin dependent, however, are not able to control their blood sugar without it, despite weight loss and exercise, because their pancreas has stopped producing insulin.)
Everyone loves to snack. If you are struggling to manage your blood sugars, save the high carbohydrate snacks for those times when your blood sugar drops due to over medication, exercise or failing to eat enough. Find new, healthy snacks that are low in carbohydrates, like green vegetables. For a splurge, try snacking on a cheese stick. (While some cheese is completely lacking in carbohydrates, it has plenty of fat—don’t let this become a staple.)
Eat balanced meals
Your meals should have a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat. As a general rule, you don’t have to look to add fat to your diet as it is generally hiding with the protein if you eat meat or in the desserts. You’ll want to have fewer than 30 percent of your calories from fat. Remembering that one gram of fat has 2.5 times as many calories as one gram of protein or carbohydrates will help you limit the fat in your diet. There really isn’t much room in your diet for adding fats like butter, margarine, mayonnaise or sour cream to your food. Avoiding high-fat desserts like ice cream will go a long way in helping you keep your sugar levels in control and your weight in a healthy range.
A great way to enjoy healthy treats or quick on-the-go meals is to blend some protein powder with frozen berries, ice and milk to create a nearly-ice-cream-good treat that is low in fat and has a proper balance of protein and carbohydrates. Be sure to measure the ingredients so you can accurately count the carbs — then drink up.
If you catch your type 2 diabetes early, it can prove to be a blessing. If you get your diet and exercise headed in the right direction, you may find that you can control your blood sugar without medication. Be sure to check with your doctor before altering your drug regimen.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.