- Know Sugar When You See It
Don’t let the name “sugar” fool you. Corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, maltodextrin, all are sugars and all should be avoided. Check your food and beverage labels carefully.
You may think sugar is pretty easy to spot, but think again! It’s not only cookies, cakes, and donuts that diabetics need to watch out for. Sugar is lurking everywhere, and is difficult to avoid if you don’t know where to look. Condiments like ketchup and BBQ sauce, foods like yogurt, canned fruit, and drinks like fruit juice and white wine are just a few of the hidden sugars that are probably in your refrigerator right now!
Use artificial sweeteners with caution. Science is now showing us that artificial sweeteners could be just as harmful to the body as real sugar. Heck, some artificial sweeteners literally destroy your body from the inside out on a cellular level. Aspartame, anyone? Sucralose, saccharin, and acesulfame are all names for artificial sugar and can wreak havoc in the body.
- Eat Regular Meals to Prevent Cravings
It is important to keep blood sugar stable, especially for diabetics. When you skip a meal, your blood sugar will drop. As soon as you put the first bite of anything in your mouth, your sugar will rise. If what you put in your mouth contains sugar (real or artificial) your blood sugar will skyrocket. This can be very dangerous, and can have a lasting impact on your health.
A general consensus from experts is to eat every three to five hours. This keeps your metabolism running, keeps blood sugar more stable, and prevents you from getting irritable due to hunger. Your meals should contain protein, good fats, and fiber. Good fats and fiber not only offer nutrients and health benefits of their own, they will also help regulate blood sugar and prevent hunger.
Be sure to eat a nutritious breakfast! Packaged and processed cereals are often full of sugar, even the “healthier choices.” Try starting your day with protein instead. A hard-boiled egg, a few slices of turkey, or bowl of Greek Yogurt with fresh berries are all good breakfast options. By starting the day with stable blood sugar, it will be more likely to remain stable throughout the day.
- Plan Your Meals & Snacks
Preparing your meals at home is a great way to cut down on sugar (and salt) consumption. Frozen, boxed, and canned foods are often packed with added sugars and salt to keep them flavorful after being stored for a long period of time. When it comes to health and flavor, fresh is best.
Planning your meals benefits you in many ways. Firstly, you know exactly which recipes you are going to prepare and when, which saves the stress of putting together a meal on the fly. Also, you make one trip to the grocery store instead of multiple trips for an item or two here and there.
Thirdly, you save money in the store because you are only buying the ingredients that you need. You are also helping to reduce food waste because everything you buy has a specific purpose. Lastly, you save your health by cooking real food at home rather than getting dinner from a drive-thru or ordering delivery.
- Shop Smart
Speaking of less beneficial choices, don’t give yourself the choice. When grocery shopping, make a list and stick to it. Shop from the list and do not pick something off of the shelf simply because it looks good and you want it in that moment. Keep to the perimeter of the store – meats, seafood, dairy, and produce. The whole, clean foods you are looking for will not be found down the aisles. The boxed and packaged foods in the middle of the store contain all manner of less-than-desirable ingredients including sugar.
By only bringing healthy foods into your home, you are setting yourself up for success. If a food is not around, you are less likely to indulge. For example, if you really want a bag of chips but there are no chips in the house- are you going to get up, put on your shoes, find your keys, drive to the store, wait in line, then drive back home all for one little bag of chips?
- Put Thought Into Eating Out
Ask for your meat or fish to be grilled, baked, or broiled instead of fried. If you are trying to avoid excess salt, ask that your meal be prepared without added salt. Ask for salad dressings and entree sauces to be served on the side. You’ll use less this way.
If you are not clear on the ingredients in the dish, or are unsure of the portion size, ask your server. Try to eat the same sized portions that you would at home. The restaurant serving will likely be larger, so put the excess in a container to take home. (Be watchful for menu words like jumbo, deluxe, and super-sized, as they mean larger portions and higher calories.)
Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions. Instead of French fries or a baked potato, request a salad, or a double-serving of green beans or asparagus. If the substitution item you prefer is not available, simply ask your server to leave the fries or potato off your plate.
If you choose to indulge in an adult beverage, choose something without a high calorie mixer. Drinks like margaritas that use packaged mixes, or drinks made with juice or soda contain a lot of sugar and calories. Choose a glass of heart-healthy red wine instead!
When it comes to dessert, be mindful. A cup of espresso or a cappuccino is a relaxing way to end your meal. If you want to eat a little something sweet, ask for a bowl of fresh-cut fruit. Or enjoy a delicious, sugar-free dessert once you get back home!
Sugar is everywhere, and it is crucial for diabetics to be mindful. With these simple tips and tricks, you can cut the sugar, and boost your health!