Diabetes Is a Growing Problem
Diabetes may be a scary subject, but it’s a reality for many people. In 2015, 30.3 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, had diabetes. Each year, an additional 1.5 million Americans get diagnosed with the disease.
In response to the growing problem, the American Diabetes Association has designated March 26 as Diabetes Alert Day. This special day provides an occasion to learn about your diabetes risk and find out what you can do now to avoid diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type, accounting for around 90% of diabetes cases, and this type of diabetes often results from unhealthy lifestyle choices such as poor nutrition, excess weight, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Control the Diabetes Risk Factors You Can
Some of the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include age, race, weight, family history, poor nutrition, and not being physically active. Some of these risk factors are outside of your control, but others, including your diet and exercise level, are within your power to change.
Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will develop diabetes, but it does mean you should pay extra attention and learn what you can do to avoid the disease.
Building a Diet That Helps Prevent Diabetes
A diet that lowers your risk for diabetes is simply a healthy, balanced diet, which means it’s appropriate for everyone, whether you already have diabetes or not. A nutritious diet that helps prevent diabetes doesn’t need to be restrictive, and it can allow for consuming a wide variety of foods (even indulgent treats) in appropriate portions.
Whether you have diabetes or you just want to lose weight and feel better, it’s important to consume nutrient-dense carbohydrates and balance them with proteins, healthy fats, and physical activity. Below are a few tips that can help.
- Avoiding carbs or following carbohydrate-free diets is not the answer. The key is to choose carbohydrates that contain fiber, such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains. Fiber slows digestion, which keeps blood sugars stable and gives us a steady source of energy.
- As you prepare your plates for meals and snacks, be sure to start by filling half the plate with fruit and vegetables. This strategy ensures you will get lots of nutrients and fiber to help you feel full. Most people don’t eat enough fruits and veggies, but filling half your plate with these healthy foods at each meal can help you avoid this trap.
- When choosing grains such as pasta, bread, and crackers, buy products that list “whole grain” or “100% whole grain” as the first ingredient. A single serving of grains translates to one slice of bread, 1/2 cup pasta or rice, or one handful of crackers. Two servings of grains at each meal is an appropriate amount for most people.
- For proteins, choose lean meats, fish, eggs, and cheese. While meat is a popular source of protein, don’t forget about nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes. These plant-based protein sources supply heart-healthy fats and valuable fiber.
A good serving size of protein per meal would be:
A piece of meat about the size of your palm
1 or 2 eggs
A piece of cheese the size of a domino
1/2 cup beans
1/4 cups nuts
What About Dessert?
Yes, you can still enjoy dessert as part of a diabetes-friendly diet! However, it’s important to enjoy smaller portions or find ways to make your desserts healthier. Here’s one of our favorite brownie recipes that just so happens to be nutritious and diabetes-friendly.
Black Bean Brownies
- 1 15-oz can no-salt-added black beans
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or dark chocolate chips, divided
- Raspberries, optional
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9”x13” pan with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place black beans into a blender with 1/4 cup water and puree until smooth.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Gently stir in the pureed black beans, vanilla, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips and fold until completely mixed.
- Pour mixture into the pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Top with remaining chocolate chips and raspberries, if desired, after baking.
- Let cool and then refrigerate until ready to serve. Keep any leftovers in the refrigerator.
Stock Up on Diabetes-Friendly Foods at Our Stores
Berries such as raspberries and blueberries are an excellent choice for a healthy, diabetes-friendly diet since they’re packed with nutrients and fiber to help keep your blood sugar steady. This week, raspberries and blueberries are buy-one-get-one at our stores. Don’t forget that these luscious berries can serve as the perfect topping for our black bean brownies. Yum!
For Diabetes Alert Day, take time to assess your risk for diabetes and think about ways you can choose more nutrient-dense foods and right-size your portions. To learn more, please visit the American Diabetes Association’s Diabetes Alert Day page at http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/wellness-lives-here/mission-engagement-days/alert-day/.
Stephanie Edson - Regional Wellness Specialist
Stephanie is an award-winning registered dietitian who believes in empowering every individual to make nutritious food choices to support a healthy lifestyle. She believes in the power of food as medicine and loves sharing about nutrition with others.