For people with diabetes, making the right food choices can sometimes feel complicated or confusing. And while individual dietary needs should always be carefully discussed with your doctor or nutritionist, there are a few go-to diabetes-friendly foods – sometimes called “diabetes superfoods” – that will not only come to the nutritional rescue but may also help make meal planning and snacking a little easier.
A great place to start is with fruits and vegetables. Dried, canned, frozen, or fresh all contain the same overall nutritional benefits and will hit the spot when you need a quick snack, or can even fill you up when you’re ready for a meal. Here are just a few reasons to put fruit and veggies at the top of your list:
- Fruits and veggies are packed with nutrients that can boost your energy levels.
- They provide a solid dose of fiber which helps fill you up and keeps your digestive system happy!
- Low calories and lots of color and texture to add to your plate.
- Eating more fruits and veggies may lower your risk for many diseases including some types of cancer, high blood pressure, and even heart disease.
- Fruits and veggies have low glycemic indexes which help keep blood sugar levels steady.
There are, of course, a few standout fruit and veggie superstars that you’ll want to have on-hand whenever possible:
- Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale are bursting with so much good stuff, you simply can’t eat too much!
- Citrus fruit like lemons, limes, grapefruit, and oranges will give you your daily supply of vitamin C and soluble fiber.
- Berries of all types are delicious little powerhouses packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber making them a sweet treat anytime.
In addition to fruit and vegetables, there are some other nutrient-rich-good-for-your-health-diabetes-friendly and delicious foods to keep in mind when you are planning your menu:
- Beans are a great source of fiber, magnesium, potassium, and protein. In fact, just a 1/2 cup of beans gives you as much protein as an ounce of meat without the saturated fat.
- Sweet potatoes can be baked, mashed, roasted, or chunked and added to all kinds of dishes. Versatile and packed with fiber and Vitamin A they are a yummy addition to your plate.
- Tomatoes are another standout food that can be enjoyed raw, cooked, pureed, as a sauce or soup, and are bursting with vital nutrients like Vitamins C and E.
- Fish – any fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon) is an excellent addition to your menu. Try it baked, grilled, or broiled twice a week and you’ll be well on your way to meeting the US Dietary Guidelines recommendation of 8 ounces of seafood per week.
- Whole grains are loaded with magnesium, B vitamins, chromium, iron, and folate. Check the label to make sure the first ingredient listed uses the word “whole” (like “whole wheat” for example). Brown rice, wheatberries, oats, and oatmeal are also “whole” grains.
- Nuts and seeds can be a hunger-buster when the munchies come calling. Just an ounce will go a long way toward controlling your appetite and as an added bonus will give you a nice dose of magnesium and fiber.
- Milk and yogurt (fat-free or low-fat varieties) contain calcium and many fortified products are a good source of vitamin D as well. Combine with your favorite fruits and veggies for a perfect filling snack.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be a chore when you start with a list of diabetes-friendly foods. And don’t forget: 1/2 of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, 1/4 protein (beans or lean meat), and 1/4 should be whole grains.
Check out the American Diabetes Association for fantastic healthy recipes and for even more ways to incorporate diabetes-friendly foods into your regular meal planning routine.