More than 11% of Americans have diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels.
As a nutritionist living with type 1 diabetes for more than 30 years, I’ve found that diabetes doesn’t mean you have to completely stop eating what you enjoy. Controlling blood sugar is often more about swapping out small foods or adding specific foods, rather than eliminating them.
For example, you can still eat carbohydrates, but you also need to add protein, a small amount of healthy fats, and lots of fiber. Protein, fat, and fiber regulate how quickly food is digested, which helps balance blood sugar levels.
Here are the foods I eat — and the foods I try to limit — to help control my diabetes:
1. Bean-based or vegetable-based pasta
Wheat-based pasta is mostly carbohydrates and can cause blood sugar spikes when eaten alone in large portions.
Instead, I opt for bean-based pasta or a vegetable pasta. Spiralizing vegetables (e.g., carrots, zucchini, and sweet potatoes) into pasta using a spiralizer is a great way to increase your fiber and vitamin intake.
If you eat traditional pasta, whether gluten-free or wheat-based, be sure to include plenty of protein and fiber in your dish. I recommend poultry, fatty fish like salmon and beans, and vegetables like kale, peppers, onions, and broccoli.
2. Rice broccoli, zucchini or chickpeas
Try grated broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, chickpeas, or cauliflower as a substitute for grain rice. These are high in fiber and gentler on blood sugar.
Brown rice is a common substitute for white rice in diabetes diet plans, but the carbohydrate amounts in the two are actually pretty similar. And the small amount of extra fiber you get from brown rice is usually not enough to have a significant impact on blood sugar levels.
So, just like with pasta, if you want to enjoy some rice, just watch your portion size and pile on protein, fat, and fiber (e.g. from nuts, vegetables, fish or beans).
3. Almond, coconut or oat flour
Instead of using regular flour when baking or cooking, I opt for blood-sugar-friendly flours made from almonds, coconut, or oats.
One of my favorite tricks is to use a mixture of almond flour and oat flour. The resulting flour has fewer carbohydrates and more fiber and protein than wheat flour.
And it’s just as delicious: this Chocolate Chip Almond Butter Breakfast Bar recipe is delicious!
4. Breakfast cereals with protein and fiber
Breakfast cereals can affect your blood sugar if you’re not careful. Instead of choosing cereals with large amounts of added sugar, choose brands that contain more fiber and protein.
My recommendation for a high-fiber, low-sugar variant: bran flakes. With about five grams of fiber per serving, this type of granola contains 19 grams of net carbs per 3/4 cup serving, making it lower in carbs than many breakfast cereals.
A bonus: the added fiber is beneficial for digestive health, heart health and weight management.
5. Low-sugar fruits
Many diabetics are told to avoid fruit. But there’s often no reason to eliminate entire food groups, especially something as nutritious and tasty as fruit.
I always reach for low-sugar fruits like berries, kiwi, melon, and citrus. Watermelon is also great when consumed in moderation. A cup of diced watermelon has less than 10 grams of sugar.
If you want to eat sugary fruits like bananas or mangoes, enjoy them with a protein source like peanut butter, cheese, or plain yogurt.
Mary Ellen Phipps is a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist and Founder of milk and honey nutrition. She is also the author of “The Easy Diabetes Dessert Cookbook: Blood Sugar Friendly Versions of Your Favorite Treats”, and writer for health day. keep following her tick tock and Instagram.
Do not miss: