Diabetes has become an epidemic, affecting 29 million Americans. But here’s the good news if you’re concerned about your blood glucose: “One of the best ways to stay healthy is to make better food choices,” says Mitchell L. Gaynor, MD, author of The Gene Therapy Plan. Try these trades to lower your blood sugar and pack more protective nutrients into every bite.
Instead of: Fried egg + bacon + American cheese + bagel
Eat this: Scrambled egg whites + onion + tomato + spinach + black beans + sprouted whole-grain tortilla
The classic breakfast sandwich is packed with saturated fat and refined carbs. But wrapping an egg-white scramble in a 6-inch sprouted whole-grain tortilla cuts calories and cholesterol and boosts fiber content to balance your blood sugar. “Throw in some color for extra nutrients,” says Tami Ross, RD, a diabetes educator in Lexington, KY., and author of What Do I Eat Now? Onions, tomatoes, spinach and black beans all contain minerals essential to glucose metabolism.
Instead of: Romaine lettuce + carrot + cucumber + Thousand Island dressing
Eat this: Kale + dandelion leaves + radishes + chicory + scoop of tuna + olive oil + vinegar
A basic green salad is OK, says Dr. Gaynor, who is clinical assistant professor of medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York City. “But you can make it a lot better if you’re worried about diabetes.” He tells his patients to add kale, dandelion leaves, radishes and chicory: “It’s amazing what they do to prevent blood sugar spikes. You won’t be hungry for hours.” A scoop of tuna offers a dose of protein and heart-healthy fat, while olive oil fights insulin-blocking inflammation.
Instead of: Breaded white fish fillet + corn + couscous
Eat this: Whole baked trout + collard greens + quinoa
Trout is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that protect against heart disease. Just skip the extra carbs in breaded fillets, suggests Amy Stephens, RD, a diabetes nutritionist in New York City. Pair your fish with collard greens, a good source of alpha lipoic acid, which lowers glucose levels and improves insulin sensitivity. For your grain, go with nutrient-dense quinoa over couscous. “People get these mixed up because they look alike, but couscous is essentially pasta,” Stephens says.
Instead of: A granola bar
Eat this: Cacao nibs + almonds
Avoid all the fillers (and empty calories) in a snack bar by noshing on cacao nibs and almonds. Both are loaded with magnesium, and a large Harvard University study found that high dietary intake of the mineral reduced women’s risk of developing diabetes by 34 percent. Happy bonus: “The tryptophan in cacao raises serotonin levels in your brain to help you feel full,” Dr. Gaynor says. “And you get your chocolate fix, too.”