Beginner’s Guide to Diabetes-Friendly Cooking: What You Need to Know
Diabetes requires that we manage our eating habits to help manage our blood sugar levels. Learning how to cook diabetic-friendly meals can seem like a daunting challenge at first, but with proper planning and the right knowledge, it can be a breeze to cook delicious and healthy meals.
Read on to learn more about how you can go from beginner to diabetic cooking pro!
Learn All About Carbs
The first step to learning how to cook as a diabetic is understanding how carbohydrates interact with your diabetes. Because diabetes is caused by your body being unable to produce enough insulin for your needs, many people with diabetes carefully plan the number of carbohydrates they eat daily. Consuming excessive amounts of carbs or not enough throughout the day can cause your blood sugar levels to fluctuate throughout the day.
Your doctor will be able to help you determine how you should be counting carbs, what carbs you should focus on having in your diet, and how to plan your meals out to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day. New research has led to doctors no longer recommending a one-size-fits-all approach to the number of carbs a person with diabetes should eat per day. Your doctor or nutritionist will help you develop a carb counting plan that fits your specific needs.
However, a good general rule of thumb is to focus on adding more complex carbohydrates than the simple sugars that make up prepackaged snacks, junk food, and fast-food meals to your diet. For example, carbs from non-starchy vegetables, eggs, and whole wheat bread are preferable to the carbs found in a sweetened iced coffee or a deep-dish pizza.
Meal Plan Ahead of Time
Because counting carbohydrates can take extra time during meal prep, especially when you’re just learning how to, meal planning ahead of time can help take the lost time out of preparing diabetic-friendly meals. You can choose to plan out a week’s worth of meals every Sunday before you go grocery shopping or work with your doctor or nutritionist to create a personalized meal plan on a longer-term basis. Meal planning can help you manage your diabetes without constantly stopping to read nutrition labels.
Meal planning for seniors or those with diabetes is no different than any other type of meal planning. While it may take some time for you to become familiar with the technique, if you stick with meal planning, it can save you plenty of time and guesswork managing your carbohydrate intake.
Focus on Healthy Foods
As we mentioned earlier, every person with diabetes will develop a different nutritional plan working together with their doctor. However, all diabetics should work to incorporate more healthy foods into their diets. From spinach and chickpeas to wild rice, there are a variety of new and exciting healthy foods that you can include one meal at a time.
If new and fancy food isn’t your thing, there are plenty of old favorites that still make the list of healthy foods. Plenty of familiar and delicious foods make great bases or additions to healthy meals perfect for those trying to manage their diabetes. Delicious healthy diabetic-friendly foods include:
- Spinach, kale, and any other leafy green
- Almonds, cashews, and walnuts
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Squash, eggplant, and zucchini
- Brown and wild rice
- Steel-cut oatmeal
While this is by no means exhaustive, there are plenty of foods that you may eat every day that fall into the category of healthy! While it’s always a good idea to expand your horizons by adding a new vegetable or source of protein to your routine now and then, there’s no reason to stray away from old favorites that can help you manage your blood sugar levels.
Adopt Portion Control
While managing your diabetes means that you’ll often have to forgo eating foods that you love regularly, adopting portion control will help you enjoy all the foods that life has to offer. Even healthy foods should be eaten in proper, well-sized portions. Learning how to portion your meals properly can help you save time and stress in the kitchen.
The transition from overly large plates of food to regularly sized portions can be difficult at first. Over the years, portion sizes across the board have become inflated - a slice of pizza ordered in the ‘80s would have been considerably smaller than what you’d receive today. Therefore, taking small steps toward proper portions piece by piece can be a more effective strategy than shrinking your entire meal.
Today, give yourself a proper portion of chicken, about the size of your palm, and let yourself have those few extra potatoes. Over time your stomach will gradually shrink, and you’ll find yourself feeling fuller despite the smaller portions.
Once you’ve perfect your portion control strategy, you may find yourself able to make room for a bowl of ice cream or a burger from the local bar now and then!
Find New Flavors
Forgoing sugary snacks and meals dense with carbohydrates shouldn’t mean that you have to sacrifice flavor! As we’ve touched on throughout this guide, there are plenty of familiar foods that you can continue to eat while managing your diabetes. However, to make cooking for diabetes management more an adventure than a chore, it can help to try new foods.
As a health food craze sweeps across the nation, more options than ever are available at your local supermarket to help add variety to your meals. While part of you may be tempted to go full-on kale and flaxseed smoothies for breakfast, introducing new foods to your diet slowly is the more sustainable option.
Take advantage of the availability of new healthy foods you may have never tried before; not only will it break you out of a rut of eating the same thing day in and day out, you may find a new favorite food!
(The keto craze, specifically the keto-friendly dessert trend, has been very helpful for people with diabetes and a sweet tooth!)
Make Small Changes
Diabetes is a lifelong disease, and sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle to manage everything thrown your way. From counting carbs to taking proper care of your feet, there are many extra steps that people with diabetes must take every day to take care of their health.
Therefore, you must treat yourself with kindness and compassion as you work on managing your diabetes. Make small changes every day that lead you toward a happier and healthier life, and before you know it, you’ll run out of steps you can take. Then, you’ll be able to focus on managing your diabetes in a way that’s suited for your lifestyle.