Meal planning can help with weight and portion control. It can also help when it comes to following a balanced diet, reducing stress and saving money (no more expensive takeout!). To start a new routine, choose a regular day to research meals, check your pantry for ingredients, grocery shop and cook (and consider staggering—everything doesn’t have to happen on the same day!). Ease in by making just one or two meals on the weekend in advance of the hectic week. Another option: Cook big batches of healthy stews and soups, which freeze easily. On days when you’re tempted to order a pizza, defrost your homemade meal instead.
For people with diabetes, meal planning can mean cooking meals in advance, but for many it also means planning which foods to eat and when to eat them. Sugar levels rise after eating (which is why portion control is important) and then fall over time, so you may want to keep snacks handy if you expect to have a long gap between meals. Of the three main meals each day, breakfast has the biggest impact on controlling blood sugar levels. In fact, research has shown that routinely skipping breakfast can lead to higher A1C readings (an average of your blood glucose levels over three months) for people with type 2 diabetes. So make sure you get in a balanced breakfast and keep a snack on hand so you’re always prepared.
There are two different types of fiber, which are found in many foods, and both are important for keeping your body running smoothly. Soluble fiber, which is found in oats, peas, beans, apples, citrus fruits and carrots, among other foods, helps to keep you feeling full longer.
It’s been shown to help reduce “bad” cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which can contribute to cardiovascular disease. Insoluble fiber—found in foods like whole grains, bran nuts, beans and vegetables—helps move food through the body and promotes bowel health and bowel movements.
Soluble fiber can help reduce the speed at which the body absorbs sugar, which means less-dramatic swings in blood glucose levels. At risk of diabetes? Insoluble fiber has been linked to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes when part of a healthy diet.
For many people, “carb” is a dreaded four-letter word. But it doesn’t have to be—you just have to be smart about your choices. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that 45 to 65 percent of your daily caloric intake come from carbs, which are found in three forms: sugar, starch and fiber. Look for foods with naturally occurring, unrefined carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes, non-starchy vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy. Their health benefits include creating energy for the body, lowering the risk of disease and helping with weight management. Try these swaps for a healthier approach: whole-wheat flour instead of white flour, stevia or raw cane sugar for white sugar and whole fruit over fruit juice.
To best regulate your blood sugar, educate yourself about carbs: which foods have them, the different types and their amounts. Keep in mind that 15 grams of any carb—a slice of bread or small piece of fruit—is considered a single serving. Most adults need 6 to 11 servings per day, spread out over three meals and snacks.