What Can I Eat?
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, “What can I eat?” If you are someone recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, had diabetes for a while, or are a parent taking care of a child with diabetes, this question may hit close to home. As a matter of fact, this could very well be a question you’ve asked yourself multiple times a day. While there is no such thing as a “bad food” – because food does not have the moral power to choose between right and wrong – it is important to include nutritious foods into your daily routine.
Food should not only be nutritious to the body, but it should taste good as well. Tasty, nutritious food has the power to help the body heal, grow, and stay energized. According to the American Diabetes Association, a nutritious diet should include certain food groups: fruits and vegetables, lean meats and/or plant-powered proteins (like nuts, beans and legumes). It should also be a diet low in added sugar and processed foods (1). All of these components work together to help nourish the body. When deciding what to eat, don’t be inclined to take a “better than” approach. In other words, apples are not “better than” oranges and sweet potatoes are not ‘better than’ russet potatoes. Each food contains its own different nutritive properties. Collectively, the aforementioned food groups provide the body with a source of healthy fats, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Eating a variety of foods from different food groups creates a healthy eating pattern throughout the lifespan regardless of age, gender, food preference, or culture.
Do you ever eat a small bag of potato chips and a few fruit snacks as an afternoon pick-me-up? Technically speaking, while you could easily give the correct dose of insulin to control the impending blood sugar spike, this snack is considered to be “processed” and likely has a dose of added sugar (especially fruit snacks). Potato chips and fruit snacks are nutritionally subpar to nature’s whole food versions: potatoes and actual fruit. Don’t get me wrong – eating nutritiously doesn’t mean you have to eat nutritious foods 100% of the time! According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which is intended to help people two years old and older consume a healthy diet, the intake of added sugars and unhealthy fats (from fried and greasy foods) should be limited (2). Limited, but not avoided. Therefore, theoretically speaking, if you consume whole, nutritious foods about 80 percent of the time and snack on processed foods sparingly, that is acceptable. It’s also a smart way to establish a healthy eating pattern that will last.
So “what can I eat?” Turns out the answer is “lots of things!” A one-size-fits-all approach does not work when it comes to diabetes, but making sure your main entree consists of a fruit and/or vegetable, lean meat or plant-based protein is the key to unlocking what you can and should be eating to stay healthiest. Eating foods that have less added sugar and are less processed is vital. And whatever your food preferences are, remember that variety is the spice of life. Eating a variety of foods ensures you are consuming healthy fats, fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, which are all needed to help the body function at its optimal peak.
Published: December 31, 2020
Kim Rose is a Florida based registered dietitian nutritionist who specializes in health and wellness concerns for persons with diabetes. Her inclusive approach and philosophy revolve around “making nutrition easy and attainable”. Kim does this by addressing common and complex food and wellness topics for the general public and health professionals alike on her YouTube channel and contributing to multiple media outlets including Healthline, Huffpost, and Health Magazine just to name a few. Kim has close to a decade of professional experience and dedicates her time working at the hospital and counseling clients in her private practice. In her spare time Kim likes to run, podcast, and enjoy a large bowl of kettle corn.