At times it seems that there is a complete fixation on what we should not be eating – we need to quit all sugar; ditch wheat and gluten completely; avoid all processed foods – the list of what we should not be enjoying goes on and on. While these dietary fads may be interesting, they are not overly helpful when it comes to determining what we should actually be eating. When focusing on the optimal management of prediabetes and Type 2, it may surprise you to hear that there are plenty of easy food swaps you can make to help improve blood glucose levels whilst not compromising on food taste and eating enjoyment. When we approach dietary change from this perspective, food and nutrition becomes a whole lot more positive.
Of primary importance is achieving the right balance of good quality carbohydrates to control blood glucose levels; lean protein for fullness and to offer key nutrients such as calcium, iron and zinc and the right mix of fats for cell health and satiety. Dietary patterns over time that have seen us consume too much processed, quickly digested carbohydrates along with too much saturated fats consumed via processed, fried and fast foods increase the risk of developing prediabetes and eventually Type 2. On the other hand, working towards daily dietary patterns of controlled portions of wholegrain and low GI carbs coupled with lean dairy, meats and fish and 3-4 serves of oils, seeds, nuts and oily fish not only helps to ultimately prevent the development of Type 2 but to optimally manage it if you have been diagnosed. So what are some other simple swaps that will help to improve your diet without you feeling restricted? Some of these are so easy they may surprise you.
Did you know that fruit yoghurt can contain as much as 30g or 6 teaspoons of sugar in a single tub? Simply swapping to Greek yoghurt, which may seem plain but adding fresh berries or a dash of cinnamon or vanilla essence will slash your sugar intake by 20g and leave you with a protein and calcium rich snack in between meals.
Forget ditching the bread completely when all you need to do is look for the new lower carbohydrate varieties of bread. With just 20g of total carbohydrate per 2 slices compared to 30-40g per 2 slices of large wholemeal or sourdough bread, your blood glucose levels will be on a winner here.
Who does not love a Latte or cappuccino at times but the sugars naturally found in milk do add up. Consider swapping to a ¾ or piccolo coffee to save you up to 5g of sugars and 200kJ.
The easiest way to lighten your dinner is to change the proportions of protein, carbs and vegetables on your plate. Focus on filling ½ your plate with salad and / or brightly coloured vegetables and kilojoule and carb control will take care of itself.
Wholegrain carbs including brown rice, pasta, quinoa and freekeh offer much nutritionally but are kilojoule dense foods that need portion control. Always measure your grain serves and aim for ½ – ¾ cup cooked at most for optimal blood glucose control.
Nuts are a nutrient rich snack choice but are notoriously easy to overeat. Keep your intake controlled to just 15-20 nuts per serve by counting out individual portions into separate containers or looking for individual nut based snack bars which contain <10g total carbohydrates per serve.
When you use good quality fats – a thin spread of avocado on toast; olive oil for salad dressing, roasting and baking, you will find there is little room in your diet for added butter and margarine.
Who does not love cheese but it is relatively high in fat and also very easy to overeat. Control your cheese portions by purchasing individual slices; using grated cheese with sandwiches or salads and choosing white cheeses such as cottage or goats cheese which are significantly lower in fat than yellow cheeses.
Diet soft drinks may seem like a much better idea than regular but keep in mind that artificial sweeteners have been shown to prime the brain to seek out more sweet foods promoting overeating. Water or soda water are much better choices.
While fresh fruit is healthy, it is also a concentrated source of sugar so stick to just 2 pieces of fresh fruit each day and keep in mind that dried fruit can contain the equivalent of 2 pieces of fruit worth of sugar in just 6-8 pieces so fresh is always best.
If you enjoy a fresh juice with your breakfast, do not forget the benefits of vege based juices. Not only are they significantly lower in sugar than fruit based juices but they are choc full of nutrition. As a general rule of thumb, a kilojoule controlled juice will contain 3-4 different vegetables and just 1 piece of fruit.
Looking for filling snacks but trying to avoid the cakes, biscuits and muesli bars? Try a couple of cups of popcorn which contains just 8g of total carbs per serve or ½ cup of roasted broad beans or chickpeas which are as good as chips minus the fat and kilojoules.
Wholegrain breakfast cereal can be a good choice nutritionally but with added yoghurt, milk and fruit the sugars can add up. Achieve the right nutritional balance with a small 1/3 – ½ cup serve of cereal teamed with ¾ -1 cup of milk or Greek yoghurt and a light fruit such as berries or kiwi fruit to keep your sugar intake controlled.
Do you drink tea and/ or coffee throughout the day? Swap to a cup or two of green tea to boost your intake of antioxidants and even increase fat burning for no extra kilojoules!
One of the easiest ways you can keep your blood glucose levels controlled is to always eat a portion controlled serve of low GI carbs and protein rich food together. For example, an egg on wholegrain toast or cheese and crackers.
Don’t forget the benefits of adding good fats in to your diet to help support fullness – adding a tablespoon of olive oil or ¼ off an avocado to your salad at lunchtime has been shown to help control appetite and kilojoule intake for the remainder of the day.
Forget adding carb rich crackers and potato chips to tempting dip and snack plates. Try using vege sticks instead for literally 0 kilojoules but plenty of nutrients and fibre.
Vegetable carbs including sweet potato, corn and potatoes contain significantly fewer carbs per serving than energy dense rice, pasta and quinoa and can make a much lighter alternative at dinner.
Turkish, sourdough and Lebanese breads are popular bread choices at cafes but they can contain 3-4 x the amount of carbs as regular bread so ask for ½ serve or swap for smaller slices of multigrain bread.
Low fat can often mean more sugars so always check labels and aim for foods that contain <20g of total carbohydrates per serve to help achieve carb and glucose control throughout the day.