Morning blood sugars, medicines, injectables, insulin. The worry, the appointments, the questions, the diet, the exercises. It is overwhelming! And what happens if they aren’t working…or not as well as they should be for the amount of thought and work you put in to make them better, normal?
Sure you may have cut back on your sugar intake. Maybe you’ve lowered your portion sizes, started eating more vegetables, stopped drinking soda, or even eat breakfast now…but these changes may not have had the impact you hoped.
Try these 5 things. If they work GREAT! But if not you need to talk to your doctor. You should talk to your doctor regardless. Bring them this list. Let them know what you are doing to try and control your numbers.
- Eat a bedtime snack. If this is the only tip you take away from this list it may be the difference between normal levels and high ones in the morning. Think protein and carbohydrate. Peanut butter and apple; cheese and whole wheat crackers; Greek yogurt; nuts and raisins; or turkey lunch meat and a slice of whole grain bread. Whatever! Just eat something!
- Balance your meals. I know you have heard that protein is important, and it is, but it’s not super important if you aren’t balancing your meals with carbohydrates, fat, and fiber! If all you have for lunch is chicken and your blood sugars before dinner are ridiculous…something is wrong! Balance that chicken out with beans and a salad! Think protein/meat, carbohydrate/grain/beans, and vegetable (not corn).
- Watch what you are drinking. Just because you may have stopped drinking soda doesn’t mean that everything else you drink isn’t loaded with it. Juice, iced tea, coffee with flavored creamer, and specialty coffee drinks can have just as much sugar as soda.
- Eat every 3-4 hours. Think about your body like a car. It needs to be refueled. By you eating consistently you’re helping your body and your blood sugar. Meals and snacks are super important! Make sure your snacks are nourishing and not just a candy bar out of the vending machine or some stale chips you have in your pantry!
- If you do have a meal that has more carbohydrates than your body needs, don’t feel guilty just do better! Every meal, every snack is an opportunity to improve! Take it! Don’t think about starting on Monday or the New Year…do it now!
Remember to keep taking your medicine/insulin, check your blood sugars, and take care of yourself!
Eating more plants really isn’t about going vegetarian or vegan. Eating more plants is about much more than weight management too. Sure, non-starchy veggies are super low in calories and fruits, legumes (beans, peas, lentils), grains, and nuts have so much fiber to keep you full they all help with weight management but it doesn’t stop there.
Here’s what research tells us about eating more plants:
- Reduce your risk of heart disease
- Reduce your risk of ALL TYPES of cancer
- Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Reduce your cholesterol
- Reduce your blood pressure
- Reduce your weight
- Reduce your blood sugars
- Improve your gut bacteria
- Help you to move your bowels
For the record, I’m talking about whole plant foods not processed plant-like substances.
Here’s a list of plant based foods that you could start incorporating into your diet:
- Fresh: go seasonal – right now that would be your tropical fruits: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, clementines, mandarins, pineapple, mango, papaya, bananas
- Frozen: shoot for ones without added sugar – these are great for smoothies, oatmeal, and yogurt parfaits
- Dried: raisins are the best because they do not have any added sugars; cranberries do have added sugar (you wouldn’t eat them otherwise); watch out for the word “chips” which could mean they are deep fried
- Canned: unsweetened applesauce and other canned fruits in light syrup (which means they are canned in the fruit juice without added sugar) are a good source of vitamins but not a lot of fiber. The words “no sugar added” usually means there is artificial sweeteners used.
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Fresh: go seasonal – right now where I’m at, this is tough because the only thing “in season” is what was harvested in the late fall and can stay fresh in a cool dry place. Other times during the year go for whats growing in your garden or at the local farmers market.
- Frozen: this is best in the winter as these veggies were picked in season and then frozen keeping their nutrients in tact! Plus they tend to be less expensive in the winter than fresh.
- Canned: although these have less fiber than fresh or frozen they are a less expensive alternative and still provides your body with nutrients. Get the ones without the added salt and season yourself.
- Starchy vegetables
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, parsnips, pumpkin, and winter squashes are all considered starchy. These guys make a great source of carbohydrates for energy and are SO full of nutrients!
- Black, pinto, lima, soy (edamame), kidney, cannellini, etc. These gems are packed with protein, fiber, and tons of nutrients! I love black beans on my salad for some carbohydrates (energy) too.
