As mindful diabetics, we are always searching for ways to improve our blood sugar and overall health. The most obvious way to do that is to make healthier food choices. But that ‘simple’ ideal involves more than you may think.
Fast food and processed foods are everywhere… literally! They are widely available, convenient, and inexpensive. However, these foods often contain far too many calories, unhealthy fat, salt, and preservatives. These foods also tend to have little to no nutritional value, vitamins, minerals, or fiber. Regardless of these unhealthy stats however, many are still reaching for these foods at the grocery store, from a restaurant menu, or from a drive-thru window.
So, when the foods that are the least expensive and most easily accessible are the worst for our health, how can we expect to have success? The solution is obvious – we have to trick ourselves into making healthier food choices!
The most efficient way to eat healthier is to prepare meals and snacks at home. It may seem daunting, but consider this the foundation of constructing healthier food habits. Not only will you avoid the expense of eating out, but the stress of trying to choose the ‘better’ option when you’re in a rush.
Start by selecting a week’s worth of recipes you’d like to try. The internet is an easily accessible recipe treasure trove, allowing you to search for ingredients you like and leave out those you do not. You can even narrow your search based upon the amount of carbohydrates a dish contains!
Try assigning one type of recipe for each night of the week to get you started. For example, Meatless Mondays (Veggie Stir-fry one week and Vegetable Lasagna the next) and Taco Tuesdays (beef tacos one week and chicken or shrimp the next.) For salad night, buy a variety of fresh vegetables and let everyone make their own Mason Jar Salad. This way you get used to choosing a type of recipe for each day of the week, and then branch out from there.
Based upon your recipes of choice, build your grocery shopping list, adding in other ingredients or necessities as needed. This way, each ingredient you purchase has a purpose. This maximizes your grocery budget, your time, and avoids food waste. The key is sticking to that list when you get to the store. If you’re eating at home, and unhealthy foods aren’t in your home in the first place… making healthy choices becomes much easier.
However, it isn’t enough to simply purchase those healthy foods – you have to use them! You know which ingredients are being used for your planned recipes, but what about snacks? Snacking can be incredibly influential on blood sugar, so mindfulness is a must. A snack’s purpose is to prevent excessive hunger, give the body an energy boost, and can actually help to regulate blood sugar.
Diabetics should avoid growing ravenously hungry. 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.
It’s important to listen to your body; when it needs a little boost, you’ll know. Some people are ravenous first thing in the morning, and after eating a large breakfast may not need a snack before lunch. Others may eat something small when they wake up, and need a little boost mid-morning.
Setting yourself up for snacking success doesn’t have to take a lot of time or effort. When you get home from the grocery store, prep some snacks. Stash some ‘snack bags’ of air-popped popcorn, pepperoni chips, or mixed nuts in the pantry for the week ahead. They’ll satisfy that salty crunch craving that you may otherwise look to potato chips for.
Slice some fresh raw veggies into sticks (cucumber, zucchini, and bell pepper are well-suited for this preparation.) Then dish up some individual containers of hummus, guacamole, pesto, or ranch dressing for dipping. Open up that bag of cheese sticks you bought at the store, then go ahead and rip the individual sticks apart so you can easily grab one and go.
Place your prepared snacks in fridge locations where they are readily accessible. If they are buried in the back of the fridge, you won’t take the time to search for them. You’re putting hard work into this process, so put those babies front and center! Along the same lines, place your apples or avocados not in the fridge’s produce drawer – but in a beautiful bowl on your table or kitchen counter. This is a great way to make reaching for healthy foods second nature for yourself (and your family.)
When you prepare your meal recipes, take those leftovers and put them within hand’s reach in the fridge as well. The next day, instead of stressing about what to have for lunch, those leftovers are right in front of you. Ta-dah! Another easy healthier choice.
While it may seem silly to ‘trick’ yourself into eating healthier, it’s necessary. Our fast-paced, stressful lifestyles draw us into making unhealthy food choices, plain and simple. We can out-smart this cycle, however. Through planning, a little effort, and a few tricks – better health and blood sugar are within our grasp!