Eat This, Not That: Diabetes Edition

How many times have you tried a new diet, only to surrender and revert to your old ways shortly after you begin?

Don't worry; you certainly aren't alone. Hundreds of thousands of others have the same difficulty.

So the question is: How do you finally adopt a diet that you can stick to – one that doesn't feel like constant deprivation?

The answer is simple: You don't have to deprive yourself of anything. Instead, make healthier versions of your favorite foods.

We've compiled a list of various substitutions to help you eat more healthfully and still feel satisfied. But, as always, consult your doctor before making changes to your diet plan.

How to Make Your Favorite Foods Healthier

  • Replace at least half of the potatoes in your mashed potatoes with sweet potatoes, cauliflower, turnips, or rutabaga. Try blending in roasted garlic, kale, or other fresh herbs to give the dish the flavor kick it needs.
  • Swap tater tots, French fries, and baked potatoes with sweet potato fries. White potatoes can raise blood sugar faster than eating table sugar. Try slicing your sweet potatoes lengthwise into fries, tossing with olive oil and seasonings, and baking at 425 F for 10 minutes on each side. Or bake your sweet potato whole and stuff it with sautéed apples, cinnamon, plumped raisins, and a sprinkling of fat-free feta cheese.
  • Swap cow's milk with almond milk. Whereas 1-percent dairy milk has about 13 grams of carbohydrate per cup, most almond milks have only 2-3 grams. (Keep in mind that most kinds of almond milk are sweetened and therefore contain more carbohydrates than their unsweetened counterparts. Opt for an unsweetened version.)
  • Often, you can replace vegetable oil with unsweetened applesauce when making baked goods.
  • Cut the sugar in half when baking. Many muffin and cake recipes do not need nearly as much sugar as they call for. Try cutting the sugar in half, and you'll generally find that the dish is still plenty sweet. You can also add cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla to naturally enhance the sweetness of any dish.
  • Transition to whole-wheat pasta. Why? Whole-wheat pastas contain three parts of the grain: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. White pasta contains only the endosperm, which gives it a longer shelf life but strips it of all its nutritional value – especially fiber, which helps control blood glucose levels.
  • Cook your pasta al dente (so it is still a bit firm). Pasta cooked al dente has a lower glycemic index than pasta cooked until soft.
  • Try spaghetti squash instead of pasta, but beware that spaghetti squash has a substantial amount of natural sugar. Top with a sugar-free tomato sauce, pesto sauce, or small amount of butter and salt.
  • Replace bread or flour coatings with a mix of crushed nuts and unsweetened, whole-grain cereal flakes.
  • Swap sour cream with low-fat, plain Greek yogurt.
  • Choose healthier desserts. Blend a frozen banana with vanilla and frozen strawberries and enjoy like a frozen yogurt.
  • Dip your vegetables in salsa instead of a dressing, dip, or hummus.
  • Replace ground beef with ground turkey in your burgers, chili, tacos, and meatballs.
  • Opt for vinaigrette dressings instead of creamy dressings.
  • Choose minestrone or another broth-based soup over a cream-based soup or chowder.
  • Sprinkle nuts, seeds, fat-free feta, or roasted fruit over your salad instead of croutons.
  • Use a whole-grain pita as a crust for your pizza. Spread a sugar-free tomato sauce, reduced-fat cheese, and tons of veggies on top for a nutrient-packed meal.
  • Instead of mixing your tuna with mayonnaise, try mixing it with mustard, salsa, avocado, or any combination of those ingredients. You might be surprised by how much you like the new flavor combinations. And instead of putting your tuna in a sandwich, try it on a bed of greens instead.
  • Swap traditional scrambled eggs with an egg-white scramble mixed with herbs, tomato, spinach, and feta.
  • Instead of making a quiche for breakfast on a holiday morning, make a frittata. Frittatas are basically crustless quiches (or flat omelets). A frittata will still be a special, uncommon treat, but it won't have all of the carbs and fat that you would find in the crust of a quiche. (Also, you can make a frittata without cream, butter, or cheese, which will also significantly enhance the nutrition of the dish.)

As you can see, you don't need to label certain foods as off-limits. You can still have pasta, pizza, baked goods, and desserts. By making a few modifications in your recipes, your favorite foods can become healthy parts of your balanced diet.

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