• Reduce portion sizes, especially of high-calorie foods. Everyone loves a special treat once in a while, but to achieve calorie balance on a daily basis, you may need to employ such tricks as using smaller plates, portioning out smaller amounts of high-calorie foods, or replacing large servings of high-calorie foods with lower-calorie choices such as fresh fruits.
• Physical activity is an important part of the calorie balance equation. People with diabetes are advised to perform 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking, dancing, or biking), and people with Type 2 diabetes are additionally encouraged to engage in resistance training three times a week. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommends a similar amount of exercise for all adults and also advises that children and adolescents get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. The report encourages adults who are capable of vigorous aerobic activity (such as aerobic dance, running, or jumping rope) to include it in their workouts.
Always check with your doctor to evaluate any health risks before embarking on a new physical activity program. If you are just beginning to be more active, start slowly, with short bouts of activity. And remember that every bit counts!
Foods and nutrients to increase
Including more nutrient-dense foods in your meal plan means increasing your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds.
Why vegetables and fruits? When prepared without added fat or sugar, vegetables and fruits are relatively low in calories. They also contain a variety of health-promoting nutrients and are associated with a reduced risk of chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Try to include vegetables and fruits in as many meals and snacks as possible. Make it easy to eat more by picking produce that requires little peeling or chopping, and keep it visible and accessible in your refrigerator or freezer or on your countertop.
Increase your intake of whole grains by replacing refined products with whole-grain choices such as 100% whole-grain breads, whole-grain cereals such as oatmeal, whole-grain crackers and pasta, and brown rice. Read labels carefully; foods labeled as “multigrain,” “stone-ground,” “100% wheat,” or “bran” may not be 100% whole-grain products and in some cases may not contain any whole grains at all.
Drink fat-free (skim) or low-fat (1%) milk rather than reduced-fat (2%) or whole milk. Top fruit salads with fat-free or low-fat yogurt. Choose low-fat or reduced-fat cheeses. When a recipe calls for sour cream, consider substituting fat-free or low-fat plain yogurt (or similar versions of sour cream).
Protein is often associated with red meat, but this food group includes a much wider variety of choices. Try to eat seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week. If you do choose meat or poultry, select the leanest varieties, and drain the fat from ground meat after cooking it. Beans and peas are also excellent protein sources (see “The Benefits of Beans.”)