4. Include protein, good fat, and high-fiber carbohydrate in each meal.
If you had regular pasta with tomato sauce and a few slices of Italian bread last night for dinner, what was missing? Protein and fiber. If for lunch you had a turkey sandwich with mustard on white bread, what was missing? Good fat and fiber.
Eating “mixed meals,” ones that include protein, fat, and carbohydrate, may help with diabetes management since the protein and fat can help slow the digestion of the carbohydrate, leading to a lower blood glucose rise after the meal. Including unsaturated fat (”good fat”) and foods that contain fiber in your meals will help you feel satisfied longer and, in the long term, improve your blood cholesterol. Eating a balanced meal with protein, fat, and carbohydrate will also prevent a deficiency of any of these groups: Human beings need protein to maintain body tissues, good fat for the brain and immune system, and carbohydrate with fiber for energy and digestive tract health.
5. Switch to lower-fat dairy products.
Dairy products are packed with calcium, magnesium, and protein, and fortified milk contains vitamins A and D. However, full-fat and even reduced-fat dairy products are also packed with cholesterol and saturated fat, which are bad for your heart and arteries. Fat is also very dense in calories; all types of fat have 9 calories per gram, while carbohydrate and protein have 4 calories per gram. By using low-fat (1%) or fat-free (skim) milk, yogurt, and cheese, you can get all of the nutrition benefits of dairy products with fewer (or no) fat calories.
If you are concerned about a loss of flavor when switching to lower-fat dairy products, try a gradual reduction in milk fat over time. For example, switch from whole milk to reduced-fat (2%) milk for one or two months until you get used to the flavor, then proceed over the next several months to low-fat (1%) and fat-free (skim) milk, which has only trace amounts of fat and cholesterol.
6. Replace bad fats with good.
You probably know by now that all fat is not created equal — that saturated fat and trans fat raise LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or “bad”) cholesterol, may raise blood pressure, and are even associated with poor blood glucose control. Conversely, unsaturated fats — particularly omega-3 fatty acids — may have the reverse effect.
When choosing foods — even “healthy” cooking oils that are high in unsaturated fat — be aware of three things. First, all fats have 9 calories per gram and will contribute to weight gain if consumed in excess. To keep calories low, moderate your use of all fats and oils. Second, the health benefits of unsaturated fats are not seen when they are simply added to a diet high in saturated or trans fat. To improve your health, you must replace saturated fat, found in animal products and tropical oils, with unsaturated fat, found in other vegetable oils and fish. Finally, focus on adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet; these are found in flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, and fatty fish. It is thought that the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, the other type of essential “good” fat, in one’s diet is crucial to obtaining the health benefits of both. Americans currently consume far less of omega-3 than omega-6 fatty acids, which are found in large amounts in many vegetables oils (including corn, sunflower, safflower, and soybean oils). So focus on eating foods and oils with omega-3 fatty acids while minimizing saturated and trans fats, and perhaps omega-6 fatty acids, as well.