by Jenny Fernandez
It’s often thought that diabetics have to follow a strict diet, one consisting of barely any carbs and dare you mention dessert! That’s actually not the case– diabetics can enjoy all foods. Managing your diabetes should always be at the forefront, but does not mean you need to cut out certain foods from your diet.
Incorporating gentle nutrition makes managing your diabetes less stressful. How so? Well it takes away the added pressure and worry around food. It allows you to find space to enjoy and explore all foods from a place of curiosity rather than judgement.
What is Gentle Nutrition?
Gentle nutrition comes from the Intuitive Eating principles that states,
“Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel well. Remember that you don’t have to eat a perfect diet to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency based on one snack, one meal, or one day. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters – progress not perfection is what counts.”https://www.evelyntribole.com/principle-10-honor-your-health-with-gentle-nutrition/
Personally I like to break this down into three sections: flexibility, nourishment, and nonrestrictive.
As a person living with diabetes, I have often felt there was no room for “unhealthy” eating, that I had to eat perfectly all the time! When in reality, nutrition should be flexible. This means you can have both nutrient dense foods and that cookie you’ve been eyeing all day.
You might be thinking.. How can I have a cookie when I know that will raise my blood sugar? First it’s important to know how to best incorporate the cookie with your diet. This might look like giving yourself insulin before having the cookie or adding it to a balanced meal. For example, you don’t have to eat only cauliflower rice because it’s low carb, instead you can have half regular rice and cauliflower rice! This can make your meal more filling and satisfying. Don’t forget to check your blood sugar and see how your body reacts to certain foods.
Food serves many purposes, it connects us to one another and can celebrate our cultures. Most importantly, it provides nourishment which should always stem from SATISFACTION! The food industry has created many “sugar-free” alternatives to items for diabetics. Let’s be honest for a moment, not all of these taste great… and they don’t have to be an addition to your meals. Take sugar free ketchup for example you might think it has a funny taste but force yourself to eat it because it’s sugar free. Instead know it’s okay to go for regular ketchup and just be considerate of your portion sizes. We have to remember that food does not need to control us, even as someone living with diabetes, and we deserve to enjoy our meals and find satisfaction.
A big part of nutrition and health is eating for nourishment. Although you are allowed to eat foods that are not as nutritious we cannot neglect foods for nourishment. Diseases such a heart disease, hypertension, and chronic kidney disease have been linked to uncontrolled diabetes. However, don’t allow this to scare you into never enjoying a slice of pizza or pasta and often “forbidden food.”
What should you do if you want to eat the pizza and honor your health? Grab the slice, and pair it with some greens! Greens are often higher in fiber which will slow down the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream. This will cause your blood glucose to be more balanced and have fewer ups and downs.
The diabetic plate method is a tool you can use to help you structure your meals. It looks like:
- 1/4 of your plate consisting of carbohydrate rich foods (ex: fruit, bread, potatoes, corn, rice, pasta)
- 1/4 of your plate containing protein rich foods (ex: beans, tofu, cheese, meat, fish, eggs)
- 1/2 of your plate non starchy vegetables
- one cup of milk, yogurt, or fortified soy beverage
Remember the diabetic plate method is a tool not a strict rule. It’s okay if you don’t eat vegetables for breakfast or the bread on your sandwich is slightly bigger than a quarter of your plate!
Finding peace with foods
Incorporating gentle nutrition takes time, practice, and patience. Not every day will it be easy to plan out a nutritious meal and not everyday will our blood sugars be perfect. The goal here is to be gentle on ourselves when these problems arise. Take it day by day and see everything under a lens of curiosity versus blaming yourself!