- Snow peas, green peas, black eyed peas, chick peas (garbanzo beans – they are actually peas not beans). Similarly to beans, peas are packed with protein, fiber, and nutrients!
- The forgotten legume, lentils are easy to cook, go well in almost any soup, stew, or salad and pack a protein, fiber, nutrient punch to any dish they are in!
- In order of awesomeness: walnuts, pecans, the rest. All nuts are great but walnuts and pecans have more omega-3 fatty acids (the ones that are really good for your heart). I like to mix them up so that I can gain the benefits of as many as possible. I’m the one who buys the mixed nuts container at the grocery store.
- We tend to think of seeds as sunflower and pumpkin but there’s a whole array of seeds that are super beneficial as well. Chia, flax, hemp, and sesame seeds are great additions to your diet. All but the sesame seeds need refrigerated. FLAX SEEDS MUST BE GROUND IN ORDER TO GET THE BENEFIT. I add chia and flax to oatmeal and smoothies almost daily. Chia can be put into tea and drank as well.
- Whole grains
- Whole grains aren’t “bad for you”. Ugh when I hear that I want to cry tears of grains. Wheat isn’t bad for you either unless you have Celiac disease. Now that we have that out of the way whole grains are a wonderful addition to get in daily. Bleached, no fiber, processed grains are less than nutritionally dense but that doesn’t mean they are “bad” (again changing mindsets about food). Just don’t eat them often. I’m really talking about the true WHOLE grain.
- My top 10 favorite whole grains to use/cook with are: oats, barley, wheat berries, brown rice, farro, quinoa, whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, black rice, and corn. If there are some in this list that are unfamiliar to you, check out your local grocery store to see if you can find them and give them a try! Keep checking the blog for more recipes that I’ll be featuring wheat berries, farro, and black rice. Curious about quinoa? Check out this recipe.
Plants are awesome. Plants are an important part of a healthy diet. Plants are a critical piece to the weight management journey. Eat more plants!
Snacking throughout the day can be one of the most important things you do for your health. If you are trying to lose weight or have diabetes, snacking can help you control your appetite and your blood sugars.
Finding the right snacks; however, can be a challenge. If a vending machine is close by, you know that perhaps snacking isn’t your best move of day. Packing or having nutrient rich snacks on hand is going to be the secret to snack-cess (yep, see what I just did there?).
Eating every 3-4 hours is quite important. Your body actually expects you fuel it because your stomach empties every 2 hours (give or take) so by the time 3-4 hours rolls around your body is looking for more fuel. This doesn’t mean you have to eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT! Unless you do then by all means, proceed! It does mean keeping small snacks (about 100-200 calories) with you so that when your next meal rolls around you are not ravenous and making poor food choices.
- Give your body something it needs (not something it wants)
- Give your body something it is missing (not something it is craving)
- Give your body fulfillment (not an empty feeling in a few minutes)
- Give your body energy (not a sugar/caffeine high)
What falls into those categories? Here’s a list of 25 awesome snacks (not just boring ones) for you to “chew on”:
- Fresh fruits. They’re already packed and ready to go! (apples, bananas, oranges, clementines, peaches, pears)
- Dried fruits. 100 calorie packs of raisins, cranberries, prunes, or other dried (not fried) fruits are great pick me ups!
- Fresh veggies. This requires more planning ahead but carrot sticks, celery sticks, broccoli, cauliflower, etc are wonderful crunchy additions to your day.
- Steamed veggies. Sounds weird but they make single serving steamed veggies that, if you have a microwave and enjoy the cooked veggie variety, can be a great mid-afternoon nosh!
- String cheese. Let’s face it, 90% of the population loves cheese (I totally made that up). String cheese is super lean and provides your body protein and calcium!
- Other portion controlled cheeses. Besides the string variety, many companies are making 90 calorie packs of your favorite variety of cheese. Again providing your body protein and calcium.
- Nuts. These nutrient rich poppable palate pleasers come in a variety of types and even some awesome flavors. The 100 calorie packs make them portion controlled and easy to carry around.
- Yogurt. Preferably Greek yogurt because it will give your body more protein. Other yogurts are good too because of the live bacteria that will help your gut. Remember that yogurt naturally has sugar so don’t be alarmed when you see the amount of sugar on the food label. In a typical 5.3 oz container of Greek yogurt you are looking at around 6 grams of natural sugar in the product. If it has real fruit, there’s more natural sugar.
