Interestingly enough, diabetic food list is one of the most searched for terms on the Internet for people with diabetes. The confusion regarding what to eat is incredibly challenging. It seems that if you could just get a list of foods, it would solve all your problems.
I would say the answer is yes and no. Yes it is good to have a list, but no because you will often have to choose what to eat based on some broader principals. The easiest way to break down this challenge is by type of food. I’ll go into some general guidelines and provide some comprehensive lists of appropriate options to eat.
The other factor to keep in mind is the “BIG” picture. The American Diabetes Association clearly states that there is no one diet that will help you control your diabetes. What works for one, may not work for another.
Personally, I am a huge proponent of the vegan diet. I do not believe there is a better diet out there that, if properly followed, allows for better health. Before you bill me as a crunchy granola type, I did not start out this way, my view is based on many nutritional studies and personally trying it out.
However, some people cannot follow this diet for whatever reason, so this article will only take a look at the best food for diabetes choices in a given food category
PASTAS AND GRAINS
This category is one of the toughest and most controversial. Some folks argue that carbohydrates are bad and should be avoided as much as possible. Others argue they are an essential part of ones diet. You will have to see what works for you, but some general guidelines are key and controverted.
Whole grain pastas and grains are good, processed pastas and grains are bad. When you process a grain, you remove all of the nutritional content of the food. An example would be white rice (bad) versus brown rice (good).
Here is a partial food list:
- Whole Wheat Pasta
- Brown Rice Pasta
- Brown Rice
- Wild Rice
- Whole Wheat Bread
- Rye Bread
- Pumpernickel Bread
- Rolled and Steel Cut Oats (oatmeal)
- Whole Wheat Flour
- Whole Rye Flour
- Shredded Wheat
This is but one partial list. There are many other choices depending upon how adventurous you are as a cook. Wander through a Whole Foods store and you will be surprised with your options.
FOOD LABEL NOTE:
It is very important to read the food label. For example, instant oatmeal is not whole grain oatmeal. You need to choose the whole grain version.
Another common example is bread. Some labels state that the bread uses “wheat flour”. This typically is not whole grain, but a trick to get you to think it is. Also, some bread uses a combination of whole grain wheat flour and processed wheat flour. Alternatively, the label states that it is whole wheat, but the fine print states that it only uses 51 percent whole wheat. Bottom Line is you need to read the label and package closely.
This food category is arguably the most important and the least eaten. The new diabetic plate recommends that half of your plate should be made up of vegetables.
Here is a list of vegetables that are healthy and relatively low in carbohydrates.
- Lettuce (all types)
- Collard Greens
- Bok Choy
- Sea Vegetables
- Brussels Sprouts
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Green Beans
- Green Peppers (Red and Yellow Too!)
- Squash (most types other than butternut or acorn)
- Tomatoes (ok, I know it’s a fruit)
- Rutabaga (GREAT potato substitute in stews)
These vegetables are great for the diabetic diet. However, they are best eaten raw or cooked in water or steam. If you fry them up in heavy oil or cook them in cream or butter, well let’s just say it is not all that good for you…at all!
Starchy vegetables are fine, but they should be more limited than the other vegetables listed above. The reason they should be limited is that they have a higher carbohydrate value thus they can spike blood sugar too much if eaten in high quantities.
- Sweet Potatoes
There is some controversy about what fruits should be on a diabetic food list. Some fruits have very high sugar content and can spike blood sugar. Other fruits have lower sugar content and provide great nutrition without the possible health implications. Let’s look at a couple of different lists:
Low Sugar Fruits (6g or less per 100g serving)
Medium Sugar Fruits (6.1g to 11g per 100g serving)
High Sugar Fruits (Over 11 g per 100g serving)
The above sugar content is per a 100 gram serving. This is a small serving size, so you need to factor in the size of the fruit serving you are eating. Nonetheless, you can get a good overview of how different fruits can have different sugar content at a quick glance. Obviously, the lower the sugar content the less it typically will spike your glucose levels.
Legumes are a wonderful food for diabetics. They have great nutritional value, good dietary fiber and slow digesting protein. Eat more beans and less meat and dairy and you will be doing yourself a huge favor!
Here are few of my favorites:
- Black Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Cannellini Beans
- Garbanzo Beans
- Great Northern Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Navy Beans
I sometimes use black beans in my stir-fry recipes instead of meat. Great taste and better for you. I have also used lentils as a side to scrambled eggs at breakfast. Very good! You can be very creative working beans into your everyday cooking. Whatever you do, eat more legumes!
MEAT AND FISH
While I personally do not eat meat, many people do. Also, numerous studies have consistently found the Mediterranean diet to be very healthy eating regimen. The primary focus needs to be on lean (low fat) cuts of chicken, turkey and fish. This means no skin!
Some beef is acceptable, but very rarely. Here is a comparison of the fat content for different cuts of beef in relation to chicken and turkey. The comparison size is 3 ounces.
|Item||Total Fat||Sat. Fat|
|Ground Beef (75% Lean)||15g||6g|
Turning to fish, many are low fat, while others are not. Take a look at the list below based on a 3 ounce serving size.
|Item||Total Fat||Sat. Fat|
|Blue Fin Tuna||5g||1g|
Please note that the serving size is only 3 ounces. Remember, if you order a filet Mignon at a restaurant, it often comes in 6, 8 or 10 ounces. Thus, do the math to determine how quickly the nutrition quality changes.
There are some studies that suggest dairy is unhealthy, not just because of the fat content, but also because the protein Cassin. If you eat dairy, remember to eat it sparingly and at a minimum opt for the low fat or no fat variety.
Remember though, low fat is not necessarily low fat. There is no standard definition of low fat. Check the food label to see how much fat is in the product based on the serving size. Think about how much your going to eat. Is it just one serving?!!
If you are not used to the taste of no fat or very low fat cheese, milk, yogurt, etc., try it for a bit. Once I got used to it, I found it hard to taste the more rich versions.
TRAPS FOR THE UNWARY
Fat, oil, and sugar is where things get a bit dicey. I try to avoid all of them. I cook with fat free olive oil spray. I try to avoid all other fats, including nuts and avocados. If I see high fructose corn syrup in a product, I simply don’t buy it. HFCS is not a good food for diabetics.
If you must use oils, try to stick with the lower saturated fat oils such as olive, canola, safflower or flax seed oil. Watch your portion size with nuts. Try and use fat free salad dressings and mayonnaise.
High fructose corn syrup is the enemy of your self and your family. Banish it from your diet. It is designed to make you crave it and eat too much. Just Say No!
Try and avoid all sugar drinks, even diet sodas. There are numerous studies that show diet sodas can make you fat. Drink more water. If you like something a little fizzy, drink carbonated water. Sports drinks and alcohol are best not drunk or drunk in moderation.
If you can think of more good foods for diabetics, let me know, I’ll add it to the list!