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Cooking at home is a great option for people with diabetes. You get control over the foods you eat and what ingredients go into them, which makes it easier to track carbohydrates. But putting together a meal takes time. Here are 13 tips you can use to help you eat well, even when you’re rushed.

1. Switch to whole grains. Use brown rice and whole-wheat pasta instead of refined or processed grains. Look for 100% whole wheat flour and breads and other grains like oats and barley. Products to make the switch easier include pouches of brown rice that you microwave. Buy whole-wheat hot dog and hamburger buns, whole-wheat flour tortillas, and whole-grain-blend pasta noodles. Choose instant oatmeal made with less sugar.

2. Get more fiber. Aim for at least 8 grams of fiber per meal, especially if you’re eating carb-rich foods. Soluble fiber can help slow the rapid rise in blood sugar that happens after you eat carbs.

Soluble fiber is found in:

  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Fruits like apples, mangoes, plums, kiwis, pears, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, citrus fruits, and figs
  • Vegetables like artichokes, celery root, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, acorn squash, potatoes with skin, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus, and beets

A diet high in fiber also lowers the risk of heart disease, which is higher in people with diabetes.

3. Use foods that won't spike blood sugar. Foods that aren’t likely to cause a big rise in blood sugar include high-fiber fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes along with meat, poultry, fish, avocados, eggs, and cheese. Eating a combination of foods will help balance carbohydrate-containing foods included in your meal.

4. Cut down on saturated fat. Look for recipes with ingredients such as:

  • Fish
  • Extra-lean beef
  • Pork tenderloin and skinless poultry
  • Soy products
  • Beans
  • Low-fat dairy

5. Know what not to eat. Cut down on refined grains like white flour and white pasta. Avoid sugary soft drinks and sweet treats.

One study showed that eating lots of fruit, vegetables, whole-grain bread, and low-fat dairy and limiting alcohol reduced the risk of diabetes and heart attacks compared to a diet full of white bread, processed meat, fries, and full-cream milk.

6. Play the numbers game. Count the amount of carbs, fiber, and fat per serving in everything you eat.

7. Portion it out. Stay close to the proper portions by filling your plate in the kitchen before bringing it to the table.

8. Ditch butter and shortening. Canola oil and olive oil (and all nontropical liquid oils) are healthy alternatives. Both are rich in monounsaturated fat, and canola oil also contains omega-3 fatty acids.

9. Make salads ahead of time. Store a large spinach salad or vegetable-filled romaine lettuce salad without dressing in an airtight container. You’ll have crisp salad with dinner or as a snack for several days.

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