- Cottage cheese. Packed with protein and calcium this wonderful little snack pairs really well with fruit. Watch the sodium content though! If you are salt sensitive try to choose a brand that has less salt added. Go for 2% cottage cheese instead of full fat or fat free.
- Hard boiled eggs. These egg-tastic snacks are full of protein, vitamin D, lutein, and zeaxanthin (antioxidants found in the yolk). The whites are 100% protein but do miss out on some of those key vitamins and antioxidants found in the yolk.
- Deviled eggs. They are for more than just summer picnics! This spices up the hard boiled egg. Try mixing the yolk with 1/2 the amount of mayonnaise and use plain Greek yogurt or a mashed avocado for added volume. Dijon mustard instead of yellow mustard adds a kick and instead of plain paprika to make it pretty try adding smoked paprika.
- Hummus and veggies. If you haven’t tried hummus yet, go for it! If you don’t like regular hummus try a flavored one. My favorite is roasted red pepper. Hummus is pureed chickpeas so it is loaded with protein, fiber, and other nutrients.
- String cheese and pickles. One of my favorites! This is not for the salt sensitive person. Mix that with a little dijon mustard and you’ve got yourself one gourmet snack!
- Cheese and apples or pears. Delicious! This salty and sweet snack hits just about every taste bud. Keep the cheese to around 1 oz portion (size of string cheese or 4 dice put together)
- Peanut butter (or other nut butters) and apples. This all time favorite can be taken one step further by melting the peanut butter ever so slightly and sprinkling in a little cinnamon in it…then dip the apple. Get a napkin, you’re drooling.
- Peanut butter and bananas. Sure this Elvis favorite is a classic but let’s take this one a step further too. Instead of ants on a log with celery, peanut butter, and raisins, lets do ants on a log with a banana cut in half long ways peanut butter on the flat part and raisins.
- Celery and peanut butter. Kids and adults both rave over this one! You can even try celery with plain Greek yogurt (mix in a little dry ranch dressing mix to the yogurt and BAM one amazing snack).
- Rolled up turkey lunch meat. I like this one because it’s easy, packed with protein, and I like to “dip”. Dip this in yellow mustard, dijon mustard, or grain mustard and it becomes fancier than you’d think.
- Popcorn. They make 100 calorie bags which are great to control portions. Plain air popped popcorn is 3 cups for 1 serving. If you like a little flavor to your popcorn think about adding Old Bay, parmesan cheese, or if you are a fancy foodie – dehydrated vinegar.
- Granola bars. But not just any old granola bars. Look for ones with at least 3 grams of fiber for about 100 calories, lowest amount of sugar, and whole food ingredients. My favorite are Kind and Kashi. Remember this is a snack, not a meal replacement. I’m not a big fan of meal replacement bars (100-200 calories).
- Trail mix. Make your own! Think energy, protein, and fun. Energy can come from dried whole grain cereal, dried fruit, popcorn, or a mix of all 3. Protein can come from nuts or seeds. Fun comes in all shapes and sizes but personally I prefer dark chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate mini-chips. My favorite trail mix recipe is: Cheerios (1 cup), dried cranberries (1/2 cup), walnuts pieces (1/4 cup), and mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/8 cup). Makes about 2-4 servings (2 servings 200 calories each or 4 servings 100 calories each).
- Veggies and Greek yogurt dip. Grab a 5.3 oz plain Greek yogurt container and add your favorite dried ranch dressing or dip mix (you can make your own too). Add enough dip mix to get flavor into that yogurt and go to town on your favorite dip-able veggies! Broaden your horizons and try jicama (hee-kama), kohlrabi, parsnips, and turnips in your dip! They are crunchy, delicious, and have more nutrients than potato chips.
- Oatmeal. I know it sounds weird but this breakfast favorite can be a great, warm, soothing snack on a cold day. Watch the sugar on some of the packaged ones. Make your own by adding some walnuts, cranberries, and cinnamon with a splash of honey!
- Seeds (pumpkin and sunflower). These gems are easy to make at home or on the shelves year round to buy. Great for munching or pairing with raisins like a trail mix.
- Frozen yogurt. Not like you’re thinking. Take your favorite Greek yogurt, throw it in the freezer and in a few hours you’ve got an incredible, creamy, flavorful frozen treat!
Let us know, what are some of your favorite healthy snacks?