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5 Healthy Eating Tips for Diabetes

While taking control of eating is just one aspect of managing diabetes, it's a big and important piece of the puzzle. Here are five tips for healthy eating.

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Eating with Diabetes: How to Better Control Blood Sugar & Weight Loss

Gone are the days of strict diets, forbidden foods, and trips down the sugar-free food aisle. According to American Diabetes Association nutrition recommendations: To eat well with diabetes simply means applying the basic principles of healthful eating.

"Thank goodness I don't need to follow a rigid 'diabetic diet,' limit carbs, and eat every two hours," says Cathy Rogers, who was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes three years ago. "I'm encouraged I can manage my eating without stressing out."

The way people with diabetes should eat is in line with the way every American should eat. "The Dietary Guidelines for Americans dovetail perfectly with the American Diabetes Association's nutrition guidelines," says Angela Ginn, R.D., CDE, education coordinator at the University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. Shed a few pounds if you need to. Get and keep your blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure in the healthy target zones. As it turns out, your list of healthy eating dos and don'ts isn't really all that long after all.

Start by putting these top five dos -- the ones that give you the biggest bang for your effort -- into action.

1. Rate Your Plate

Take a good hard look at your plates -- the foods you choose and the portions you eat. Rate your plates to see if they measure up. For lunch and dinner, do you fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with starch or grain, and the remaining quarter with a lean protein source? Is there a serving of fruit and low-fat milk or yogurt at the majority of your meals? Do you choose whole grains instead of refined varieties?

"Keeping this healthy-plate visual top of mind will help you employ the number one healthy-eating message from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines: emphasize nutrient-dense foods and beverages -- vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy foods," Ginn says.

So how do your plates rate? Do you need to serve more vegetables or lighten up on protein? Is milk often missing? Based on your ratings, set a few goals to tweak your eating habits and choose easy-to-conquer goals first. Consider the size of your plates as well. A smaller plate can make smaller servings look bigger. Yes, studies show food psychology works!

2. Rein In Portions

It's simple: Our portions are oversized. This leads to excess calories and extra pounds. Of particular concern, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, are jumbo servings of foods with refined grains, solid fats, and added sugars -- think fried chips, fatty burgers, sugary drinks, pastries, and desserts.

"We've lost our compass to eat reasonable portions because we're being served and are buying big, bigger, and biggest servings of less-than-healthy foods," says Theresa Garnero, APRN, CDE, author of Your First Year of Diabetes (American Diabetes Association, 2008) and a diabetes educator who practices in San Francisco.

It's time to downsize extra-large servings of less-healthful foods and upsize servings of foods we're not eating enough of: vegetables, fruits, dairy foods, and whole grains. Start by reducing your portions of less-healthful foods by 5 to 10 percent. You'll barely notice the trimming, but you'll immediately taper your intake of calories, carbohydrate, fat, and sodium. Over time this portion slim-down will improve your weight, blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure, Garnero says.

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