A healthy diet is a key component of diabetes prevention. It can help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, and lower the risk for other health conditions, such as high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels. Ms. Riley, as a registered dietician, can you tell us more about choosing a healthy diet to prevent diabetes?
I certainly can, Dr. Hemstad. There are many diet plans out there that can contribute to healthy weight loss, but the most effective diet for diabetes prevention focuses on low-fat foods and overall reduced calorie intake. The most important things to remember about a healthy diet are:
- Eating fewer calories than you burn
- Eating less saturated fat and trans fat
- Avoiding or limiting foods high in added sugar
- Eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, and
- Eating smaller portions
To lose weight, a good place to start is by following a healthy plate method. Think of your plate as being divided into three sections. Half of your plate should be filled with non-starchy vegetables, such as green beans, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, asparagus, or a leafy green salad. One quarter of the plate should have four ounces of lean protein, such as chicken or fish. The last quarter of the plate should contain half a cup of a starchy food item, such as beans, lentils, or sweet potato, or a third of a cup of brown rice or whole wheat pasta. You can also add a serving of fruit and eight ounces of milk or a serving of light yogurt to your meal.
Overeating can result from simply not being aware of how much or how often you eat. That’s why it’s a good idea to track what you eat by keeping a food log, and to eat meals and snacks at regular times every day. It can also be helpful to serve meals on a smaller plate to better control portion sizes. Another good tip is to take your time when you eat. It takes the stomach about 20 minutes to tell the brain that it’s full, so rushing through a meal can easily lead to overeating. Learning how to read food labels can also help you make healthier shopping choices.
Variety is key in a healthy diet because it ensures that you get all the right nutrients. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and make sure you’re including non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, or kale. Also focus on calcium-rich foods, such as low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt; healthy fats, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and seeds; and lean protein. Limit the amount of saturated fat and high-sodium and high-sugar foods in your diet. It’s also a good idea to drink fewer sugary and alcoholic beverages, which add calories and sugar to a diet.