That annoying inner voice:
“Oh, don’t eat that. It’s bad for you.”
“You’re going to regret it if you eat carbs.”
“You shouldn’t be eating that.”
But what if I told you the best diet to prevent diabetes isn’t a strict diet? The best and most healthful diets include an abundance of foods – not an abundance of restrictions. Too many people define their diets by what they don’t eat. Instead, I want you to focus on what you do eat because you can’t get disease-fighting, health-boosting nutrition if you avoid too many foods.
- Do eat fruit. Even though fruit contains carbohydrates – about 15 grams in a piece of fruit the size of a tennis ball – and carbohydrates raise blood sugar, fruit is so much more than just carbs. You’ve got vitamins, minerals, fibers, and a host of phytonutrients, which are plant compounds that shield our health. Some fruits even boost insulin sensitivity.
- Do eat dairy. Except for lactose-free cheese, dairy also contains carbohydrates in various amounts. But dairy foods are also associated with good health and particularly with less risk of type 2 diabetes. One study found that eating yogurt regularly is associated with a 27% lower risk of developing diabetes.
- Do eat tons of vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are a health-seeker’s best friend. Low in calories, low in carbs, and loaded with nutrients and phytonutrients, veggies fill your plate and your belly with wholesome goodness. Eating lots of vegetables will help you stay full longer without overdoing your intake of calories or carbs.
- Do eat the right amount. Overeating or undereating is unhealthy and uncomfortable. There’s no need to make yourself miserable by eating too little. Fill up on those magical veggies! Start paying attention to your hunger when you begin and end a meal. Are you satisfied or slightly overfull when you finish? Eating just the right amount of food and calories to maintain or lose weight is ideal to help prevent diabetes and a host of other problems.
- Do include treats. Let that inner judge know small amounts of cookies, ice cream, pizza, and French fries are a-okay. Small portions of more indulgent foods in the background of a wholesome diet won’t undo that wholesome diet.
Every food has a unique mixture of nutrients, so choose a wide variety of wholesome foods. Eating 14 apples each week won’t give you the nutrition of eating a couple servings of seven different fruits each week. Likewise, eat cheese or yogurt at some meals, and drink milk at others. By focusing on what you do eat instead of what you don’t eat, you’ll live a more joyful life and get better nutrition as well.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDCES, CHWC, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert. Through writing, speaking, and online courses, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health one lifestyle habit at a time. She is the author of four books including Prediabetes: A Complete Guide and Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week. Jill is a consultant and spokesperson to the food industry, as well as a panelist for the US News & World Report Best Diet Rankings. Find out more at jillweisenberger.com and follower her on social media as @NutritionJill.