Food at its simplest form is fuel for your body. But the reality is that it’s so much more—each food item is a specific set of instructions for your body. As someone living with type 2 diabetes, food is one important way you can keep yourself healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The foods you eat influence blood sugar levels, boost your immunity, and improve your overall health and wellbeing—so it’s important to make healthy choices. Here are 5 tips to get you started:
Eat Whole Foods as Much as Possible
More than anything else—do your best to eat whole, natural foods as much as you can. Understand that doing so is one of the singular best things you can do for your health in general as well as your management of your diabetes.
When foods undergo processing, they tend to gain things like:
They lose things like:
- Healthy fats
- Vitamins and minerals
- Water content
The net effect by eating processed foods is that you are likely consuming many additives you didn’t want or intend to consume—and missing out on things you probably thought you were getting.
Bring Balance to Your Plate
One quick tip that can bring balance to your diet is to try and balance your plate. Consider three simple steps the next time you make your plate:
- Start by filling half your plate with non-starchy veggies—salad, green beans, broccoli and many others fit the bill.
- Fill one quarter of your plate with a quality protein—chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, wild salmon and eggs are all great choices.
- Fill the last quarter of your plate with whole-grain options such as brown rice, or a starchy vegetable, such as green peas.
It’s recommended that you eat foods with a low glycemic index, which are slowly digested and absorbed, causing a slower and smaller rise in blood sugar levels.
Eat for Immunity!
Everything you eat contains instructions for your body on a genetic and cellular level. During a pandemic—we need to be sure we’re giving it the right instructions! Foods that are good for boosting immunity tend to be those that are the most nutrient dense and include foods like: green leafy veggies, citrus fruits, high fiber foods, garlic, ginger, nuts, wild salmon and more. The good news here is if you’re focused on eating whole and minimally processed foods, you are likely also making good choices to boost immunity.
During COVID-19, you may be looking for foods with a longer shelf life. It’s just as important that you can read food labels so you can choose healthy options that work for you. Here are a few tips to help:
- If produce is difficult to find, consider frozen meats, vegetables, and fruits as an alternative. Look for low-sodium options when available.
- Canned soups can be easy meals but review the amount of sodium and carbohydrates in different soups.
- When reading labels, look for heart-healthy ingredients (ex: whole wheat) and avoid unhealthy ingredients, such as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.
- You should also look at total carbohydrates on the label and not just sugar. You can also look for high-fiber foods with 3 or more grams of fiber per serving.
Lastly, Familiarize Yourself with the Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) is a system that ranks foods that contain carbohydrates from 1-100 based on their effect on blood sugar. Foods lower on the GI index raise blood sugar more slowly, while foods with a high GI value can cause a rapid rise and fall of blood sugar . As a general rule, the more processed a food is, the more likely it raises blood sugar rapidly. Aim for low to medium GI foods, which includes things like whole wheat bread, oatmeal (steel cut or rolled), whole grains, non-starchy veggies, meats, nuts and eggs to name a few. Food with a score of 70 or higher should be eaten sparingly, and include things like, white rice, white bread, pasta and noodles, some fruits and potatoes and beverages such as juice, soda, or beer. The glycemic index is a helpful guide to help you identify good nutritional choices.