Food is the fuel that keeps your body running. Food is also a social thing; it should be fun, delicious and joyful! Finding the balance between eating what you need and eating what you want is essential for keeping blood sugar under control.
Start by taking a closer look at the opinions and feelings you attach to certain foods. For example, do you think of a doughnut as an evil enemy sent to tempt and destroy you? Do you picture good health when you see an apple?
Resist labeling foods as good or bad. This gives food too much power and influence over your thoughts. It is true that some foods are better for your body (and blood sugar) than others, but no single food determines your overall health or well-being.
Don’t tell yourself you must make healthy choices only from this point on. Saying you will never eat a certain food for the rest of your life is unrealistic. Portion and moderation are key. A food journal is a great way to hold yourself accountable for your food (and portion) intake.
For diabetics, journaling can be especially helpful. Tracking your blood sugar alongside your food and beverage choices can provide some seriously revealing insight. For example, if you notice that your blood sugar spikes after eating a tangerine for your morning snack, and does not spike if you enjoy an apple instead – there’s one easy blood sugar fix!
Also, try to focus on how you felt before, during, and after your meal. Emotions and food are closely tied, yet we rarely connect how we feel with what/when we eat. Certain foods make you happy… literally! In the same turn, stressful situations can trigger the desire to eat.
By tracking your emotions along with your food, you can be your own accountability and encouragement partner! You may feel guilty about that piece of pizza you ate for lunch; you enter it into your journal and discover that the feeling of letting yourself down is not worth the taste of the pizza, so next time you choose something else to eat. On the other hand, if you choose a cup of fresh berries as a morning treat instead of a doughnut; you log the berries in your journal or app, and feel confident in your healthier choice.
Experiment with cooking more often at home. This gives you the opportunity to prepare your meals exactly as you want them. Try planning your meals to help reduce stress and save money. Meal-planning also helps you set yourself up for success. If an unhealthy food is not readily available 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?
This is where making smart choices at the supermarket comes into play. 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.)
With that being said, do not refuse meals out with family or friends because you have devoted yourself to cooking exclusively at home. There are ways to enjoy dining out, while still keeping yourself on track.
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.) Order your meat or fish to be grilled, baked, or broiled instead of fried. Request that salad dressings and entree sauces be served on the side. You’ll use less this way.
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!
We all need food to survive, it is fuel for both body and soul. It should not be something to fret over, but something in which to find joy as we journey through life. By investing time and thought into balancing your relationship with food, you are sure to both see and feel the benefits!